Archive for Saturday, January 21, 2012

100 years ago: New Bowersock Opera House opens to cheering public

January 21, 2012


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Jan. 21, 1912:

"Thirty years ago Saturday night [Jan. 20th], the old Liberty Hall was opened to Lawrence as a theatre by J. D. Bowersock. Frank March was the manager and Fay Templeton the attraction. February 18, 1911, the Bowersock Opera House and Journal Building burned to the ground. January 20, 1912, the finest theatre for any town the size of Lawrence was opened, the building having been built by J. D. Bowersock, the attraction being 'Bright Eyes.'... Saturday night the new Bowersock theatre was opened formally to the people of Lawrence. Although there was a matinee in the afternoon, the evening performance was given out as being the official opening. A large audience was present.... Although there has been much written and said about the new theatre, the majority of the theatre-goers had not seen the interior of the building with its artistic decorations, its harmony of color, its absolute solidity and guarantee against danger from fire, its convenient seating arrangements, its proper acoustic properties.... It was between the first and second acts that the real surprise of the evening came.... Stepping to the front of the Bowersock box, Mayor Bishop told just what this new building meant to the town. He expressed the thanks of the city, formally, to Mr. Bowersock.... At the close of the talk Mayor Bishop asked the audience to give Mr. Bowersock a rising vote of thanks, following which Ralph Spotts led the students in the house to the 'Rock Chalk, Jay Hawk, K. U.' It was the students he was supposed to lead, but every man in the audience joined in the cheering until the painted figures in the mural paintings on the ceiling looked down in astonishment. Maybe they also joined in the cheering in the Rock Chalk to the man who had made them possible."


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

I tried to find some information about the stage play 'Bright Eyes', but I was not able to find anything at all. I'm sure there's a manuscript of it somewhere!

And it's also been very frustrating that I have never been able to find any information about the stage play 'Mr. Bluebeard', and especially the melody or the lyrics of the song 'In the Pale Moonlight', which has a very important role in history.

'In the Pale Moonlight' was being sung on stage during a performance of 'Mr. Bluebeard' at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago on December 30, 1903 when a fire broke out around the electric arc lights that were being used to light the stage.

There was not very much known about the dangers of electric arc lights at the time. That, and the willful disregarding of the fire codes that were in effect even at that time resulted in the deadliest single-building fire in United States history. Over 605 people died, and as a direct result of that tragedy, fire codes all over the United States were revised and much more rigidly enforced.

And after that, everyone in the theater industry knew that blue paper should never be put over electric arc lights in order to produce a blue light on the stage.

And today, it seems to be impossible to find any information at all about the play being performed onstage on that terrible day, just as there seems to be no information available about the play "Bright Eyes'.

Surely these things are not totally lost to history. Perhaps someday a collection of some of the old stage plays that were popular so very long ago will be published.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

I think the Rolling Stones did their first American show there in late 1912, right?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes, but the only reason they did it was to get their picture on the cover of the 'Rolling Stone'.

jayreid25 6 years, 5 months ago

@ Ron Holzwarth

I recently wrote a play for the Neo-Futurist theater company in Chicago called "Burning Bluebeard" about the Iroquois Theatre Fire. I too was not able to find a copy of the "Mr. Bluebeard" script or the lyrics to the "In the Pale Moonlight" song. You might have found this already, but just in case here is a copy of the play's programme with the full scene and act structure of "Mr. Bluebeard." While it's not a script, it's still interesting to see the outline of the play...

Commenting has been disabled for this item.