Blog Post #12: Our History: Dollars and Sense

April 17th, 2014

Burke's Northampton Work Article

By Executive Director Debra J’Anthony

Six years into the formation of the Northampton Players, Melville Burke, the director of the municipal stock company, aired his unresolved conundrum of play selection in a Gazette article, dated February 8, 1918.  Today’s executive and artistic directors in small cities continue these arguments over profit vs. art:

“How to make a stock theatre, presenting a good company, offering a repertory of plays of recognized merit, satisfactorily if not elaborately produced, pay in a small community, is the problem in Northampton…

“The theatre being municipal, demands at the outset that the selection of plays shall be such as will appeal to the community and this demand is further emphasized by the fact that the theatre must be commercially successful. It must pay, and to do so in a city of twenty thousand people who are not habitual theatergoers, it must cater to all classes…

“In Northampton there are very definite lines drawn between the patrons from the college, from the town, and from the working classes. The necessity is to find something satisfactory to them all…

“The Academy of Music being a people’s theatre, it cannot be an art theatre. The repertory has been made up of good plays whose theme is sufficiently popular to appeal to all, and while few of those already offered are sensible stock, any stock manager would be “playing the game safe” were he to put them on….The largest number of seats are priced at thirty cents which does away with profit from this source, as on the other hand, the fact that the top price is $1.10 does away with competition with the picture houses.

“In play selection, merit as dramas, variety as applied to an unusually diverse public, and popularity of appeal, has been the aim.”

For our diverse, arts literate community, we offer something for everyone!

Help restore the Academy! We’re replacing the seats in the auditorium, repairing and repainting the ornate plaster, insulating and replacing the stage roof, and adding aisle lighting. Learn more.

Posted in Historic Documents, News, Theater | No Comments »

Blog Post #11: Our History: Northampton Welcomes Frank Morgan

April 9th, 2014

Frank Morgan

By Executive Director Debra J’Anthony

Frank Morgan, who would eventually play Oz in the film The Wizard of Oz, joined William Powell as a cast member of the Northampton Players in September 1917.  He seemed to make quite the impression with the Northampton locals and felt most at home. In this brief announcement on September 15, 1917, the Gazette describes the latest addition to the community:

“This season we are to have the tallest leading man we yet have had, to lead the Northampton Players. Frank Morgan is a New Yorker and a robust, athletic, college-man type, who, when he is not in the theatre, is fond of outdoor, manly interests – camping, fishing, hunting, riding, and roughing it generally. This is no theory with him for, not long ago, he came near quitting the stage and going in for ranching on a large scale in New Mexico, just out of Las Vegas. He had nearly a year of the life and would have liked to continue it. He is much in demand, however, both for stage and picture work.

“Being familiar with the life of a man’s college town (for so we see to think of Cornell, notwithstanding it is “co-ed”) he is looking forward with interest to life in the home of the largest women’s college in the world. He is a fraternity man and finds this a pleasant introduction in towns that he visits on tour or has played in as a stock actor.

“He has a charming, genial personality and is looking ahead with interest to his work here. It is noticeable, he says, how the people make an actor feel at home here – to a degree that he recalls nowhere else, and also noticeable, how big an interest the theatre is in the city’s life.”

The Academy has been part of what makes a strong arts community for 122 years!

Help restore the Academy! We’re replacing the seats in the auditorium, repairing and repainting the ornate plaster, insulating and replacing the stage roof, and adding aisle lighting. Learn more.

Posted in Historic Documents, News | No Comments »

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