ORPHEUM PLAYERS, CHESTNUT STREET THEATRE. The Orpheum Players was Philadelphia's premiere stock company throughout its seven years of operation. The company, initially called the Orpheum Players Dramatic Stock Company, was formed in the fall of 1907 by manager Grant Laferty. To the astonishment of the Philadelphia theatrical world, Laferty secured the lease on the Chestnut Street Theatre for his new company. The Chestnut Street Theatre, located in the heart of center city at 1211-1215 Chestnut Street, was one of the city's first-class theatres. As such, it presented star-studded touring productions and charged maximum admission prices. Philadelphia's resident stock companies had operated only in theatres located in areas adjacent to the primary commercial district for several decades.
Converting a major touring house into a stock-company theatre was a risky enterprise in any city. It was an especially precarious business in Philadelphia in 1907. Philadelphia's longest-lived resident company, the Forepaugh Theatre Stock Company* disbanded because of diminishing profits. Another well- established troupe, the Darcy and Speck Stock Company* at the Standard Theatre, was experiencing financial difficulty as well. Laferty's plan to provide the city with "the finest stock company Philadelphia ever saw" was viewed critically by many in local theatre circles. The management later stated, "Even our best friends were skeptical about the future" ( Orpheum Players Souvenir Booklet, Philadelphia Theatre Collection, p. 6). The New York Dramatic Mirror conceded in later years that "failure was freely predicted" for the Orpheum Players ( New York Dramatic Mirror, May 1, 1909, p. 46).
Despite such dire predictions, the company opened on September 14, 1907, in Justin H. McCarthy If I Were King. The play was a large-cast, four-act romantic drama set in the France of Louis XI. It established a pattern for the company's future repertory, which frequently provided an outlet for the director's and scenic artist's talents: period costumes, exotic settings, large casts,