Admittedly, there is no tomb of Ahkmenrah in any of the Louisiana State Museum-Baton Rouge’s galleries, but rumor has it that Elvis may be in the building.
It’s also said Evangeline’s vigil may finally end with the arrival of Gabriel, and the Krewe of Yazoo will march its lawnmowers outside of Spanish Town.
Word is that these personalities come alive only one night a year within the museum’s exhibits, and to discover if this is true, you’ll have to be willing to experience A Night at the Louisiana State Museum.
Or part of a night, anyway. And no, you won’t have to step into the role of Ben Stiller as a security guard to enter the building.
All you’ll need is a ticket to walk through the museum’s galleries as the exhibits come alive in the first of what the Louisiana State Museum Friends plans to be an annual fundraiser.
Again, the official title for the event is A Night at the Louisiana State Museum. And yes, it’s based on the idea of the 2006 comedy A Night at the Museum which starred Stiller as a security guard at the Brooklyn Museum of Natural History. That museum’s exhibits come alive each night. A tablet powered by Egyptian gods that is in the exhibit of the Tomb of Ahkmenrah serves as the exhibits’ life force, creating a small universe where U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt coexists with Attila the Hun, Lewis and Clark and a T-Rex skeleton that likes to play fetch - not to mention Union and Confederate soldiers who relive Civil War battles night after night.
Now, Louisiana figures will do the same thing at the State Museum, but they won’t exactly be fighting any battles.
“They’ll be in character,” William Stark said. “Most of our actors will be in character throughout the night.”
Stark is the museum’s director. The museum’s support group, the Louisiana State Museum Friends, developed the idea for this event.
“Carolyn Morris is the chair of the committee for this event,” Frances Bennett said. “The committee was brainstorming ideas, and she thought an event based on the movie might be a good fundraiser.”
She’s president of the Friends group, which will use proceeds from the event in its support for the museum.
“We’d like it to be our annual fundraiser,” Bennett said. “This is our first year, and we got a late start on this idea, so we’re building on this.”
“Baton Rouge is such a history rich community,” Stark said. “And there are lots of Louisiana characters who are fun, entertaining and recognizable to most people. We’re already thinking about adding characters for next year.”
That will be the sequel filled with possibilities of Ignatius Reilly standing beside the Lucky Dog stand in the museum’s permanent exhibit Experiencing Louisiana: Discovering the Soul of America. Or even The Kingfish himself, Gov. Huey P. Long, walking among visitors.
“There are a lot of possibilities,” Stark said.
This year’s lineup will include the aforementioned Krewe of Yazoo’s Lawnmower Brigade, a popular feature in the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade; cast members from the Dunham School’s 2011 production of Evangeline the Musical; and Civil War re-enactors.
“We’ll have Civil War re-enactors from throughout the state,” Stark said. “This is being spearheaded by a Civil War re-enactment group in Thibodaux.”
Also on the program are the Vintage Dancers from St. Francisville and singer Earl Taylor, who heads the Messengers of Music.
“We’re also going to have a silent auction and a live auction,” Bennett said.
The live auction will cap the night’s activities. Up for bid will be a dinner with Gov. Bobby Jindal and first lady Supriya Jindal at the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, a piece of Mignot Faget jewelry, a painting by folk artist Alvin Batiste, a group meal at Houmas House and a bed and breakfast trip to Rosemound Gardens in West Feliciana Parish.
“Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne will be our auctioneer,” Stark said. “Scott Rogers will be the emcee.”
Food and drinks will be provided by Heirloom Cuisine.
“And we want to let everyone know that this is a family friendly event,” Stark said. “The auction might be geared more toward the adults, but the idea of A Night at the Louisiana State Museum will surely appeal to children because of the movie.”
Here’s the fun part for both adults and kids - everyone will be issued a passport upon entering the building. The passports will take them on a journey through the museum’s exhibits, where there will be 10 items to be discovered.
“There will be five items in the upstairs galleries and five items downstairs,” Stark said. “Not all of these items will be found in the places where we have actors. Our visitors will have to search through the exhibits to identify some of these items.”
The visitors’ passports are stamped each time they identify an item. Once they receive 10 stamps, visitors are entered into a drawing for a $100 gift certificate to Fleming’s Steakhouse.
All visitors signing up as new Louisiana State Museum Friends members at the event will be entered into a second drawing for another $100 gift certificate to the steakhouse.
And don’t forget the initial rumor - Elvis may be there, too. Some people may forget that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s legend began in Louisiana. Presley made his national debut at age 21 on the Louisiana Hayride, which was broadcast from the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport. Pay a visit to the auditorium these days, and you’ll see a cardboard cutout standing on the exact spot where the young star stood in 1954.
And when the museum comes alive on June 18, ladies and gentlemen, Elvis may be in the building.