Blog Post #25: Our History: Ballot Question

July 16th, 2014

By Debra J’Anthony, Executive Director

At the board meeting on June 8, 1929 with all members present, a discussion was had regarding the request made by Charles Rackliffe to replace the seats and re-decorate the auditorium. He further stipulated that the work needed to be done or he would end his relationship with the theater.  At the suggestion of Mayor Andre,

 “It was decided to bring the matter before the people by introducing into the ballot at the next election the question of whether the citizens approve of the continuance of the Academy and the expenditure of a sufficient sum of money to re-decorate, to put in new seats, and otherwise repair the same.”

The board members also voted to allow Mr. Rackliffe to operate the theater without paying any of the earnings to the city.

The ballot question was prepared by Frank Lyman, Mayor Andre, and Smith President Neilson and read:

“Shall the City of Northampton expend the sum of approximately $20,000 for re-decorating and re-finishing the Academy of Music, the not doing of which will force the Board of Management to consider the question of whether the property should revert to the donors?”

The question never made it to the voters. The city finance committee was against a referendum,

“feeling being in the finance committee that Northampton had assumed the obligation of preserving the Academy of Music and many of the people who might vote against the expenditure necessitated would do so because of not knowing the value of the Academy to the city and of not knowing the problems which the Board of Management face, and some of them would do so purely because they have no interest in the purpose for which the gift was made.”

 An order was presented to the Northampton Board of Alderman to have the question placed on the ballot. Once again, it was not sent to the voters. The Board of Alderman made a motion and voted to appropriate $20,000 toward the cost of redecorating and re-seating the theater.

Join the Academy of Music for its Grand Re-opening following interior renovations: new seats, repainting of the auditorium, refinishing the oak floors and more. The Grand Re-opening on October 17th will feature a premiere production, Nobody’s Girl, a screwball comedy based on real events that took place at the theater in the 1940s. 

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Blog Post #24: Our History: Academy Players

July 9th, 2014

By Debra J’Anthony, Executive Director

Seven months after the Academy Players’ first production on the Academy stage, the Northampton lodge of Elks entered into a presenting arrangement with the theater’s general manager, Charles Rackliffe. The Gazette noted on April 4, 1928:

“Northampton lodge of Elks is to present the Academy Players in a spring engagement beginning Monday, April 9, with the New York hit, ‘The Barker,’ a portion of the receipts from the theater going to the Elks’ charity fund. The lodge will promote interest in the new company, striving to increase the attendance at the performances, and it is believed that capacity houses should result, for the new company  promises to be the most able group of actors to appear in weekly stock productions in this city since the days when James Rennie, Robert Ames, David Powell and others who have since risen to national renown on the stage and screen, played at the Academy.”

Charles Rackliffe came up with creative ways to bring in audience members. However, at the end of his first year as general manager, Rackliffe took a large financial loss to the tune of $7,250.13. He nevertheless requested a renewal agreement with the provision,

“that the contract could be continued for a further one or two years, and , whereas, said Rackliffe desires to continue another year, although subjected to a very large loss during the past year, it is agreed by the Trustees that they will accept instead of five thousand dollars on account of the share of the Academy in the income, the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars ($2500).”

In January of 1929, Frank Shaughnessy, manager at the Academy, requested installing new seats at the theater. He remarked that, “the present seats had become so worn that it was practically impossible to keep them in repair, that an examination was made of each seat every day to insure there being no accidents.” The Trustees asked that he provide a plan for the proposed change in the aisles and an estimate on the cost of new seats.

Three months later, Rackliffe shared his reluctance to continue his relationship with the Academy unless new seats were installed. He was continuing to take a loss due to the talkies at the Calvin and was willing to introduce talking pictures at the Academy at his expense, however, this would only be done if the Academy re-seated and re-decorated the auditorium.

The Academy of Music will hold its Grand Re-opening featuring new seats and a newly painted auditorium on October 17th. We will celebrate with our premiere production, Nobody’s Girl, a screwball comedy based on real events that took place at the theater in the 1940s. Nobody’s Girl, written by Harley Erdman and directed by Sheila Siragusa, will include Frank Shaughnessy as one of the main characters.

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