Wednesday, September 24, 2014

HER OWN WAY: The Original Humboldt Production

Humboldt State Normal School held its first classes in April 1914. By May, 63 women and 15 men were learning to be teachers.

 According to the history compiled by former Theatre Arts chair John F. Pauley, the first rehearsals of Her Own Way began shortly after. That fall the show was announced as a benefit for the local chapter of the Belgium Relief Fund (see "The World in 1914" post below.)

Six women students and three children from the Normal Training School were in the cast. So were five men, which constituted a third of the initial male enrollment.

The production was staged on Tuesday evening, December 8, 1914 at the Minor Theatre in Arcata, which itself had just opened for the first time on the previous Thursday night (December 3). Though the Minor was designed to show movies (and is famous as the oldest currently operating movie house in the US), it has mostly been forgotten that it also hosted many stage productions, including some 40 locally produced shows in its first decade.

 So Her Own Way was not only the first Humboldt State produced play—it was the first play to be done on the Minor Theatre stage. Today, plans are underway to bring this HSU radio-style reading to the Minor on the actual anniversary date of December 8, 2014.

 In 1914 Arcata had a population of only 1,200, and it would be a decade before a decent road connecting it to Eureka was built. But just as the Minor Theatre had no trouble filling its 524 seats for silent pictures, Her Own Way also had a “standing room only” audience.

 Humboldt State continued to produce shows at the Minor Theatre (including HMS Pinafore in 1915.) When Founders Hall and its theatre were built in 1922, Humboldt State stage shows at last had their own home—though HSU productions often toured around Humboldt County through the 1950s.

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