One of the pleasures of working in the Archives is that sometimes a question will lead to a whole new line of inquiry. Or, to put it more simply, one will open a file and an idea for a blog post will jump out. Recently, research on behalf of a member of the Class of 1940 led to this photograph, from the first in a long tradition of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta performances. On May 5, 1939, the Glee Clubs of Williston Academy and Northampton School for Girls performed Trial by Jury on a makeshift stage in the basketball court. Chuck Rouse, Ruth Dunham, and Frederick “Binky” Hyde were co-directors; Howard G. Boardman provided scenery and lights.
Thus began a quarter-century of Gilbert and Sullivan performances by Northampton and Williston students. A far more ambitious production, this time The Pirates of Penzance, followed in 1940; H.M.S. Pinafore a year later. Rouse and Dunham continued to direct, eventually succeeded by Henry Teller, Helen Spencer, and Jean Diekoff.
Annual performances gave way to biennial in the mid-1950s, but a tradition of Williston and Northampton musicals – always Gilbert and Sullivan – was established. It lasted through a spectacular Mikado in 1963, after which Teller and stage director/pianist Stephen Randall were heard to comment that they didn’t think they could top it nor, perhaps, should they try.
In 1965 they instead presented the premières of two operettas, The Yankee Pedlar by Smith College composer John Duke, and Artemis Undone by Williston’s own Richard Gregory, with the student cast supplemented by a brave contingent of faculty centurions and an army of Amazon women drawn from faculty wives and Schoolhouse secretaries.
But another reality was that students’ musical interests had changed. Kids in the ’40s and ’50s – this writer included – often grew up knowing Gilbert and Sullivan practically by heart; thus the idea of donning gorgeously silly costumes and putting on Iolanthe or Ruddigore had broad appeal.
By the mid-60s, directors could not make this assumption. In any case, while the musicals continued (most recently with Fiddler on the Roof last May), Gilbert and Sullivan did not. 1963’s Mikado was the last of G&S at Williston, save for a 1983 faculty production of Trial by Jury, featuring Richard Gregory as the Learned Judge and Dean Mary Hocken Goar as jilted bride Angelina.
(It is to the Archivist’s regret that no photographs of that performance appear to have survived. Can anyone help?)
And if you didn’t recognize the title of this post (it got your attention, didn’t it?), surely it is the line sung by the chorus at the moment in Trial by Jury captured in the photograph. As noted earlier, some of us grew up with this stuff.
Your comments and questions are encouraged! Please use the space below.
2 thoughts on “Monster! Monster! Dread our fury!”
That photo of Artemis Undone brings back memories of my 8th grade at Williston. I was the satyr in that operetta – given my small stature which was my only qualification. Faculty wife, Mrs. Randall, found some sort of aminal skin borrowed, I think, from Smith College, to wrap around me and I was painted in gold from head to toe. That was the beginning and end of my career in drama. Thank God there are no photos of me.
How too fun! We did G&S at Winsor too- often the 5th grade production (the 8th grade was Shakespeare!). The tricky part was that, since it was an all- girl’s school, girls played defendant AND Angelina. These days we could have fun with gender benders like that – at the time it was just as natural as pie.