Saranac Lake supported a Summer Theater troupe from at least the 1920s, initially at the tent theater between Main Street and the Saranac River. It was notable chiefly for introducing a young Rosalind Russell to the stage.

In 1961, Joan Frank bought the Odd Fellows Hall and used it as a summer theater until 1963, when she moved her troupe to Lake Placid. The building had seen earlier theatrical use, dating to June, 1952.

Lake Placid News, April 14, 1944

Summer Theatre

A summer theatre may develop from a course to be given in the Saranac Lake Study and Craft guild. The course in statecraft will be taught by by Edward Vogt, former New York actor. Those taking the course will produce a play in early summer and if the response is favorable the club will be recruited to sufficient members to enable them to put on several productions during July and August.

It is believed that a summer theater would be a paying proposition. Residents and visitors have indicated in the past that they support and appreciate stage productions and that they are as fond of amateurs as they are of professional players, such as operated the Adirondack Tent theater successfully for four seasons.

Mr. Vogt believes that there is sufficient talent in the community to develop a highly successful company. The array of talent includes many former actors and actresses who would lend their assistance, either by appearing in the productions or by assisting Mr. Vogt in the handling of the hows.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 1, 1952; front page reprinted by the Enterprise, July 30, 2005

S. L. Summer Theater Makes Bow

by Elliott W. Galkin

Saranac Lake became part of the Straw Hat Circuit last night when its own summer theatre presented a preview performance of "Harvey" before an audience of approximately one hundred and fifty invited guests.

At first thought, it might have seemed audacious for a young dramatic troupe to debut with as familiar a play as the one concerning the imaginary rabbit, but the group performed the Mary Chase Broadway hit with an elan and spontaneity which would have been a credit to any dramatic company, regardless of age or experience. 

The audience left with cheers and smiles, or to quote Elwood P. Dowd, the play's hero, "They came as strangers and left as friends."

The production was staged in an unusual manner--identified in theatre parlance as "arena theatre." In this form of presentation, the action takes place in a central plane area, the audience framing the performers on all sides. Such a style of playing is a much more intimate one than the orthodox closed stage method of procedure, and promotes a feeling of rapport between audience and performers.

Since there is no curtain, the audience is witness to the changing of stage properties and scenery. The stage-hands last night were a young couple garbed completely in white, their costumes topped off with charmingly executed "Harvey" masks, complete with long ears and pointed saw-teeth. Accompanied by the music of Prokofieff, they performed their duties with almost ballet-like movements, interrupting their appointed tasks just once to engage in a mild bit of flirtation and bussing. I am told that this is standard procedure for rabbits even while changing scenery.

For the actors, arena theatre presents many technical challenges. Since the stage is a four-sided one, the actors must play to all the sides. The problem of one actor blocking another from the view of the audience must also be solved. Seconds after the start of the production, it was apparent that any technical staging problems had been subtly dealt with and dispatched. 

To Robert Barr, of the Yale School of Drama, must go the lion's share of the credit for making this whimsical farce so convincing. It would have been so easy to have made a burlesque of the role of Elwood P. Dowd, the meek Ovid-quoting alcoholic who was spending his life just being pleasant.

Mr. Barr's characterization of . . . .[missing text] . . . George Bernard Shaw maintained to be always inherent in good comedy. Elwood's continual concern for Harvey's welfare, his flattery of all women regardless of age, his delightful conversations with strangers . . . all these situations and many others were handled [illegible] and competently by Mr. Barr. [Much missing text here.] 

On the feminine . . . the outstanding . . . Dolly Davis . . .  also . . . role of Elwood's sister . . . serious yet crack. . . h[er spon]taneity formed a wonde[rful coun]terpart to the meek hesitancy of her brother Elwood. . . .

Worthy of notice, too, was ___ Butler as Nurse Kelly, and ___ Lanser as Doctor Sand. . . [the rest is illegible or missing.]


2012-12-30 05:59:14   I spent a summer in Lake Placid with Joan Frank in 1968! One of the best experiences of my life. —

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