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Strolling Players, Reading Theatre Bode Well for Drama at University

Long Fight Nears End For Local Thespians

By Edward J. Ottenheimer jr.

No money and no playhouse are the two headaches that have been plaguing local dramatists for years. These troubles are now being licked.

The Theatre Group in touring the Houses to escape renting a theatre and getting financial good deals from its connections with the Brattle Company. The Dramatic Club is now able to give full productions in a lecture room so inexpensively that membership dues can pay for them.

The cases in point are the H.T.G's "Figaro," which opened its tour in Leverett last night and continues through the other Houses this week and next and the H.D.C.'s "The Shoemaker's Prodigious Wife," which played in the Fogg Large Lecture Room yesterday afternoon.

Now that the H.D.C. has hit on the idea of glorified reading theatre productions, it can put on the experimental plays it wants to without financial risk. It will, however, hazard a couple of major productions a year, which balance commercial appeal and artistic value.

The H.T.G. wants to interest students in drama and provide fun at the same time. The Houses, where the atmosphere is informal and people are handy, are the locale it has chosen.

Baker Goes

But things haven't always looked so good for College actors. Twenty-eight years ago George P. Baker left the faculty and went to Yale because the University wouldn't build a theatre and set up a drama department. Ever since then undergraduate drama has had to struggle to keep alive.

After Baker left, the Dramatic Club, then the College's only dramatic organization, tried for a while to produce plays written by undergraduates. Without Baker the H.D.C. couldn't make a go of it.

Then the H.D.C. did experimental plays. It wont to New York, got interesting new plays that no one else would produce, and put them on in Cambridge. The average cost was $600 per play.

But the H.D.C. began to get extravagant, and the cost of putting on plays began to soar. The Dramatic Club went deeper and deeper in debt.

Then in 1946 the Theatre Workshop was formed. Its members sold their own blood to make money and put on a series of memorable productions (including Saint Joan and Henry IV). But high production costs put even some of these shows in the red. By last year the H.T.W. turned pro and moved to Brattle Hall, leaving the debt-ridden H.D.C. as the College's only major serious dramatic organization until the formation of the H.T.G. under the Brattle Theatre's guidance this year.

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