Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Postcards from the Past: the Willis Wood Theatre" by Felicia Londré

This article appeared in the October 2012 issue of KC Stage
The Willis Wood Theatre, designed by Folly Theatre architect Louis Curtiss, stood at the corner of Eleventh and Baltimore for only fifteen years, 1902-1917, before it burned down, but oh, what a glamorous place it was in its day! You paid a little more for tickets than at other local theatres and you got not only a top touring company, but elegant atmosphere. There was also the famous tile-lined electric-lit tunnel known as "highball alley" that ran diagonally under the street from the theatre lobby to the glamorous Baltimore Hotel lobby known as "peacock alley"—very convenient for intermission imbibing.

Part of the charm of this particular postcard, postmarked 19 December 1908, is the message from the sender, signed Marie, to Midshipman John Shafroth, USS Virginia, New York City. On the stamped side, she wrote: "Dear Jack, We go to Omaha tonight. I certainly will write in a day or two. Love from Marie." She wrote on the picture side: "This is the theatre we played. Kansas City is mighty nice." And indeed there was a Miss Marie Reynolds in the cast of the show that played the week of 13-19 December 1908 at the Willis Wood, an adaptation of Molnár’s comedy The Devil.

Felicia Hardison Londré is curators' professor of theatre at UMKC, specializing in French, Russian, and Kansas City theatre history. She currently (2012-14) serves as dean of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

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