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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Theatre Bizarre Returns for 2017 to Detroit Masonic Temple


Over the last six years, the incomparable Detroit Masonic Temple has welcomed a massive Halloween-inspired gala/carnival/masquerade/burlesque/art/haunted house installation called Theatre Bizarre. For the month of October, the 17th annual show takes over eight floors of the enormous Temple building, the Commandery asylum, the two giant ballrooms, and hosts thousands of people. The member lodges and Masonic organizations in the building are more than happy to cooperate by shifting their meeting schedules, rooms, and events in order to accommodate this one of a kind show, as it takes weeks (starting in September) to install all of the scenery, props, lighting, effects, and more. 

Besides, it's not like they don't have plenty of other spaces in the building they can meet in...

If you've never visited the Detroit Masonic Temple for yourself and had the COMPLETE tour, put it at the very top of your Masonic list of things to do. It is the largest Masonic building in the world, and was designed to accommodate 50 different Masonic organizations. Including its on-site hotel rooms on the former Shrine end of the building, it contains over a thousand different rooms, and no detail was left out. 

Undoubtedly the ghosts of more than a few old past masters (and probably the Dodge brothers and Henry Ford himself) are clutching their long-stopped hearts in horror, but the trustees and lodge members at the Masonic Temple roll out the welcome mat for this event every year. (As for the burlesque show, don't forget, this ginormous Temple was once home to the huge Detroit contingent of Shriners as well.)

The Detroit Free Press from Sunday has photos of this year's Theatre Bizarro program. Sit back. There are 93 of them.
The yearly fully-immersive event, centered around Halloween season, takes place over two weekends in October with a formal Preview Gala on both Fridays and a larger, main event on both Saturdays. With eight floors, 55 spaces and more than 250,000 square feet of room, it’s impossible to take everything in in just one night...

Finally acquiring full blueprints to the Masonic’s chapel room for the first time, Theatre Bizarre creator John Dunivant was able to create a new stage buildup. Flanking either side were 27-foot-tall sword-wielding devil goats, with blue stalagmites surrounding the area. It added a hellish satirical twist to the chapel room, which is entirely holy with a giant cross hanging dead-center in the middle of the space, also the exact center-point of the Masonic Temple.


Back in the early 1970s, my own Grand Lodge was erupting over the horror of the musical Hair being booked to appear at the Shrine theatre here in Indianapolis, mostly over the much-hyped and notorious first act "nude scene." As a result, the Grand Master almost immediately issued a decision that no "obscene" shows of any kind would be permitted in any Masonic-related venue whatsoever. The controversy then was front page news for months, all over the state. 

I would say that forty years later, times have indeed changed.

If we want to save these incredible landmark temples built by our forefathers, we do indeed have to think very different. They were once the very centers of our communities (Detroit's has the largest and most magnificent auditorium in that city). They can be once again, but we have to beat on the coffin lid and let the world know we're here and they are available. We want the public in them, and I suspect this event pays an awful lot of bills for Detroit's Masons. Keep that in mind.

As much as I hate to give any attention to anti-Masonic basket case websites, this one has the most detailed photos of the Temple I've found. Just ignore his text.

1 comment:

  1. A prominent grand officer asked an open question just recently -- would the loss in some cities of imposing Masonic temples have a longterm effect on membership applications. Replacements when there have been replacements with a few exceptions have been lacking in architectural distinction. Masonry has unique ties to architecture of course, so notable buildings do make the point.

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