Curtain Time: Act 2, 1920-1940


Program for 1929 Thyrsus production of LILIOM, with Mary Wickes as
 Mrs. Muscat 1929
Mary Wickenhauser (later known as Mary Wickes) makes her Thyrsus debut as Alty, an old Tennessee mountain woman, in an English 16 play titled On Jordan's Bank. Professor Carson said of Wickes, "That was the beginning. She was soon one of the most valuable members Thyrsus ever had, not only as a regular, but also as a faithful stand-by ready to pinch-hit when the ever-threatening appendicitis struck. Like Carnovsky, she, too, has made herself comfortable niches in New York and Hollywood as well as in summer theaters. And she never forgets to say where she hails from" (Washington University Alumni Bulletin, 1947) (At right is the program from a 1929 Thyrsus production of Liliom, with Mary Wickes in the role of Mrs. Muscat. Liliom is the basis for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. Mary Wickes returned to campus often. The image of Rose of Arizona below is from a Thyrsus variety show of 1933. In 1968 and in 1977, she served as Artist-in-Residence in the Performing Arts Area. In 1972, she served as the mistress of ceremonies at the opening of Mallinckrodt Center)

Program from CAMPUS HIGHLIGHTS, 1933 From her start in St. Louis, Wickes moved to New York, where she created the role of Miss Preen in Kaufman and Hart's The Man Who Came to Dinner, a role she later reprised on film. She quickly became a regular face and voice in television and in many films now regarded as classic: White Christmas, Now Voyager, The Actress, I'll See You in My Dreams, The Trouble With Angels. In later years, Wickes appeared in films such as Postcards from the Edge, Sister Act (1 and 2), and Little Women. Her last role, completed only weeks before her death in October 1995, was the voice of a gargoyle in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

1934
University appoints its first full-time band director, Norman Falkenhainer.

1936
Cover to program for G IS FOR GRANDMA Quadrangle Club show, G is for Grandma, features the book and lyrics of Ed Mead and music by Al Fleischer. Mead later recalled: "We were, back in 1936, in the middle of the gangster and G-Man era, and I wondered how W.S. Gilbert would have seen it ... G is for Grandma ... [was] a satire on advertising, about which I then knew absolutely nothing, and G-Men, and gangsters. The crooks were, as the lyrics said, 'always gettin' blamed for doing things they didn't do.' It's the only line I can remember from the show." (Washington University Magazine, 1974).

Under the name of Shepherd Mead, Ed Mead wrote his first commercially successful book, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, in 1952. In 1961 Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows based an award-winning musical comedy on Mead's novel, which became an international best-seller. Mead followed his spoof of Wall Street with a series of "How To Succeed" books, among them How to Get Rich in TV (1956), How to Succeed with Women (1957), How to Live Like a Lord (1965) and How to Stay Medium-Young (1971).

p.2 of the program from G is for Grandma, showing the synopsis and musical numbers (JPEG, 386x646, 110K)
p.3 of the program from G is for Grandma, showing the student cast (JPEG, 401x661, 120K)

Cast list to Ed Mead's ETERNITY UNLIMITED, 1936 getting into makeup for ETERNITY UNLIMITED
Left: Cast list to another of Shepherd Mead's student works, a science-fiction piece titled Eternity Unlimited. Student Life found the play "remarkably convincing for such a fantastic piece of writing. It was a highly imaginative conception of the rulers of the world, thousands of years in the future. Dr. Maxius, played very effectively by Julius Nodel, plans to overthrow the regime in sway because it is going to regulate the world so completely that it will go on to eternity unchanging -- or something. If you do not try too hard to figure the play out, it is very interesting" (Mead himself described the play as "heavy-handed"!)
Right: Herman Waldman, as dictator of 2000 years into the future, getting made up for Eternity Unlimited.

Scene from First Edition, the winner of the Wilson Prize for the best English 16 play, 1937. Student Life described the play as "a satire aimed at lengthy novels and middle-aged women with a literary yen." William G.B. Carson described it as one of the finest plays ever to come out of English 16.

1937
Thyrsus moves into the Brown Hall auditorium (now Brown 100), a space designed specifically for Thyrsus productions.

1936-1937
Thumbnail of Tennessee Williams Tennessee Williams' only year as a Washington University student. Then known as Thomas Lanier Williams, he enrolled in Greek, General Literature, and English 16. His entry for the English 16 playwriting contest, a melodrama entitled Me, Vashya!, concerned a peasant who becomes a munitions magnate selling arms to a world which seemed constantly at war. When the play failed to impress the contest judges, Williams left the University, enrolling at the University of Iowa in the Fall of 1937. In 1948, Williams won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for his play A Streetcar Named Desire.

Thumbnail from announcment for DOWN IN FRONT

1940
Quad Show of 1940, a musical comedy called Down in Front, features a book by Aaron Hotchner, music by August Beckemeier, Marvin Levin, and Louis Schultz.

From the advance notice for Down in Front:

"This year, Quadrangle Club will give ONE-HALF of its profits to the funds established to buy COLORFUL UNIFORMS FOR THE BAND.
Do you attend FOOTBALL GAMES, BASKETBALL GAMES?
Wouldn't you like to see the band DRESSED UP?
Then buy tickets ... for DOWN IN FRONT

Not only that, you get a real evening's ENTERTAINMENT. FUN when Muggsey O'Toole and Henry Madison Fish both want to be "champeens"; MUSIC when the 15 principals and the Singing Chorus and the 20-piece Orchestra get going on the ELEVEN ORIGINAL NUMBERS; COLOR when the Dancing Chorus of 32 perform in THREE spectacular ballets and THREE novelty dances."

p.2 of the program from Down in Front showing the directors, student cast, and choruses. One of the largest and most ambitious Quad Shows ever produced, over 200 students were involved in the production of Down in Front (JPEG, 397x687, 167K)

Aaron Edward (A.E.) Hotchner graduated from Washington University in 1940, with both bachelors and law degrees. After working for Cosmopolitan magazine as a feature writer, Hotchner turned to the stage, writing plays for Playhouse 90, U.S. Steel Hour, Playwright '58, and Omnibus. In 1955, he began adopting the works of Ernest Hemingway, whom he had met in 1948, for stage and television. Hotchner and Hemingway were friends until Hemingway's death in 1961, and Hotchner's memoir, Papa Hemingway, was published in 1966. His 1970 novel, King of the Hill, about his childhood in Depression-era St. Louis, was made into a major motion picture in 1994.

Scene from English 16 play, ESTY
Thumbnail of program from ESTY, showing the cast list
Above: Harry Gibbs and Marcia Toensfeldt, in a scene from Esty, English 16 play from 1940. Harry Gibbs later became famous as "Mr. Texas Bruce", on St. Louis area children's television.
Below: Program from Esty, showing the cast list.


[Overture] [Act1] [Act 2] [Act 3] [Featured Players] [Curtain Call]



This online exhibit "Curtain Time" was created in 1997, and is hosted by University Archives,
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