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On stage and swatch

2:24 PM  Feb 11th, 2013
by Audrey Starr

The third page is a flashy red-and-gold design named “Embassy,” but the pattern on Page 17,  “Arbor,” a textured stripe with a subtle metallic sheen, is equally attractive. Look past the backgrounds, however, and you’ll notice this 82-page 1940s wallpaper sample book serves double duty as a 20-year time capsule of UD theater.

It sits perched atop a computer hutch off the theater department’s main office, blending in with stacks of scripts and old VHS performance tapes.  “I’m probably the only person who knows about it,” said Darrell Anderson ’69, associate professor and director of the theater program.

Anderson has served as the scenic and lighting designer at UD since 1974, and he was one of the last students to contribute to the scrapbook. Starting with Ladies of the Jury in 1948 and continuing through fall 1968, the book contains various memorabilia: ticket stubs, playbills, promotional posters; everything from the UD Players’ early years as a student organization to the full-fledged theater program that set the stage for today’s students.

There are words of praise: “They have elevated the reputation of the university to a plane unrivaled by any other faction of the school,” wrote one admirer of 1949’s Our Town. Or, “Fantastic! Little Mary Sunshine was supposed to be funny, I cried all the way through it — I was so thrilled with your success,” noted a UD employee after the 1965 production.

There are newspaper clippings, like one from the Dayton Daily News’ March 26, 1968, issue, which chronicled the transformation of 21-year-old Diane Wiesemann Jenkins ’69 into a 40-year-old slob for Come Back, Little Sheba — plaster face cast and all.

There are even memos regarding student ticket requirements (a consistent 10 or 12, regardless of decade), club meetings and casting decisions. “There was an exceptional amount of talent displayed, and, unfortunately, a small cast. This situation is good for a play, frustrating for a director, and absolute hell for actors,” noted longtime director Pat Gilvary ’50 in a 1963 letter. He retired in 1994 after a 39-year University career.

A few mementos from the 1970s and ’80s made their way, loose-leaf style, into the back of the book — including a program for the University’s 1976 rendition of Our Town. “I’ve tried to keep an eye on the scrapbook over the years and made sure it moved with us each time we changed offices,” said Anderson, who took over the watchful task from Gilvary.

Despite the wallpaper’s claims to be “waterfast and fadeproof,” the book has experienced its share of wear and tear. Anderson recalls one mishap in 1975 involving a broken steam pipe, causing some water damage to the first dozen pages.

The moisture may have blurred the words, but it can’t dampen the memories.

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