Blog Post #9: Our History: Giggling Smith Girls - ACADEMY OF MUSIC

By Executive Director Debra J’Anthony

In our rapidly changing technological age, theater managers grapple with whether to allow tweet seats or videotaping during a show. We often see audience members attend a show and never lift their eyes up from their mobile phones! On November 16, 1915, Lottie Chase Ham wrote a scolding letter about giggling Smith College students, which made the editorial section of the Gazette:

“The Editor of the Gazette,

            Will you permit a guest in Northampton, who has frequently in other years as well as in the present, been also a guest of the management of the Northampton Players, to offer an opinion on the college audience? I come from Cambridge, which likes to consider itself the home of the new drama – and though I am not always able to subscribe to this amiable Cantabrigian theory, the comparison between the college attitude towards the theater as I know it at Harvard and Radcliffe, and the attitude of Smith is not a happy one for Smith. Of course, it is always desperately unjust to judge any large group by the attitude of a few members. At the same time, it is as well to call attention to the almost universal habit in this respect, since those who in any public place make themselves conspicuous by a lack of judgment and courtesy, invariably imperil the reputation of the body to which they belong. Smith College naturally cares for the municipal theater maintained in Northampton, – and has good reason to be proud of it. It is the more unfortunate then, that night after night, we others who go to theatre here and enjoy the privilege a great deal, should be so frequently disturbed by the careless, irresponsible attitude assumed by the college part of the audience. These girls and their Amherst men chatter incessantly during the performances; they offer their not too valuable criticism on play and players, regardless of the rest of us, who may also have our own opinions, but who regard them as matters for discussion later, and not to be poured into the reluctant ears of our neighbors. They seem to consider it a mark of sophistication to giggle at all emotion on the stage, – not yet having attained experience enough in the sorrow and grief of life to remain silent, if not moved by a representation of it in the theatre. It is a truism among actors that no audience is to be so dreaded as a ‘laughing audience.’ It is often impossible to control, for it is infectious and nervous. And one irresponsible giggle from balcony or floor is sometimes enough to ruin a scene.”

We love the Smith attitude!  Smith students have worked as social media coordinators, production assistants, and concessionaires for the Academy, and have produced shows and performed on our stage.

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.