By Debra J’Anthony, Executive Director
Seven months after the Academy Players’ first production on the Academy stage, the Northampton lodge of Elks entered into a presenting arrangement with the theater’s general manager, Charles Rackliffe. The Gazette noted on April 4, 1928:
“Northampton lodge of Elks is to present the Academy Players in a spring engagement beginning Monday, April 9, with the New York hit, ‘The Barker,’ a portion of the receipts from the theater going to the Elks’ charity fund. The lodge will promote interest in the new company, striving to increase the attendance at the performances, and it is believed that capacity houses should result, for the new company promises to be the most able group of actors to appear in weekly stock productions in this city since the days when James Rennie, Robert Ames, David Powell and others who have since risen to national renown on the stage and screen, played at the Academy.”
Charles Rackliffe came up with creative ways to bring in audience members. However, at the end of his first year as general manager, Rackliffe took a large financial loss to the tune of $7,250.13. He nevertheless requested a renewal agreement with the provision,
“that the contract could be continued for a further one or two years, and , whereas, said Rackliffe desires to continue another year, although subjected to a very large loss during the past year, it is agreed by the Trustees that they will accept instead of five thousand dollars on account of the share of the Academy in the income, the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars ($2500).”
In January of 1929, Frank Shaughnessy, manager at the Academy, requested installing new seats at the theater. He remarked that, “the present seats had become so worn that it was practically impossible to keep them in repair, that an examination was made of each seat every day to insure there being no accidents.” The Trustees asked that he provide a plan for the proposed change in the aisles and an estimate on the cost of new seats.
Three months later, Rackliffe shared his reluctance to continue his relationship with the Academy unless new seats were installed. He was continuing to take a loss due to the talkies at the Calvin and was willing to introduce talking pictures at the Academy at his expense, however, this would only be done if the Academy re-seated and re-decorated the auditorium.
The Academy of Music will hold its Grand Re-opening featuring new seats and a newly painted auditorium on October 17th. We will celebrate with our premiere production, Nobody’s Girl, a screwball comedy based on real events that took place at the theater in the 1940s. Nobody’s Girl, written by Harley Erdman and directed by Sheila Siragusa, will include Frank Shaughnessy as one of the main characters.