Urban Archeologist: Get with the Program!

A look back at local theater and more.

Either as a result of pure coincidence or possibly just the quantity of sales I visit, I will often see related items at different sales. In the past few months not only have I seen a lot of theater related papers, I have found myself unintentionally collecting them.

Why? My parents meet while working together in local theater, so maybe it’s hereditary. Without theater we wouldn’t have programs, without programs we would possibly never know the local history that happened right in own backyards. 

When I buy a “lot” of papers it is usually the case that I don’t know what I have until I am back home. This happened as a result of a purchase I wrote about over . In that collection was over 100 pieces of theater memorabilia mostly in the form of Playbills, programs and flyers. Despite all the famous Broadway plays in the pile, my favorite is the program for the Newtown Town Players 1957 production of  “Night Must Fall.” This is a classic collection of local people and businesses, most of which are now just a memory.

An earlier example of local theater was a program I found at a Bridgewater estate sale — tucked between 2 books — for a Grange production of “Marrying Marion” performed in 1932 at the Bridgewater grange and town hall (see image). A review in the local paper glued to an inside page gives an honest account of the evening’s festivities noting that the performance was standing room only.

The oldest program I own is from The Palace Theatre in New York and to find this program (though previously gnawed by a mouse) in readable condition was truly lucky. Even better is the movie playing that day… Charlie Chaplin in “The Tramp,” one of his definitive classics and an amazing piece of movie theater history.    

What really draws me to these programs are all the ads from long ago — the Basket Barn, which claims “Everyone needs a basket!” to the Electrical treatment that will “Reduce Your Flesh!” I couldn’t scan them all, but to see a wide selection of these ads and the programs themselves, watch the video.

As you can see by the images there are plenty of good examples of theater in Connecticut, just as there are in every community. Next time you see a local theater performance in your town, take it in, and save the program. Someday another Urban Archeologist will dig it up and thank you for it.

Take the latest ad quiz and see if you can guess what brand of cigarettes aids in digestion?   

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.


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