Footlighters, part 3 – historian of the club

Once the organization had been launched, Footlighter enthusiasm seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. The first play was given in February, 1930. By May ther were so many eager aspirants for stage parts that two casts were chosen for that month’s play. The SUBURBAN describes the organition growth as “Mushroom-like” in a long article concerning “Ice Bound,” a play that was “so subtle a comedy that in it pathos almost outstrips humor.” The stage setting as arranged by M. Howard Tilghman, Jr., was a fore-runner of some of the excellent ones that have followed in these twenty years past. “The ugly interior of the plain New England parlor was emphasized by the stiff little horse-hair settee, the red table cover, and the wall mottoes” according to the SUBURBAN article which continues “Only the little rush bottomed chairs suggested something of beauty, and even they were not made for comfort. In contrast to the ugliness of the room was the beauty of a bit of winter landscape outside the windows, the little pine tree powdered with snow shining in the cold winter sunshine of a Maine day.

“Friday night’s cast included T. Bertram Genay, Elisabeth B. McCord, Dorothea Waples, Susan B. Dawkins, Parran Dawkins, Jr., Edith Macartney Edrop, Arthur Edrop, Laurene Rolf, Howard T. Leland, Henry V. Andrews, Mary Knon Genay and Percy W. Clark. Saturday night’s cast had in it W. N. Stilwell, Cora E. Roever, Olive Badger Stacy, Louise Post, Merrill H. Tilghman, III, Margaret Duncan Clark, Arthur Edrop, Marion Keator, Harold Dwight, Dewitt C. Clement, Mary Knon Genay and Percy W. Clark. Both casts were directed by T. Bayard Beatty, assisted by Howard T. Leland.”

Up to this time play programs had been merely mimeographed sheets. Those for “Ice Bound” were printed ones designed by Arthur Edrop, using for the first time the “Footlighters’ lady,” created by him and used in various ways since then. Colorful posters made by several artistic members of the organization adorned the town and added to the “lively press-agenting” done by Betty Dawkins. Two large and appreciative audiences witnessed the plays that ended the formal program for the first season of the Footlighters.

But then plays were not all that cconstituted this first season. For “in recognition of the invaluable services of T. Bayard Beatty, the members of The Footlighters who have been active during the season just passed are giving a dinner dance in his honour on Saturday evening, June 14, at seven by the clock at the Tredyffrin Country Club in Paoli,” according to the announcements sent out to every member of the Footlighters who had done any work during the season. About 600 people attended this party, forerunner of those that have followed the conclusion of almost every Footlighter season since then. Guests were led into the dining room to “a merry tune played on the bagpipes and drums by two brave Highland laddies, Francis Smaltz and T. Bayard Beatty, Jr.” Place cards, which also served as programs, were written and designed by Arthur Edrop, assisted by Barry Thompson. Decorated with a little group of hand painted figures representing different characters in the plays of the first season, these programs are still the most pretentious things of that kind that have ever been done by the Footlighters.

Howard Leland as master of ceremonies took over the party at the conclusion of the dinner and announced the five plays that were to be given on an impromptu stage. All were burlesques of the Footlighter productions to date. “The Last of the Joneses” became “Mrs. Jones at Last,” while “The Tomb House Blues” was developed from “The Little Stone House.” “A Matter of Husbands” was changed into a farce entitled, “Hand Over the Wife” and the “Drums of Oude” became “Some Thrums for Freud.” Last but not least “Ice Bound” was changed into a burlesque entitled, “How She Met the Ice-Man.” Dancing concluded an evening that for originality and amusement has never been surpassed by any other Footlighter party.

In October, the second season started with two one-act plays “Trifles” and “The Third Angle.” Regular dues were fixed at two dollars. Members were urged to fill out “activity cards” indicating in what branch of work each wished to participate. At an annual meeting held the week after the opening plays the treasurer presented his report of the year, showing a membership of 315 and a goodly balance in the bank. All officers were re-elected for their second term, Mrs. Howson for president, Mr. Stilwell for secretary and Mr. Clark for treasurer. Reports of all standing committees were given, showing great activity on the part of each. A new office was created, that of historian, in connnection with which “The president announced that the Executive Committee, in order to preserve for posterity, a record of the acts and acting, brilliancies and banalities, casts and castings, deeds and derelictions, errors and excellences, fame of Footlighters (and so on to the end of the alphabet) of the organization had appointed as Historian, and called upon Mrs. T. Magill Patterson to tell what she had done.

Mrs. Patterson, emulating the most noteworthy statesman at election times, proceeded with an interesting account of what she would do. Indeed the prospect was so inviting that upon motion duly made and seconded, by-laws were amended to read, “The Records and History Committee shall have charge of keeping and preserving full and complete records of the activities of the Footlighters”. (And well does that first historian remember to this day and with this writing the difficulties of collecting programs, newspaper clippings, activities cards and other early records of that first season when the second season was already upon her!)