Footlighters, part 5 – first costume play, Tredyffrin Country Club

The first costume play to be attempted by the Footlighters was “The Jewell Merchants,” a romance of Tuscany in the Renaissance period, given March 24-25, 1931, at the Saturday Club. And then, just as now for a play of that type, all the costumes were made by Narcissa Cameron and her committee! That kind of talent is rare, even among the versatile Footlighters! Pictures that are remarkably clear even after a period of almost nineten years show the beauty of these costumes as worn by the three characters, Jane Gray, Bayard Beatty, Jr., and Richard Wynkoop Rigg. It is interesting to know that the music of the song that Miss Gray sang was written especially for her by Stanley Muschamp, distinguished Philadelphia musician. The words were Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s translation of a poem written by Allessandro de Medici. Mrs. Thomas E. Walton played Miss Gray’s accompaniment. A one-act New England comedy in light vein, “Stick ‘Em Up,” was another offering for that evening.

And then following the first costume play came the first play writing contest to be featured by The Footlighters. First prize was won by John Garrigues with his play “Headlines,” and second prize by Rhodes Stabley, for “Mirabel Makes Demands.” The two plays were given in April, the entire cast of “Headlines” being composed of members who were making their first appearance with the Footlighters. They were C. Earl Moore, Pearl Seitz, Ruth Tolf, Joseph H. Forrest and Susanna Holt. Laurene Rolf and Charles C. Smith composed the cast of two for “Mirabel Makes Demands.”

This interesting season closed with a drama of great power, “My Son,” with its setting on Cape Cod among the Portuguese inhabitants. For it “the characters and emotions are drawn in sharp contrast, youth and age, strength and weakness, love and infatuation.” Directed by T. Bayard Beatty, it had in its cast Margaret D. Clark, James Rice, Arthur Edrop, T. B. Genay, W. J. McMillan, Jean Frazier, Edith Conner, Eleanor Johnson and Richard Rigg. A picturesque bit was the singing of Portuguese fishermen in the distance as they go about their work. These singers were Addison S. Buck, Charles C. Rich, F. Ashby Wallace, Wendell E. Warner and Cornelius Whetstone.

At the annual meeting held in October, 1931, T. Bertram Genay succeeded Mrs. Howson as president, an office which he held for two years. Wayne Little Theatre group continued to prosper under his able leadership. There were one act plays and three act plays, benefit performances, play writing contests and Footlighter Frolics.

These were the years of the depression. The Footlighers were urged to give again a play for relief work in the community, their first one having proved so financially successful. This did not materialize, however, and the February, 1932, play was given instead in conjunction with the Wayne Library, “Turn to the Right,” a delightful comedy with a large cast, when given in the Radnor High School Auditorium, netted a very worthwhile sum for the Library. The following February “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” with Isabel Jacob Ruth in the lead was given in aid of the Radnor High School Scholarship Fund, at which time about $400 was realized for that purpose.

Winners of the play writing contest in the Spring of 1932 were Stuart Amour for “Futility,” and T. Bayard Beatty, Jr., for “The Sand Maker,” a costume play of the 17th Century. As an introduction to the performances of these plays a “curtain raiser,” entitled “A Footlighter Writes a Play,” written by Ethel Dorr McKinley, was presented. The 1933 play writing contest brought forth at least four that were considered good enough for production. “Home-Coming,” by H. Morgan Ruth, was awarded first prize “as being of most unusual merit, and quite well able to hold its own with any one act play produced by the Footlighters.” When given, this play was directed by Mr. Ruth’s wife, Isabel Jacob Ruth. Second place in the contest was won by Ethel Dorr McKinley’s “A Bowl of Yellow Roadsters,” which the judges pronounced “hilariously funny.”

The 1931-32 season closed in June with “a depression party” held at the Tredyffrin Country Club when rules made by the committee called for the wearing of old clothes. Uniquely, there were no speeches, save for the necessary announcements of Mr. and Mrs. Y. Parran Dawkins, who shared the dual responsibility of master of ceremonies.

The Footlighters’ efforts to carry on despite the depression must have been a noteworthy one for it even brought forth the following editorial comment in the SUBURBAN of October 14, 1932, “Wayne is fortunate in having many things that make the town a good place in which to live, and among them might well be mentioned The Footlighters, an organization of local amateur Thespians. During past seasons this organization of talented actors and actresses has furnished high class amusement not only to its members but to the public generally. Despite the well known and much advertised Depression, the Footlighters are going to ‘carry on’ which will be good news to our residents, who like an evening of wholesome enjoyment.”