Blog #13: Our History: Wartime Woes - ACADEMY OF MUSIC

By Executive Director Debra J’Anthony

United States troops entered into World War I in April of 1917.  Academy management announced a few months later that all soldiers and sailors in uniform could enter at no charge to all Northampton Players shows.  The war, however, had a strong impact on the community and supporters of the Academy and once more they expressed themselves wholeheartedly in the Gazette on April 28th and 29th,1919:

“When a person goes to the theatre for the evening, he wants to be entertained; he wants to see a play that will take his mind away from himself and make him forget the everyday worries; he wants, most of all to laugh. An occasional sober play is not amiss but tragedy as a steady diet palls on the taste of one who follows the players week by week.”

“In reviewing the work of the season, we have seen one Barrie, three Shaw, two Ibsen, one morality play, a tragedy, two good crook plays and a pastoral…There are 17 plays of various types to please a variety of tastes.”

“The matter of public entertainment is becoming more urgent than ever. The increase in leisure from the shortening of the hours of labor and the approaching prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages are only two of the factors which should make us seek to multiply rather than decrease places of wholesome entertainment…”

With further strains put on the city during wartime, continuing to financially support its municipal stock company drew mixed opinions on Main Street as described from excerpts in the June 13, 1919 Gazette:

“Out of many business men who were canvassed this morning, there is a large majority who desire the players to come back and to remain a Northampton institution…Joseph Pickard of the Northampton commercial college says that at least the players should be tried another year to see if they can be self supporting, as he believes they can…Harry Astmann states that whether the city government is legally bound to pay the deficit or not, the city should pay it, since it is an agreement which must be lived up to.”

“Landlord Kimball of the Draper Hotel regrets the recent action against the continuance of the Northampton Players, saying he considers it a great calamity, and hopes for some means by which they may again be brought here.”

And those with a less favorable view:

“Criticism adverse to the return of the players, has been voiced by Mr. Dyer, but H.S. Bradley of the Atherton Tire company also points our the unbusinesslike management of the theater, which he believes to exist.”

“Miss Parsons of Round Hill believes that the installation of an organ, regardless of its cost, and the presentation of moving pictures with a play occasionally, would be the most satisfactory, and pay in the long run.”

We provide continue to provide complimentary tickets for our troops through Soldier On.

Help restore the Academy! We’re replacing the seats in the auditorium, repairing and repainting the ornate plaster, insulating and replacing the stage roof, and adding aisle lighting. Learn more.