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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 30: The Romany Players

It is indeed quite a task for the younger generation of Thurmont to visualize just what the older generation of citizens did for entertainment. Little do they know that some 38 years ago a number of citizens got together and formed the very first theatre guild in Frederick County, and produced some of the finest stage productions in this part of the country.

Organized in 1929, The Romany Players produced many out-standing productions which gained for them a reputation of high standing, not only in Frederick County, but throughout the state as well.

In 1933, the Romany Players produced a three-act comedy en-titled "It Happened in Hollywood." This play turned out to be one of the best performances ever presented by the local group. Produced by special permission of the Dramatic Publishing Co. of Chicago, it was built around the ever-amusing theme of mistaken identity.

The guild worked extra hard on this production and in addition to the comedy, they also presented special choral numbers, dancing acts, special readings and several musical selections by a local group known as the "Blue Ramblers of Thurmont."

The chorus, directed by Miss Helen Keefer, consisted of Jeanette Sigafoose, Charlotte Creager, Margaret Krone, Kitty and Ruth Taylor, Betty Lee Creeger, Ruth Creeger, Mary Barbara Baxter, Jean Fraley and Becky Eyler, all of the Thurmont High School. Several girls, dressed as men and took their part well. The humorous readings were given by Margaret Sherwood. A special dance number was given by John Keefer and Jeanette Sigafoose. Music before the show and during the brief intermissions was furnished by the Blue Ramblers, a local dance band who also provided music for an in-formal dance which followed the play.

Ushers, garbed in Gypsy costumes, included Ruth Kelly, Evalene Finneyfrock, Louise Brown and Katherine Roddy. Head usher was Mr. Ray Taylor, a member of the guild. Tickets for the productions staged by the Romany Players were sold at Carback's Drug Store and the store was the center of attraction when tickets would go on sale. The admission price to this top entertainment was 35c for adults and 25c for children.

"It Happened In Hollywood" was directed by H. 0. Miller, editor of the Catoctin Clarion, and the cast of characters included Grace C. Kelbaugh, Ruth E. Krone, Ethel Lewis, Helen Keefer, Margaret Sherwood, Blanche Beard, P. D. Ewing, Lloyd Mackley, Paul Stottlemyer, Edward Moser, Earl Kelbaugh and Dr. A. D. Flory, all very able thespians. Furniture and props for such productions were supplied by M. L. Creager and Son.

In 1933, Dr. A. D. Flory became President of the Romany Players, which at this time boasted a membership of 45 active and 25 associate members, each capable of excellent interpretations of the roles assigned to them. Other officers included, Grace Kelbaugh, 1st Chairman; Harry O. Miller, 2nd Chairman; Ruth Krone, Secretary; Helen Keefer, Assistant Secretary; Allen Creeger, Treasurer; and P. D. Ewing, Librarian and Property Custodian.

Just as the Shady Grove Music Fair today draws large audiences for each production, the Romany Players, in the early Thirtys, would pack 'em into the old Town Hall for each performance.

As the community grew and other forms of entertainment found their way on to the local scene, Frederick County's first theatre guild, soon became a part of the passing parade.

Today the Romany Players are but a page of recorded history, yet there are still a few of our citizens who clearly recall, the thrills and the excitement on opening night and the stage manager's call "Places everyone, Curtain going up!"

Chapter Index | Chapter 31: Jungleland Snake Farm

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