Rise, Please! Theatre of the Dead

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…realizing that no one could see me,
I decided not to let myself be disturbed again for fear of missing,
should the miracle be fated to occur,
the arrival,
almost beyond the possibility of hope
(across so many obstacles of distance, of adverse risks, of dangers),
of the insect sent from so far away
as ambassador to the virgin who had been waiting for so long.

(Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah, page 3)

 

 

Drawing of Dartmouth's Campus by Clifford Orr in a letter to his mother


February 10th 1921. Winter. It's twenty below. The Commons is not Dartmouth green, but an undulating sheet of icy white. On top of it, a crowd of 1400 bodies skate towards the  brick basilica at the intersection of College and Wentworth streets. Rise, Up's been sold-out for a week. Students, guests, chaperones, and parents herd through towering limestone columns at the northwest corner of campus.

 



Once inside, marble floors, ticket and coat-check. The vestibule is a narrow passage with a low hanging ceiling connecting the narthex with stairs at opposite ends. Directly ahead are the doors to the auditorium

Entrance from the left

The four vertical lines, right of the columns and doors, is the central balcony. The main chamber has immense volume. Massive Corinthian pilasters adorn the four corners of the nave. Below, the floor is a sea of formal attire, sports coats and flappers ambulate through thirty rows of chairs. Perched-up on either side, the balconies look down. 

  Running the length of the stage,
hangs the tantalizing velvet drape. 
  The audience has taken their seats. Full house. 
The conductor takes his cue and the ceremony begins.

The overture tunes your ears to the 1921 Carnival production of the Dartmouth Players, Rise, Please! The score, composed by senior Hubert Ripley (’21), adapted the music from the popular genre of comic operettas (like Gilbert & Sullivan).

The book and lyrics were written by up-and-coming junior, Clifford Orr ('22).
The structure is straightforward. 

Three acts that recount three days at the Davenport home. 

Act One celebrates the wedding party for the Davenport's daughter, Jean.

Act Two explodes after scandalous suicide, promiscuity, and marriage.

Act Three brings it home with “You’re the One I love”, and the finale, “Follie Girls”. 

Applause and the velvet takes over.

The auditorium is no longer a theatre, but a sarcophagus, 
an embalmed crypt of Dartmouth’s patrimony, 
17,000 square feet of underground storage, 
intersecting walls and walls of files, 
a buried labyrinth of catacombs: 
Webster Hall is a mausoleum.

Ninety-four years later, I walked up the steps, passed the thirty-foot columns, and entered the vestibule. The ceiling is no longer curved. I hung my jacket and put my backpack by one of the stairwells to pass Special Collections security. The chamber is still enormous. The architecture basically unchanged. Where the stage stood before, today, a glass wall displays and protects the rare book stacks.

I walked over to the help desk and began speaking with the attending librarian, Jay Satterfield. I asked if we had any files on Dartmouth’s Safety and Security—I wanted to pin the law in some historical fit of injustice, but S&S was too recent. Their files restricted: the first officers are still amongst the living.

We bounced around ideas, moved back in time, and landed on a couple episodes from the 1920s: one murder-suicide and another student scandalously separated for aberrant behavior. The second story revolved around a group of "troublemaking" students living in an off-campus house. He pointed me to the head archivist, Peter Carini, who gave me a list of box numbers. 

Dear Henry: 

If you want the enclosed photograph for the Players Archives, it is yours; otherwise I would be glad to have it back. As is to be inferred from the grammatically indifferent note on the reverse side, the hussies depicted are, from left to right, Richard W. Morin ’24 and Mahlon M. Meier ’23. We were twin filles de joie in the 1921 Carnival Show (my freshman year) who, according to our only line (spoken in unison) had been lured from the bosom of our family in Lebanon by the hero or the villain (I have forgotten which) and left to the, in this case, harsh fate of the city.

This was one of a series of female impersonations which my plump and fair-skinned youth launched me on, beginning in secondary school. By the time I reached Junior year at Dartmouth I had run the entire gamut from maid to matron and had become so alarmed at the rapidity of the aging process that I quit just before being cast as an expiring grandmother. 

In those days, before Freud had held up the spectre of transvestism for all those to ponder, these antics seemed mildly amusing, but today they seem sinister and psychotic. My rapid disqualification of face and figure now enables me to say: “there, but for the god of grace, go I!”

If you return to the casting list in the playbill, you'll see the bride is supposed to be played by Allen Vincent, but just four days before the debut he was out of commission.

Harvie Zuckerman was the only option for a replacement. He had been to all the rehearsals, and had been performing in Dartmouth theatricals since first arriving to Hanover from the Choate School.

With three days until the opening show, Harvie rehearsed tirelessly to execute the main woman role. It wasn’t a problem. Him and Clifford Orr, the writer/director, were intimate friends, and he’d already been helping the cast prepare. So he knew what he was doing.

Rise, Up! was played three times in Webster Hall (twice in February for Winter Carnival and once in June for Commencement). Harvie led the ensemble for the Carnival shows, but not for Commencement, in June. The photo's below are from the Commencement show, courtesy of Rauner's Archival Specialist, Barbara Krieger (she's amazing).

A month after Harvie performed for Winter Carnival, the President of the College sent him to meet with the most prestigious psychiatrist in the state, Dr. Charles Bancroft.

March 26, 1921

Dear Doctor Bancroft:

I am exceedingly anxious to send one of our boys down to talk with you because I feel certain of the advantage that it will be to him to feel free to talk with somebody and I know that he will be helped by what you may be able to say to him.

The boy’s name is James H. D. Zuckerman, and he is a junior in College and comes from Harrison, New York.

I do not think that in his case abnormality has gone to any detrimental extent as yet and I would not willingly urge the boy into anything that would make him feel that he is an exception to the ordinary run of men but I do feel very strongly that he needs to be helped on reversing certain tendencies of his. I believe that the opportunity to sit down and to feel free to talk with you will be a distinct help to this end.

Sometime I want to talk with some of your authorities on mental hygiene in regard to the general problem of whether playing girls’ parts in the dramatic performances makes a man effeminate or whether being effeminate qualifies him for playing girls’ parts. I am considered, among the dramatic group, as being unduly concerned on the question and if so I want to get over it.

The fact is, however, that we have had a distinct tendency among a considerable number of the men who have played the so-called leads in girl characters to develop exotic and unnatural instincts which are thoroughly out of keeping with what the College means to stand for. 

In one case, three years ago, the boy wandered off from Hanover and safeguarded the College reputation to the extent that he committed suicide in New York rather than here, but the underlying fact was that his affection for one of his dramatic club associates was not only unappreciated but was rebuffed. We have had one other case in which I would a good deal rather the boy would have committed suicide.

With Zuckerman there is nothing of this seriousness at all and as a matter of fact it is somewhat on the basis of his own recognition of conditions that I am bespeaking your help. I think that kind, fatherly talk, with such medical advice or mental suggestion as you care to give, will result greatly to his advantage and I shall wish you to do this on a professional basis so that I may feel free to send other men to you. Will you therefore send me the bill personally?

We have been remarkably free from the deviations from normal and the sex aberrations which have been so serious a condition in many of the colleges of the country and we have taken every possible precaution to watch and guard against any outbreak of this. I hope that we may be spared what many of the others have had to experience but I am becoming more and more convinced that under any circumstances we need, and ought to have, the constant observation of a competent man in mental hygiene….

It was exceedingly pleasant to have the opportunity of meeting you even briefly the other day and I wish that it were permitted me more often.

I am

Most sincerely yours,

President Ernest Martin Hopkins of Dartmouth College

From Players' book

I first signed up for Raising the Dead because I wanted to improve my writing. I came into class with the understanding that there wasn't really any ontological basis for non-fiction, because every history is an arrangement, but I now think there is a sense in which we can speak of non-fiction as objectively valid. 

Textbook (biography): Widmayer's Hopkins of Dartmouth.

Ernest Martin Hopkins arrived as a student to Hanover in the fall of 1897, four years before Harvie was born. Hopkins joined his class a year late, and took an extra course every term to graduate on time. After being editor of The Aegis yearbook in junior year, he became editor of The Dartmouth as a senior. He was class president, student member of the Athletic Council, and winner of the Lockwood Prize in English composition. After graduating in 1901, Ernest stayed in Hanover, at President Tucker’s request, and assumed a handful of the undergraduate administrative responsibilities.

In January 1903 Hopkins brought the Ben Greet Shakespearean Players to perform in Hanover. Dr. Tucker had taken the first steps of introducing the arts into campus culture, but they were strictly baby-steps. Hopkins sought to bring Tucker's idea into practice. The shakespeare players were a huge success, and the largest production ever financed by the College. Hopkins, upon suggesting to Ben Greet that colleges and universities in this country would be ideal places for his troupe to perform, found himself touring with the company to Chicago and acting as manager. Perhaps that's where he became "unduly concerned".

In 1903 President Tucker asked Ernest to assume the additional duties of graduate manager of athletics. He had the athletic job for two years, until in 1905 he was named the first Secretary of the College. This placed him in charge of all important academic occasions, including Commencement, and he soon became, as well, the central figure in planning and developing a stronger organization of alumni.

After nine years of administrative work directly under the President, Hopkins left Hanover, against Dr. Tucker's wishes, and in the summer of 1910 he took a position with Western Electric.

Five years later, 1915, after working his way up in business management, President Tucker summoned Hopkins back to the President's Office. 

Tucker: Well, you know why I sent for you, don’t you?

Hopkins: No, I haven’t the faintest idea.

Tucker: You’re going up there.

President Hopkins assumed his duties in Hanover on August 1, 1916.

In his address to the students on opening day, President Hopkins began by saying that too many men were in college without knowing why they were there. There was, he said, a “too prevalent blindness in the undergraduate bodies of American colleges to the fact that they are in a special way beneficiaries of the law of noblesse oblige. You are the men to whom special privilege of the finest sort is being offered. It is logical that from you, therefore, an especial sense of responsibility should be expected, as it will be.”

“Such strength as the American college lacks it lacks, in the main, because of the too great confinement of interest among its men to the college of their undergraduate days. Many a man, through lack of opportunity for anything else, draws all the inspiration for his enthusiasm for his college from his memories of life when an undergraduate, and feeds his loyalty solely upon sentimental reverence for the past.”

In 1916-17 the clouds of war hung over the land, and the uncertainties were greater for an all-male college than for other institutions. Mr. Hopkins himself was an outspoken advocate of all-out preparedness for war.

April 6, 1917 US Congress declares war on the German Empire.

The trustees hired Captain Porter Chase of the First Corps of Cadets at Boston to direct the College’s own training program. He arrived in Hanover eight days after the declaration of war and soon had twelve companies, totaling 1,095 men, drilling daily. In return for twelve hours of drill a week students were permitted to drop one course. Extracurricular activities, including athletics, were cancelled and student life consisted only of classes and drill.

College opened in the fall of 1917 with 1,020 men enrolled, including 412 freshmen. Military training was continued under Captain Keene and all freshmen were required to take six hours of such training a week. The residence sections of fraternity houses were closed, in order to take up some of the slack in dormitory income. In this convocation address, President Hopkins spoke of the need for unusual effort and assured the students that being in college to prepare for the burdens of the postwar world was as important as being in the battle lines.

Late in January of 1918, President Hopkins was asked to come to Washington to serve as Director of the Bureau of Industrial Relations on the staff of the Quartermaster General George W. Goethals, of Panama Canal fame. On May 20, 1918, Hopkins’ was named to the post of Assistant to the Secretary of War, in charge of industrial relations for all the Army Corps—Quartermaster, Ordnance, Signal, Aviation, and Construction.

Mr. Hopkins’ office in the old State, War and Navy Building was next door to that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who as Assistant Secretary of the Navy was roughly his counterpart on the Navy side of the war effort. They played some golf together and developed a warm friendship that lasted for many years.

Hopkins returned to Hanover in March of 1918. The war was over by August. Harvie Zuckerman and Clifford Orr matriculated that September a midst a veritable post-bellum renaissance. 

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These profiles are taken from The Aegis (the junior yearbook publication that Hopkins was in charge of while a student). Clifford Orr, or "Kip", and Harvie (I know from Orr's letters that he called him Harvie, not "Zuck"), became such good friends while at Dartmouth, that they roomed together their senior year, and also lived together for a year after graduating.  Orr was not as involved in Dramatics as Harvie had been from the outset, Orr was a writer, but when Orr joined the Players his junior year, he became one of its leading figures, and as a senior their President. Harvie on the other hand was relegated to management. 

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Five years after Harvie visited President Hopkins, Clifford Orr sent Hopkins a letter in which he explained that even though Harvie had always been within sight, he didn't know until a year after, that Harvie had gone to speak with the President.

Harvie left for Concord to meet with Dr. Bancroft on Thursday March 30, 1921. I have no idea how he got there because today's interstate would not be built for another 40 years, but he did in fact make it for their meeting at 3:00 PM at 104 Pleasant Street, Dr. Bancroft's home.

At the time, Charles Bancroft was Superintendent of the New Hampshire State Asylum, and Secretary of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene. The Mental Hygiene movement responded to deplorable living conditions and flagrant maltreatment of patients, led by inmate-turned-activist Clifford Beers. In 1908 Beers published the autobiographical record, A Mind that Found Itself, which became a best-seller, and mobilized the mental health profession to reform the feudalism of state asylums. Mental Health belonged to the field of clinical psychiatry, which was then just emerging from philosophy and physiology: a rational psychology with an infusion of Freud.

Mental Hygienists specifically targeted higher education as a locus for early intervention. The treatment was to clean oneself of insane habits or tendencies. Dr. Bancroft's prescription for Harvie's ailment was to 

1) Give up the impersonation of female parts

2) Play tennis regularly everyday, after which, shower and have a good rub down.                 --Hydroptherapy

3) Fill his mind with useful thoughts and crowd out morbid ideation.

4) Cultivate some hobby such as ornithology, botany, or any one of the natural sciences

Harvie met with his parents and family in Harrison, New York shortly after leaving Concord. His brother-in-law Arthur Cohen, Class of '03, sent President Hopkins a letter of concern. When Harvie returned to Hanover he began meeting with the reverend John T. Dallas. In his senior year, while Clifford Orr was writing scores of plays, Harvie year he played one minor male role in the Fall, but then faded from the picture.

Beginning of Act II. Jean the bridegroom, played by William Embree, killed himself at the end of Act I following his "Bad, Bad Past". Reporters break out on stage:

We're eager to handle all news of interest. Please tell us the facts, sir, we're sure you won't object.

Mr. Davenport comes out his cottage house, and sings, 

"His life was wrecked And we suspect some scandal! 

The neurotic Aunt and the Villainess.

This is a picture taken from the 1924 Carnival show Blue Blood. Seniors Ralph G. Jones and William McKay Patterson are seated from left to right. Jones and Patterson had impersonated female roles, to great popular acclaim, since their freshman year. They played alongside Harvie three years earlier in Rise, Please! Patterson played as Harvie's sister, the Davenport's other daughter, Beatrice Viola, and Patterson was Clifford Orr's villainess, Gertie Purell.

In their junior year, Jones and Patterson bought a house across the river in hamlet called Beaver Meadow. The Reverend John T. Dallas, who was talking with Harvie at this time, helped run the Beaver Meadow chapel in years prior. Clifford Orr told Hopkins he had visited the house after graduating. It was for upperclassmen common of the time, prohibition, to buy off-campus housing, and trade alcohol brought down from Canada. Beaver Meadow often played host to the Dartmouth Players, it was probably a place they met for cast parties. In October 1925, the Beaver Meadow house became a sinister affair.

Gossip had gotten out of fraternity that a freshman, Goodwin, said "", at the bequest of Jones and Patterson. Perverts. They had taken Goodwin to Beaver Meadow, gotten him drunk, and surely done unspeakable things on to him. Hopkins had to get the situation under control. The three were expelled from their fraternity, but Hopkins couldn't kick Patterson and Jones out of Beaver Meadow, and students were threatening to run Goodwin out of town. 

Hopkins quickly summoned the Administrative Committee, and decided to cut off the scandal before it got out of control. The administration voted to separate Goodwin from the College.

Finishing a story is difficult. Resolution of what? The sociology of this 1925 scandal is the subject of the 1992 essay by asldkjs; titled, "the Beaver Meadow Affair". But what about Harvie and Clifford Orr, what about the Players as a group. What resolution did they find? It seems that our historical narratives are focussing more and more on the life story. 

At the end of Rise please the Davenport parents rekindle their relationship with other members of the cast pairing up, getting everyone in the mood for the dances after the show. 

Harvie left Dartmouth with Clifford Orr, he spent a few years unsure of a career path, and then converted to protestantism, adopting the Episcopalian church. Ten years after graduation he was married with a daughter and had been to Scotland for divinity training. He returned to New York City in 1925 to be ordained by (then) Bishop John T. Dallas. Harvie died in 1957 after being rector of three states and father of three children. His son David matriculated into Dartmouth the year of Harvie's death. Today he's retired in Portland, Oregon. 

Clifford Orr went on to write full-time for publishers in Boston and New York. Freelance. He wrote a novel in 1929 called the Dartmouth Murders, that was turned into a film, a murder-suicide. Orr was then picked up by the New Yorker where he became an editor. 

President Hopkins' legacy is immortalized by the Hopkins Center for the Arts.