American Theatre Companies, 1888-1930

By Weldon B. Durham | Go to book overview

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Published Sources:

Denver Post, 1913-18.

Denver Times, 1913-18.

Archival Resources:

Denver Colorado. Colorado Historical Society. Denver Public Library.

Robley D. Rhine

[MAE] DESMOND PLAYERS. The Mae Desmond Players was Philadelphia's longest-lived professional company under single continuous management which relied on resident performers, not visiting stars, to entertain local audiences. Organized as a stock company with approximately fifteen actors assuming typed roles in offerings that changed weekly, the Mae Desmond Players performed in that city for eleven consecutive years from 1918 to 1929. Native Philadelphians Mae Desmond (formerly Mary Veronica Callahan) and Frank Fielder were the troupe's proprietors and managers. Mae Desmond ( 1887-1982) received her initial professional experience as ingenue with the acclaimed Philadelphia stock company, the Orpheum Players* at the Chestnut Street Theatre. Highly successful stints with Brooklyn's Gotham Players, the Bronx' Metropolis and Prospect Theatre stock organizations and Scranton's Poli Players* established her as a noted leading lady. Desmond also toured the eastern seaboard and Midwest during the 1916-17 season in the Irish-American theme vehicle The Daughter of Mother Machree by Edward Everett Rose. Frank Fielder ( 1884- 1980), known for his dashing good looks and talents as a singer and cellist, had acquired extensive stock experience with the Chicago Stock Company, the Stanford and Western Players at Philadelphia's Frankford Empire Theatre, Brooklyn's Gotham Players, and Elmira's Dorner Players.

Married in 1908, the two were compelled to form their own stock organization because of their difficulty in securing concurrent employment. At that time, stock managers deemed married leading performers undesirable because they lacked romantic appeal and gained too much power within the troupe. Many actors simply kept their marriages secret. With two small children, Desmond and Fielder found this an impossible task. They alleviated this problem by embarking on their own stock company venture, named the Mae Desmond Players to trade on Desmond's popularity especially with female audiences.

The company's first residence was Schenectady, New York's Van Curler Opera House. Cleves Kinkead Common Clay was their initial offering on April 9, 1917. The play's lower-class but inherently noble Ellen Neal allowed Desmond to exhibit her trademarks of unpretentious Irish beauty and dainty Pickford curls. The troupe frequently presented romantic plays which afforded Desmond the opportunity to appear the lovely downtrodden innocent on the rise up the social ladder: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Charlotte Thompson , Little Peggy O'Moore by Oscar O'Shea and E. C. Lilley, In OldKentucky

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