BWW Feature: Inside The Oscar Hammerstein Museum & Theater Education Center
The Friends of Oscar Hammerstein, the county-wide, community-led initiative launched this summer, is pleased to announce that it has negotiated an extension with both Doylestown Township and the developer with an interest in the property and now has more time to continue raising the funds needed to save Oscar Hammerstein's Highland Farm from the dreaded subdivision. ~12/18/2018
I caught up with the head volunteers and supporters of The Oscar HammersteinMuseum & Theatre Education Center Will Hammerstein, grandson of Oscar HammersteinII and his wife Mandee Kuenzle-Hammerstein who have been working endlessly reaching out all theater loving people of all ages to keep the dream alive. The Rodgers and Hammerstein partnership was formed at Highland Farm which is located at 70 E. Rd. Doylestown Pa. Oscar Hammersteindid most of his writing here including Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King & I and The Sound of Music.
I listened with great appreciation about the man behind the lyrics of several Award-winning musicals. Mandee and Will shared much insight into the Oscar Hammersteinmany people may not know.
"Each day as Oscar would work on his musical contributions, he faithfully made sure to devote an hour of focus on humanitarian initiatives within the local and international communities, most notably he fought to end Jim Crow, he wrote presidential speeches, he co-founded the anti-Nazi League, he worked closely with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Fair Housing issues... to name a few, and locally, he worked towards enhancing the lives of children with culturally diverse backgrounds, namely with Pearl S. Buck, an American writer and novelist." Buck co-founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency, along with James A. Michener, Oscar HammersteinII and his second wife Dorothy Hammerstein. Welcome House has placed over five thousand children".
How important is this mission is to you and the legacy of your grandfather?
Will and Mandee Hammerstein: Highland Farms was host to so many wonderfully creative people such as Stephen Sondheimand James Michener whom Oscar collaborated with. If our group is successful, the museum will not only represent his International, musical contributions that have uplifted so many but maybe more importantly, his deep-routed, humanitarian contributions would be highlighted and an education center would be put in place for creative students of all ages, backgrounds and financial circumstances. Oscar worked tirelessly to create a culture of kindness and fairness, through his extensive body of work, and this is the place it should truly be celebrated. I believe a museum in his honor would be tremendous for the region and would also attract and grow business as well as further enhance the good-spirit and culture of the area - all at the place Oscar considered home. It is our hope that once open, generations would be not only inspired by Oscar but connect with and enhance their own gifts.
Will recalls always being surrounded by the family's appreciation for children, nature, the community and of course, music!
"To stand...in the room where [Oscar Hammerstein] wrote the words to "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" is to know in your bones that for anyone who loves the American musical, the successful preservation of Highland Farm will be the worthiest of causes." Terry Teachout- Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2018
The Rodgers and Hammerstein partnership was formed at Highland Farm which is located at 70 E. Rd. Doylestown Pa. Oscar Hammersteindid most of his writing here including Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King & I and The Sound of Music. Oscar taught Stephen Sondheim, "more about songwriting and the musical theatre than most people learn in a lifetime." When you combine the number of Academy, Tony and Grammy Awards and Pulitzer Prizes, earned by shows written by Oscar at Highland Farm, with Stephen Sondheim's personal haul, the number is 77 and counting! There may not be another place like it anywhere!
After hearing the exciting news of the extension for funding Will along with his wife Mandee have also pulled out all the stops in promoting and attracting attention and supporting artists to perform at the home, yes in the living room of the Oscar Hammerstein.
Mandee, tell us what this initiative means to the theater community and surrounding area?
"Currently Highland Farm/Oscar's house is being used as a Bed and Breakfast and we're not open as a museum yet due to still fundraising and trying to make our goal to acquire the property for official museum & education purposes. Considering this limitation, and we can't obviously bring people to the museum...we thought let's bring the museum to the people and share the energy of this special place! The most simplistic thought was Facebook Live, a live-stream video format shot through Facebook where we invite performers to sing live in Oscar's living room and share the love of the arts and Oscar's work, while entertaining viewers and supporters. It's also our way of giving back - because we make sure our viewers know what these performers are up to and where they can be found. We're happy to say we have over 60,000 views collectively and organically after approximately 17 episodes. People seem to love an "inside-look" into Oscar's home, while observing the power within these four walls."
The Friends of Oscar HammersteinCommittee is a voluntary organization and is also generously supported by the Arts and Cultural Counsel of Bucks County. In a recent USA Today article Doylestown PA has been named "one of the most cultural towns in the US". The Oscar HammersteinMuseum and Theater Education Center is at the beautiful Highland Farms and will keep this status in the community for many years to come if the groups are successful in saving this treasure. There may not be another place like it anywhere!
On Sunday May 18th from 12 to 4pm, The Arts & Cultural Council of Bucks County and The Oscar HammersteinMuseum and Theatre Education Center (Highland Farm) open the Art of Oscar, a unique celebration and art exhibition which will serve as a fundraiser for the participating non-profit organizations, community artists and participating event artists. The Arts Council has arranged and fundraised to host at Hammerstein's property this special exhibit of nearly 50 Visual Artists of all mediums in hopes to raise money for this cause. All artists involved have worked tirelessly to create original art inspired by Hammerstein's life, music, humanitarian service and his home. Broadwayworld.com is thrilled to attend the Art of Oscar and is looking forward to meeting all the great people involved in making the home of this legendary American librettist, producer, theater director and humanitarian a museum and theater education center. For more information about The Oscar Hammerstein Museum & Theater Education Center and this event visit http://http://www.bucksarts.org and to donate or volunteer visit www.hammersteincenter.org
Photo # 1 Home of Oscar Hammerstein at Highland Farms, Photo # 2 Will Hammerstein III, Mandee Hammerstein, Oscar Hammerstein IV, Photo # 3 View of Highland Farms and Oscar Hammerstein II, Photo # 4 - Arts and Cultural Council of Bucks County members (Bill Milnazak, Peter Chiovarou (Pres.), Robbin Farr and Ruth Anderson (not pictured)