First Lady of Totem Pole Muriel Benson Honored With Collage of Theater's First 3 Seasons

Muriel Benson and her children were in attendance, May 29, opening night of the 60th anniversary season. Her children honored her participation in the first three summers of Totem Pole Playhouse's shows.

In the summer of 1951 Muriel Genus Benson with her husband Karl Genus served as the Artistic Director of Totem Pole Playhouse. She and Karl ran the theater three seasons before moving to New York.

Muriel helped paint scenery, made costumes and arranged props obtained from local people and the board members of the theater. She ran the box office, took tickets, and handled logistics. The company lived in Smyser's Cabin - a large hunting lodge nearer the Lincoln Highway - with an outhouse, a pump for water and an abandoned mine as a swimming hole. Muriel and the wife of another actor in the company did the shopping and made all the meals. Only near the very end of the first season did they find rooms in the Log Cabin Inn (just across the stream from the current theater).

Besides supervising the front of house all three seasons, Muriel played the romantic lead in See How They Run, the last show in the 1951 season, and two parts in Strange Bedfellows (a call girl and a town busy body) in 1952 while pregnant with her daughter Tiane (T.C.) Benson.
Karl and Muriel's son Terry Genus Benson rang the call bell for the audience at curtain time and intermission all three seasons and acted in Strange Bedfellows in 1952 and in January Thaw and Dark of the Moon in 1953.

Among her other careers, Muriel was a band singer, a secretary, a receptionist at an arts center, a model (for 70 years from 15 to 85), a crafts woman, and for 26 years - until she was 90 - the director of "The Music Makers" a senior chorus in Rockland County New York which performs in senior centers and community events. She completed her B.A. in 1991 at 74 years old.

The "First Lady of Totem Pole" has attended some 30 opening nights at the theater including the anniversary 60th Season this past May 29th.

For more information on the Totem Pole Playhouse, visit online at

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