97th Anniversary of the backstage shooting at the Lyric Theatre

Sunday November 25, 2018, is the 97th anniversary, of a real life incident, that happened backstage, at the Lyric Theatre, at 12 Mary Street, in Hamilton, Ontario.

In 1940, the Lyric Theatre, was renamed the Century Theatre, when it was bought out by 20th Century Theatres Inc.   It operated as a cinema, until it was closed, by Famous Players, in September 1989.  After thirty years, of sitting empty, it was demolished in January 2010.

The Lyric Theatre, in 1921, was leased by the Keith / Albee circuit, and had a mixed bill of eight live acts of vaudeville, followed by a Hollywood feature film. The three hour long program was repeated twice daily at 2pm and 7pm.

The week of November 21, the film was “The Servant In The House” starring Jean Hershel, John Gilbert, and Jack Curtis, and the top vaudeville act was “Under The Apple Tree”, a musical comedy, written by Darl MacBoyle, and featuring music composed by Walter L. Rosemont. The production featured a cast of fourteen, and starred Loring Smith, who later went on to have a notable career on Broadway. He was part of the original Broadway production of “Hello Dolly”.

The play, which was a rewritten version of an earlier sketch from 1916, called “Oh Please, Mr Detective”, concerned a stolen wallet, and the comedian who had stolen it, being unable to get rid of it, with it always making its way back to him, like the proverbial “cat with nine lives”.

The short play was produced by a man called George Choos, who also had a number of similar productions, touring the Keith, Orpheum, and Pantages Vaudeville circuits. By the time, “Under The Apple Tree”, got to Hamilton, the production had been on the road for more than twenty months.

Cecile Bartley, was a twenty-one year old chorus girl, she joined the “Under The Apple Tree” company in Indiana, in March of 1921. She was the daughter of an Irish Catholic railroad engineer, who worked on Chicago’s elevated railway. Before joining the play, she had spent a year touring in a production called “Tickle Me”, that starred Frank Tinney.

John “Jack” Grubb, was a 45 year old, overweight, stage carpenter originally from Baltimore, Maryland. He had been with “Under The Apple Tree”, since the production had opened in January 1920, in Chester, Pennsylvania. He had a small speaking part in the play, but his main role was as an IATSE stage hand, being responsible for getting forty steamer trunks, full of wardrobe and scenery, on and off the trains, which was how the production got from town to town.

During the latter part of 1921, Grubb became obsessed with Bartley, and even though he was not a Catholic, had asked her to marry him. Things came to head, when “Under The Apple Tree”, arrived in Hamilton, Ontario, as Bartley, had at last complained to the manager of the act, about Grubb’s harassment of her. Grubb, was ordered to refrain from bothering her further, otherwise he would be fired.

On the afternoon of Friday November 25, 1921, the matinee performance went on without incident. Cecile Bartley, and another chorus girl, Helen Campbell, remained in their dressing room, below the stage, to do some sewing. The rest of the company, and the local stage hands, all went for their dinner break. At around 5:30pm, with the theatre empty, except for an usher turning back seats, Bartley, and Campbell, climbed the stairs, and were confronted by Grubb, on the empty stage. Being rebuffed once again, he pulled out a revolver, and fired three shots into Bartley. In terror, she ran down the stairs, before collapsing. Grubb, then fired two shots into his own heart.

Local police officers, who were directly across the street, at Central Station, were on the scene in minutes. The only direct witness, who could tell them what happened was Helen Campbell, as Bartley remained unconscious for several days. The Chief of Police, and the local coroner, saw no need for an inquest.

Astonishingly, there was one final performance of “Under The Apple Tree”, on the evening of November 25, even though the act was now missing two members of the company. The news broke across North America, on Saturday November 26, by which time most of the actors, had caught the early train, back to New York.

Early newspaper reports about the shooting, reported that the event had happened on stage in the middle of a performance, in front of two thousand people. Also that, as Bartley, was not expected to survive, it was described incorrectly, as a murder and suicide. Those early wire stories, were not corrected, leaving a “legend”, about what happened, in popular memory. “Variety”, and the “New York Dramatic Mirror”, and the local papers, reported the story accurately. Dozens, of other newspapers, reported it incorrectly, and then never wrote about it again.

Grubb’s body, was sent to Baltimore by train, after it was embalmed at the Dwyer Brothers Funeral Home at James and Cannon. He was buried at Louden Park Cemetery, with his only mourners being members of the Baltimore local of IATSE. His grave has no headstone.

Cecile Bartley, was very fortunate, to have surgeons, who had served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, during the First World War.   After spending seven weeks at the City Hospital, at Victoria and Barton, she was discharged, and returned to Chicago, with her mother. A report in the “Hamilton Herald”, in late 1922, noted that her bill, for her hospital stay, had not been paid by the “Actor’s Fund”.

As near as can be determined, Cecile Bartley, left the theatre, and never acted again. In 1923, she married an Italian man named Costello, and by 1930, she is in US Census data, as living as a widow, with a six year old daughter.  Chicago, during Prohibition, was a dangerous place to live it seems.

This theatrical history, is the subject matter, for my musical, “Under The Apple Tree”, which runs at the Pearl Company Theatre, in Hamilton, until December 2.

As a special event, tomorrow, I will be doing a talk, and sharing my research, after the 5:00pm performance of the play, at the Pearl Company Theatre. The play, has an admission charge, but the talk afterwards at 6:30, is free and open to anyone. If you have read all the way through this, then I invite you to join me! www.pearlcompany.ca

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BRIAN MORTON’S MUSICAL “UNDER THE APPLE TREE” TO BE REMOUNTED AT THE PEARL COMPANY ARTS CENTRE

For Immediate Release: October 15, 2018
Please add to all Theatre and Calendar Listings
November 1921, in downtown Hamilton! At the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street, a shooting occurred backstage during the run of a touring musical comedy vaudeville “girlie” act. A brand new musical, that explores a bit of bygone real life local history. A ‘jazz era’ Hamilton, that is gone but not forgotten.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE is partly, a recreation of an actual musical comedy vaudeville act, that toured the Keith/Albee and Orpheum vaudeville circuits, in 1920 and 1921. During its week long run in Hamilton, in late November of 1921, a tragedy occurred, when stage hand Jack Grubb, shot chorus girl Cecile Bartley, before turning the gun on himself.

The 2000 seat, Lyric Theatre, later known after 1940, as the Century Theatre, stood at 14 Mary Street, in Hamilton, from 1913 to 2010. It closed as a cinema in September 1989, and was for 31 years, an abandoned shell of its former glory. In the final weeks, that the building stood, Brian Morton, led an eleventh hour campaign, to see it preserved. Part of that work was sharing his extensive research on the history of the building, which included the story of the shooting, and the details of when the Marx Brothers, had once performed at the theatre.

Recent events, like the April 2018 van attack in Toronto by Alek Minnasian, which resulted in the deaths of ten women, and the controversy around the misogynist “Incel Movement”, have given UNDER THE APPLE TREE, which is based upon events that occurred in Hamilton over 96 years ago, a remarkable contemporary relevance. The play, is thus intended, to speak directly to an audience of here and now.

The production, features Susan Robinson, Chris Cracknell, Michelle LaHaise, Claire Shingleton-Smith, Erynn Garland, and Larry Smith, in its cast. The music and songs in the play, are all “tin pan alley” compositions circa 1918-1920, and were written by Darl MacBoyle and Walter L. Rosemont, who created the music, for the original UNDER THE APPLE TREE, vaudeville sketch in 1920. It is produced and directed by Brian Morton, the winner of the 2013 City of Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre.

Incorporated in 1991 as a non-profit charitable foundation; Theatre Erebus Inc. is the brainchild of Artistic Director Brian Morton to fill a need in Hamilton for a company that entertains, but also provokes thought, explores contemporary Canadian realities, and is unafraid to challenge its audience’s perceptions. Past projects have included David Demchuk’s SUMMER OFFENSIVE (Hamilton Fringe 2007), FUGUE by Rona Munro (Downtown Arts Centre 2007), KRAPP’S LAST TAPE by Samuel Beckett (Hamilton Fringe 2006), ODD JOBS by Frank Moher (Waterdown Memorial Hall Theatre), ETTA JENKS by Marlene Meyer (Hamilton Place Studio Theatre/Tarragon Main-stage), and MY FATHER’S HOUSE by Sylvia Fraser (Dundas Centre for the Arts/Toronto Centre for the Arts). Theatre Erebus also produced a festival of Canadian plays at the 1990 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the plays included the British premieres of: IF BETTY SHOULD RISE by David Demchuk, SCIENTIFIC AMERICANS by John Mighton, THE OCCUPATION OF HEATHER ROSE by Wendy Lill and THE WORKINGMAN by Tom Walmsley.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE, debuted as part of the 2018 Hamilton Fringe, this past July. Other productions include, David B. Fraser’s play MARY, I HAVE HIS PANTS!, which was part of the Hamilton Fringe in 2016. The company, is perhaps best known for, NEW TALENT by Brian Morton, which was the highest grossing show at the 2008 Hamilton Fringe and in 2010 toured to the London and Toronto Fringe Festivals.

In 1988, Brian Morton was the founder and first Artistic Director of Theatre Terra Nova, which operated out of a 100 seat theatre on Dundurn Street, and in 1990 he was a partner in the Evelyn Group which reopened the historic Tivoli Theatre as a venue for live performance with a production of Douglas Rodger’s play HOW COULD YOU, MRS DICK?, which dramatized the story of Hamilton’s notorious Evelyn Dick. His other plays, include his stage adaptation of Sylvia Fraser’s MY FATHER’S HOUSE, which has had four productions to date.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE will be presented at The Pearl Company Theatre, 17 Steven Street. The performance schedule is:

Thursday November 22 @ 8:00 pm
Friday November 23 @ 8:00 pm
Saturday November 24 @ 8:00 pm
Sunday November 25 @ 5:00 pm *Special 97th Anniversary Show
Thursday November 29 @ 8:00 pm
Friday November 30 @ 8:00 pm
Saturday December 1 @ 8:00 pm
Sunday December 2 @ 2:00 pm

Tickets are $20 at the door, (with a $15 concession price for seniors, students and unwaged patrons). The performance on Wednesday November, 28, is PWYC (Pay What You Can). Please book in advance, by calling the Pearl Company Theatre at 905-524-0606. For show information please visit http://www.theatre-erebus.ca.

There will be a special talkback event after the 5pm performance on Sunday November 25th, which is the 97th anniversary of the actual shooting, of Cecile Bartley, by Jack Grubb, at the Lyric Theatre in 1921.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE contains mature content, simulated violence and loud gun shots:

Latecomers will not be admitted to any performance. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

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Media Contacts:
Brian Morton: info@theatre-erebus.ca 905-543-8718
Gary Santucci 905-524-0606
“Jack Grubb was not jealous of a man, but of a million men. His rival was Broadway, the world, and every hated audience whose applause spurred Cecile Bartley’s ambitions onward. And this baffled Jack Grubb and turned his love madness, into murder madness…” – UNDER THE APPLE TREE

BRIAN MORTON’S MUSICAL “UNDER THE APPLE TREE” TO PREMIERE AT THE 2018 HAMILTON FRINGE FESTIVAL

November 1921, in downtown Hamilton! At the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street, a shooting occurred backstage during the run of a touring musical comedy vaudeville “girlie” act. A brand new musical, that explores a bit of bygone real life local history. A ‘jazz era’ Hamilton, that is gone but not forgotten.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE is partly, a recreation of an actual musical comedy vaudeville act, that toured the Keith/Albee and Orpheum vaudeville circuits, in 1920 and 1921. During its week long run in Hamilton, in late November of 1921, a tragedy occurred, when stage hand Jack Grubb, shot chorus girl Cecile Bartley, before turning the gun on himself.

The 2000 seat, Lyric Theatre, later known after 1940, as the Century Theatre, stood at 14 Mary Street, in Hamilton, from 1913 to 2010. It closed as a cinema in September 1989, and was for 31 years, an abandoned shell of its former glory. In the final weeks, that the building stood, Brian Morton, led an eleventh hour campaign, to see it preserved. Part of that work was sharing his extensive research on the history of the building, which included the story of the shooting, and the details of when the Marx Brothers, had once performed at the theatre.

Recent events, like the April 2018 van attack in Toronto by Alek Minnasian, which resulted in the deaths of ten women, and the controversy around the misogynist “Incel Movement”, have given UNDER THE APPLE TREE, which is based upon events that occurred in Hamilton over 96 years ago, a remarkable contemporary relevance. The play, is thus intended, to speak directly to an audience of here and now.

The production, features Susan Robinson, Chris Cracknell, Michelle LaHaise, Claire Shingleton-Smith, Erynn Garland, Brian Morton, and Larry Smith, in its cast. The music and songs in the play, are all “tin pan alley” compositions circa 1918-1920, and were written by Darl MacBoyle and Walter L. Rosemont, who created the music, for the original UNDER THE APPLE TREE, vaudeville sketch in 1920. It is produced, written and directed by Brian Morton, the winner of the 2013 City of Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre; it will be stage-managed by Valerie Van Landschoot.

UNDER THE APPLE TREE is one of fifty productions featured in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival.  The play will be presented at The Zoetic Theatre, 526 Concession Street.

The performance schedule is:

Friday July 20 @ 8:00 pm
Saturday July 21 @ 10:00 pm
Sunday July 22 @ 7:30 pm
Monday July 23 @ 9:30 pm
Tuesday July 24 @ 8:00 pm
Friday July 27 @ 4:30 pm
Sunday July 29 @ 6:30 pm

All tickets are $10 at the door, (a $5 Fringe Backer button is required in order to purchase a ticket). Book in advance by calling the Fringe Info Line at 289-698-2234 or online at www.hamiltonfringe.ca.  For show information please visit www.theatre-erebus.ca

UNDER THE APPLE TREE contains mature content, simulated violence and loud gun shots:

As per Hamilton Fringe Festival rules – Latecomers will not be admitted to any performance. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

 

Casting Notice:

Theatre Erebus needs one or two female actors/singers, roughly mid 20s, for UNDER THE APPLE TREE, our production in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival, at the Zoetic Theatre.

The play, a musical, tells the story of a real life shooting backstage at the Lyric Theatre in Downtown Hamilton in November 1921. Part of revisiting this history, is recreating a vaudeville musical comedy sketch which was a jazz era “girlie” act. The roles still to be cast, are members of the girl chorus of that play.

The script is still developing, and is now in its eighth draft.

Ability to read music is an asset.

The performance schedule for the show is

Friday 20-Jul at 8pm
Saturday 21-Jul at 10pm
Sunday 22-Jul at 7:30pm
Monday 23-Jul at 9:30pm
Tuesday 24-Jul at 8pm
Friday 27-Jul at 4:30pm
Sunday 29-Jul at 6:30pm

Our Tech Rehearsal is:
Monday 16-Jul Start Time: 2:30pm

Being involved in the show, means being able to accommodate this schedule.

The production will be organized as a “profit share”, with equal participation of the box office receipts to all involved.

If this interests you, or you know someone who might be interested, please contact Brian Morton on Facebook, or by email at mortonbg1999@gmail.com, indicating your desire to be involved in the project.

A current draft of the script is available to read upon request.

We will be starting rehearsals two weeks from now in Hamilton.

http://www.theatre-erebus.ca

 

Under The Apple Tree

A New Musical by Brian Morton is part of the 2018 Hamilton Fringe.

 

Theatre Erebus Inc will be presenting Under The Apple Tree, as part of the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival next July.

November 1921, in downtown Hamilton! At the Lyric Theatre on Mary Street, a shooting occurred backstage during the run of a touring musical comedy vaudeville “girlie” act. A brand new musical play, that explores a bit of bygone real life local history. A ‘jazz era’ Hamilton, that is gone but not forgotten.

Casting details and specifics on our schedule and venue will be shared here in the coming months.Cast 1921

 

 

REQUIEM by Jean Coley-Hughes

A play-reading of “REQUIEM”
by Jean Coley-Hughes
Presented by Theatre Erebus Inc.
At the Pearl Company Theatre,
16 Steven Street, Hamilton
Saturday, November 19 @ 2:00 PM

Theatre Erebus Inc. is pleased to announce that it will be presenting a series of staged readings of the work of local Hamilton playwrights. The second play to be read will be REQUIEM by Jean Coley-Hughes, a powerful drama about family secrets and emotional abuse. The play won the 1987 Theatre Focus Playwriting Award, and was developed
and workshopped by Theatre Aquarius founding Artistic Director Peter Mandia. It was first produced in May 1988 by Theatre Focus at their third floor theatre space at 18 John Street North in Hamilton.
The cast for the reading includes Jo Skilton, Rose Pye and Ilene Elkaim. REQUIEM will be directed by Liz Inman, a long time friend and colleague of Jean Coley-Hughes. There will be a talkback discussion after the reading and audience participation is welcomed.
Playwright Jean Coley-Hughes was also a talented director who graduated from the Directing Program at Ryerson Theatre School, she directed productions for Theatre Terra Nova, and several local community theatre companies. Plays she directed included JITTERS by David French, THE OCCUPATION OF HEATHER ROSE by Wendy Lill, and STORIES,
an original play by three reporters for THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR, Paul Bennedetti, Kevin Von Appen and Wayne Macphail. Her work as a visual artist led to several exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Hamilton Public Library Gallery in 2004. She was also an educator who taught English and Drama at Hill Park Secondary School. Jean Coley-
Hughes passed away in August of 2016 and this reading is meant as the first step in seeing the play REQUIEM receive a full production some time in the next eighteen months.
Theatre Erebus is seeking plays from local Hamilton Playwrights to be part of this ongoing series of play readings at the Pearl Company. Anyone interested in submitting a play should visit http://www.theatre-erebus.ca for submission guidelines.
Admission to these readings is free, (although any donations will be gratefully appreciated). Reservations can be made though the Pearl Company Box Office at 905-524-0606

Jane Jacobs’ SYSTEMS OF SURVIVAL

 

 

Theatre Erebus has another project starting up – in this case a play of mine that has been sitting in a drawer since 1993.

Jane Jacobs’ SYSTEMS OF SURVIVAL, adapted for the stage by Brian Morton.

Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics, was written by Jane Jacobs in 1992,  The book describes two fundamental and distinct ethical systems, or syndromes as she calls them, that of the Guardian and that of Commerce. They supply direction for the conduct of human life within societies.

We will be doing a public reading of it at the Pearl Company, (16 Steven Street in Hamilton),  on Saturday October 1st at 2:00pm.

It would be great, if you could come listen, and give us some feedback. Theatre Erebus is planning a full production of the play in 2017.

Admission to the reading is free.

This stage adaptation was prepared in the spring of 1993 for a reading at McMaster University, and was created with Jacobs permission and cooperation.

There will be a talk back and discussion after the reading.