Little Known Black History Fact: Pelagie Green Wren 1st Chorus Dancer of Color Hired by St. Louis Opera House

Pelagie Green was the first black person to join St. Louis’ Muny Opera House dance chorus in 1962. While her appearance was historical, it was also life-threatening. For her own safety, 19-year-old Pelagie Green was under the constant watch of Officer Charles Wren, a black police officer whom she later married. Green went on to open the Pelagie Green Wren Academy of Dance in St. Louis.  She also dedicated her teachings to St. Louis Public Schools. She was cited as sometimes waiving tuition fees for students who couldn’t afford training.

The Pelagie Green Wren dancers continued to perform all over the city, including at the esteemed Kiel Opera House. Her students have later gone to Broadway. While Green-Wren was the first to join the chorus, the first black performers appeared on the Muny stage in 1930 in the production “Show Boat.”

The Muny Opera House is the oldest outdoor theater in the U.S. The venue opened its stage in 1916 with a production of “Aida”. Following the production of “Show Boat”, the opera house featured shows with all-black casts such as “Porgy and Bess”, “The Wiz” (1982) and “Ain’t Misbehavin”. There were also re-productions of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway and “Guys and Dolls” featuring stage legends Leslie Uggams and Richard Roundtree.  Pelagie Green Wren passed away on September 19th. Her funeral was held yesterday in St. Louis, Mo. She was 71 years old.

article by Erica L. Taylor via blackamericaweb.com

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