THEATRE GUILD ACTING COMPANY. The Theatre Guild Acting Company ( New York, New York) was formally organized in the fall of 1926 by the Theatre Guild's board of managers. The permanent ensemble's first presentation, Franz Werfel's historical play Juarez and Maximilian, premiered at the Guild's own proscenium house, the Guild Theatre, New York, on October 11, 1926.
While the 1926-27 New York season witnessed the Guild's first permanent acting company, it was by no means the Guild's first season as a producing organization. A small group of theatre amateurs with an enormous commitment to bringing artistic and intellectual drama to cultured and intellectual New York audiences ignored by the commercial theatre met during the winter of 1918-19 to discuss the prospects for an art theatre on Broadway. Among those present at these meetings were Josephine Meyer, Helen Westley, Philip Moeller, Rollo Peters, Lawrence Langner, Lee Simonson, and Justus Sheffield. They determined to call their organization "The Theatre Guild" since this title suggested the cooperation in organization and pride in craftsmanship exhibited by the medieval trade guilds. Theirs would be a theatre directed not by a theatre "czar" but by committee: all artistic, managerial, and production decisions would be made through a democratic process, by vote of the board members after exhaustive discussion of each issue. Maurice Wertheim became a member of the board soon after the Guild's first production (he helped underwrite early financial losses). Theresa Helbum became the company's playreader and, later, executive director. Because of policy disputes, Rollo Peters (a proponent of the "Master Director" approach to production) resigned his position within a year. Soon after, three others exited: Augustin Duncan (who was a board member for a short while), Justus Sheffield (who left to pursue his law practice), and Josephine Meyer. The remaining six--Westley, Helburn, Moeller, Simonson, Langner, and Wertheim--comprised the board of managers throughout the Guild's most