By: Sydney Vollmer
I’m a little late on posting a few big Shakespeare things. I promise they’re coming. In the craziness that has been finals, Kevin decided maybe I would like a little break from the Bard. (He was right.) He suggested I try painting for a little—and by that he meant looking into the Fresh Painters Club that was once a major extra-curricular at the University of Cincinnati. Conveniently, there was a history of the club that was written several decades ago. Though I don’t know who wrote it or exactly when it was penned, he or she explained the organization far better than I can. The text is as follows:
ANALYSIS OF THE FRESH PAINTER ACTIVITY
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI.
Looking backward, the Fresh Painters has developed from an old Varsity tradition. Every year during the period between 1900 and 1921, students gave a revue called “Varsity Vanities”. These revues were disconnected sets depicting the frivolities of campus life, and demonstrated singing, dancing and acting talents of undergraduates. Every spring the varsity Vanities Committee was organized and the revue was produced.
However, there was no standing organization or permanent committees as there are today. In 1919, the committee began early in the year to work for the success of the annual show. This was the first step toward a definite organization.
The revue committee producing the Varsity Vanities of 1920 held a joint meeting with Student Council which appointed an Executive Committee to have entire charge of the Varsity Vanities and to be directly responsible for it. The proceeds of the revue were to be distributed to “the memorial dormitory fund in order that those University men who died in service would be fittingly honored; a small part to be turned over to the Chemistry Building for the decoration of the interior, and another part to be kept for the financing of possible future shows.”
The following year the same plan was adopted and the first musical comedy offered in 1923. It was a glorified revue, but it had the distinction of a real plot. The book of the comedy was written by the late Carl Adams, then a student of the University. Later he became a dramatic critic of the Cincinnati Enquirer and he held this post until he was killed in an automobile accident in the summer of 1931.
“Fresh Paint” was the title chosen by Mr. Adams for his musical comedy and after the successful run of this production at the Grand Opera House, the Musical Comedy Club was born. The cognomen, “Fresh Painters,” was chosen at a later meeting in order that the first musical comedy produced by this group might be commemorated. Frank Byers, of the University faculty was selected as professional director.
In 1923-24 a book by Judith Stein was the committee’s choice as its second “coat of paint,” John Redhead Froome of the College of Music was the professional director and Francois Vathe was the director of dancing. The cast included several members who have since starred in Broadway productions.
Some of the club’s most notable members who went on to fame, if not always fortune, included Gerald Sykes, Donald Beddoe, and the notorious Libby Holman. More on them to come in the next couple of weeks.
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