History

Summary

The Fenton Village Players began has its roots in a community theatre group that began in Fenton, Michigan in 1939. A group of aspiring actors organized what they called The Mimes Club. They performed programs and plays for over a decade. The group dissolved in 1950, but was revived in its present form in 1972 as The Fenton Village Players.

This history is a brief overview of the pre-1972 organization. We would like to add more. If you have any information, including pictures, corrections or clippings, and would like to share them with us to be included in this history, please contact our office.

Bring out the Mimes

Shortly after the dedication of the new Fenton Community Center in 1938, a small group of citizens with an interest in theatre formed the Fenton Mime’s Club. According to its constitution, the purpose of the organization was,

to provide recreational, educational and cultural benefits for the community by developing theatrical productions

The Mime’s club performed at the Fenton Community Center and also held their monthly meetings there.

Early Shows

One Act

One of the first ventures for the Mime’s Club was a series of one-act plays.

  • “Quiet Please”, directed by Miss Florence Manthey and featured Roger Leestma, Ryan Strom, Sybil Haddon, Ethelyn Barrows, Wilbur Strom, and Betty Cook.
  • “The White Phantom”, directed by Miss Gladys Abbey and featured Madeline Wessendorf, Nina Cooper, Ramona Burrows, Mrs. L.A. Wilson, Harold Bristol, Bill Dode and Charles Mills.
  • “Little Prison”, directed by Willard Hatfield and featured Ruth Crane, Gladys Lutz, Mrs. Jay Davis, Margaret Durfee and Thelma Barker.

Tickets costed $0.35 to $0.50 a piece.

“Hugo in a Hurry”

Directed by Russel Haddon in 1939. The show was preceded by a string trio (Frances Hicks, Annabel Klingbiel and Richmond Browne). The cast included William Dode, Roger Leestma, Helen Neely, Eva Hungerford, Gladys Abbey and Ryan Strom.

“Wienies on Wednesday”

Directed by Mrs. Donald Alchin. The Fenton Women’s Music Club with Miss Alice Van Atta as accompanist, offered “From These Dear Mountain”, “Skye Boat Song” and “The First Primrose” before the show. The cast included Graham Bell, Mrs. James Joslin, Jack Klinger, Mrs. L.A. Wilson and Neva Neely. For the second show, Jack and Vilet Klinger offered the ballads “Linger A Little Longer” and “Rocky Mountain Lullaby” along with more selections by the string trio.

“One Fine Day”

Directed by Mrs. J.J. Cell. The cast included Mrs. John Johnson, Pauline Stiff, Mrs. Charles Wakeman and Chester Willing.

“Petticoat Fever”

Ryan Strom and Mrs. Madeling Wessendorf were billed as the stars. They were supported by Walter Conard, Ethelyn Burrows, Ramona Burrows, Geraldine Stedman, Eva Hungerford, Wilbur Strom, Dick Bigelow and Russell Haddon.

Committee members included Roger Leestma, Tehlma Barker, Ramona Burrows, Helen Cooley, Martha Wagbo, Dorothy Aman, Willard Hatfield and Geraldine Stedman.

“You Can’t Take It With You”

This show was presented on December 11, 1941 — just four days after the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

Jane Wilson took the role of “Penolope Sycamore” with Juanita Weirich as “Essie,” Ramona Burrows as “Rheda,” Jon Conde as “Paul Sycamore,” Ras Cole as “Mr. Depinna,” Emile Gautnereau as “Ed,” Jimmie Denhart as “Donald,” Yvonne Stein playing “Alice,” Roger Leestma as “Henderson,” Wilbur Stom as “Tony Kirby,” Dan Weirich as “Boris,” Ethelyn Burrows as “Gay Wellington,” Earl Silber as Mr. Kirby,” Pauline McNeil as “Mrs. Kirby,” Russell Haddon, W.C. Hatfield and Walter Conard as “three men”, Loma Finn as “Olga,” Ryan Strom as “Martin Vanderhof.”

“Why the Chimes Rang”

A special Christmas program was held on December 20, 1942.

Mixed choruses from the Fenton Community Chorus sextette, girls gleeclub and the Fenton High School band under the direction of Howard Park, entertained before the Fenton Village Players performance of “Why the Chimes Rang”. Mrs. Corwin James Curtis directed. The cast included Jerry Durfee, Robert Swanson, Willard Hatfield, Hope S. Cell, Russell Haddon, Max Bottecelli, Bud Silver, Sibyl Haddon, Mary Cell, Ryan Strom and Helen Hunt.

“Never Trust A Man”

Cast included Dorothy Berson, Paula Mowbray, Neva Neely, Joan Cox, Ethelyn Burrows and Nellie Davis,

“The Blue Gate”

Featured Walter Conard, Gladys Abbey, Betty Trestrail, Ryan Strom and Russell Haddon.

“No! Not the Russians”

A comedy in one act directed by Stan White.

Pearl Johnson played the mother with Robert Shields portraying “Eric.” Joanne Lince played “Aileen,” Russell Lince played the father, Ryan Strom was “John” and a struggling baritone, “Jane Wilson” played Miss Jones — sweet, 45, and never been kissed. Elizabeth Pederson was the bookholder.

“Ladies of the Jury”

One of the Mime’s Club’s more successful productions according to reviews in the Independent and Flint Journal was “Ladies of the Jury,” directed by Mrs. J.A. Johnson.

Mrs. Gordon was played by Sibyl Haddon. Members of the jury were Mrs. L.A. Wilson, Mrs. Jay Davis, Elizabeth Pederson, Peggy Macdonell, Mrs. Emile Gosseaux, Mrs. Joseph Oren, Chris McGarry, Robert Shields, Alan Macdonell, Jr. Elmer Stron, Ryan Strom and Alan Macdonnell. William Gallagher was the stern Judge Fish with Ernest Rirrell and Dean Winter as the opposing lawyers.

Russell Lince, Burt Moyer, Mrs. Dean Winter, JoAnn Sneath and J.A. Johnson were other members of the cast.

Behind the scenes were Miss Miriam Kinner, former Fenton High school biology teacher, Mrs. D. Griffith, Eleanor Schutt, L.A. Wilson, Joseph Oren, Mrs. Kenneth Wood, Mrs. Russell Lince, Ramona Burrows and Mrs. Herman Wessendorf.

“The Whole Town’s Talking”

This show was produced in the spring of 1948 and was directed by Mrs. J.A. Johnson.

The cast included Burt Moyer, Nettie Wood, Jacqueline Roberts, Wilbur Strom, Thelma Rolland, Ronald Swartz, Robert Smith, Janet DuBois, Carol Jones, Jane Wilson, Madeline Wessendorf, Raymond Coyne and Diane DuBois.

Behind the scenes worked, James Cohoon, Ryan Strom, Ernest Tirrell, Mirian Kinner, Sibyl Haddon, Mary Strom, Charles Walker, Zella Gosseaux with Jean Harris and Patricia Moyer as usherettes.

“The Bride Regrets”

As of 1948, a fall, winter and spring play was offered every year. In the winter “The Bride Regrets” was performed.

This show was directed by Ronald M. Swartz, assisted by Ryan Strom.

The cast included Pearl Johnson, Ronald Rounds, Jacqueline Robers, Elmer Strom, Robert Hartley, W.F. Strom, Carol Jones, Carol Swartz and Ryan Strom.

Joe Wardie provided music during intermission.

Burt and Mildred Moyer, Peggy Strom, J.A. Johnson, Ernest Tirrell, Jane Wilson, Joanne Lince and Herbert Lathrop were backstage.

“Guest In The House”

The cast of  included, Mrs. Herman Wessendorf, Irma Sue Lowe, Mrs. Kenneth Wood, Wilbur Strom, Mrs. L.A. Wilson, Mrs. Fred Rolland, Bob Smith, Ryan Strom, Burt Moyer, Sibyl Haddon, Grant Wright, Mrs. J.A. Johnson, Marian Churchill and Alan Macdonell.

Mrs. Lowery Nash was the business manager, Ernest Tirrell, directed and Kenneth Wood was among those working in stagecraft.

“Blithe Spirit”

This three-act farce by Noel Coward was very popular. Newcomers were cast in top roles along with several regulars — Margaret Morrison, Ida Tice, Wilbur Strrom, Lynford Norton, Mildred Moyer, Jane Wilson and Charlotte Lawson.

”Ramshackle Inn”

Ryan Strom directed with his cast: Wilbur Strom, J.A. Johnson, Mrs. Lowery Nash, Mrs. J. Oren, Burt Moyer, Mrs. Herman Wessendorf, Robert Shields, Mrs. Dean Winter, Elzabeth Pederson, Russell Lince, Dean Winter, Kenneth Wood, Mrs. Emile Gosseaux, Alan Macdonell, Jr. and Elmer Strom.

Bud Wilson and Walter Zabitch were the stagecraft crew with William Gallagher painting scenery.

The End of the Mimes

The Mime’s Club ended their association in 1950 when members became more involved in other activities and no longer had time for the theatre. Many of them still have grease paint in their blood and obtain satisfaction by attending the current Fenton Village Players productions as well as the Fenton Living Theatre, the works of the Fenton High School Drama Department and other area high school plays.

To be continued…