Blog Post #18: Our History: Community Support - ACADEMY OF MUSIC

By Executive Director Debra J’Anthony

One year after the board of trustees had decided to discontinue the engagement of the Northampton Players under the management of Arline Alcine and G.A. Lyon, Frank Lyman offered to guarantee ten thousand dollars for a period of four months to introduce an English stock company to be managed by Mr. Paul Hansell of Smith College. The Northampton Players were once again on the boards.

In the meantime,  the board of trustees requested legal opinion as to whether or not moving pictures met the deed requirements.  In a return letter to the board, Henry Field, Attorney and Counselor-at-Law, replied:

“I do not find that the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts has ever been asked for its opinion on this question. But the question has come before the Supreme Court of the United States and appears to have been pretty well settled by the opinion delivered by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the case of Kalem Company v. Harper Brothers decided November 13th, 1911. This case was an appeal from a decree restraining an alleged infringement of a copyright upon General Lew Wallace’s book ‘Ben Hur.'”

Mr. Fields quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes opinion:

“Drama may be achieved by action as well as by speech. Action can tell a story, display all the most vivid relations between men and depict every kind of human emotion without the aid of a word. It would be impossible to deny the title of Drama to pantomine as played by the masters of the Art.”

And further concludes:

“It is my decided opinion therefore that Moving Pictures are included in the word Drama as used in the deed of gift.”

On February 6, 1926, after reviewing the financials of the Northampton Players for their fall season, the board voted to discontinue the company, with Frank Lyman dissenting. On February 8th, a meeting was called to secure subscriptions in order to continue the Players for another term. Mrs. Elder and Miss Marion Dodd had secured cash pledges and subscriptions totaling thirteen hundred a week.  A motion was made that the Players  would continue for another eight weeks with Frank Lyman responsible for any deficits. The city would assume the deficits from January 1, 1926-February 8, 1926.

The Academy will once again produce plays and will stage its first newly commissioned work, a 1940s-style screwball comedy entitled Nobody’s Girl by Harley Erdman and directed by Sheila Siragusa, for our grand re-opening on October 17 & 18, 2014.

Help us raise funds  for our world premiere screwball comedy, inspired by real events at the theater in the 1940s! Learn more.