Friday Flashback #103

If you went to the Westport Country Playhouse any time between 1931 and 2005, you remember certain things: The tight lobby. The bench seats. The unique smell.

And the olio curtain.

Hanging in front of the main curtain, the olio — a large canvas attached at the bottom to a long rigid tube — featured painted advertisements for local businesses.

Since the WCP renovation, theater-goers have been greeted immediately by the set on stage. There is no curtain.

Until now.

The current production — “The Understudy” — is a comedy that takes place in a theater. At this show, patrons see the red velvet main curtain, hanging from the proscenium arch.

So what did that olio curtain look like?

The Playhouse’s Pat Blaufuss sent along this photo:

She doesn’t know the date. But alert “06880” readers who remember Brooks Hirsch, Ann Marie’s Figure Forum and Davy Jones’ restaurant can help.

Pat also sent this photo, from the New York Times:

Just to compare, here’s the post-renovation view:

(Photo/Robert Benson)

FUN FACT: Pat adds that the WCP main curtain does not have “legs” (the narrow curtains on each side of the stage).

In early vaudeville days, producers booked more performers than could possibly fill the time. That way, they could pull “bad” acts before completion.

Performers were not paid unless they actually performed onstage. The phrase “break a leg” meant breaking the visual plane of the legs that lined the side of the stage.

In other words: “Hope you break a leg and get onstage, so you get paid!”

18 responses to “Friday Flashback #103

  1. My mom’s real estate co. Marti French/ Village Realty used to have a sign. She’d get 2 season tickets with the deal. I see Davy Jones restaurant pre- Duck days.

  2. Julie Fatherley

    Hooray Pat….Thanks for the memories and “the dress”. I also ushered
    at summer stock near my home in Pennsylvania. A magical time of
    meeting some famous stars….Julie Fatherley

  3. The MasterCharge logo places the OP between 69 and 79, and the hairstyles suggest the earlier years of that period.

  4. Daniel T Guilfoile

    My Mom started working for Joe Sherman around 1976 and I think that was about the time Pete Atkins took over Davy Jones Locker and turned it in to the Black Duck ?

  5. Davy Jones restaurant used to be the Barge, and it’s now the Black Duck. Definitely late 60s to 70s.

  6. I had never heard of Ro Jon’s and looked it up. There were several articles from 1973 with references to their business activities (but nothing from other years).

    Also, as much as I enjoy looking at these vintage photos, I can unequivocally say that I enjoy the comfort of the seats at the renovated theater; they are clearly superior to the seating in the old theater.

  7. Elaine Marino

    The usher in the NY Times photo goes by the stage name Victoria Wyndham. She starred as Rachel Cory on the soap opera “Another World” for many years.

  8. Sally Kellogg

    2nd is the oldest – note The Ice Cream Parlor…probably vintage 1960. The 1st is probably very late 60’s due to the Mastercharge ad (aka Mastercard); everyone shopped the Pottery Barn; Brooks Hirsch was a ladies sportswear destination; Vidal Realty — Randy Vidal is still in the business (saw him this past December).

  9. Fred Jackson

    How about a bow to JoAnne Woodward
    Without her years ago support there might not be a Playhouse today. She and Paul deserve our praise and remembrance.

  10. Peter Gambaccini

    My first “real” job out of college was in the publicity/public relations department of the Playhouse in 1973. I loved the curtain and I loved every aspect of the job except one excruciating one – dealing with a businessman who perpetually groaned and grimaced and was never satisfied with the size and location of his curtain ad and was never going to be. He was the only person I dealt with all summer who didn’t seem to have a cooperative community sense of “let’s put on a show” and be happy we’re here.

  11. Nice to see a reminder of my parents store The Pottery Corner (the Youngmans co-owned with Goldie Hlll) many of the many locally owned shops no longer in existence. The Pottery Corner – not the Pottery Barn- which was one of the many chains that came in later. TeriKlein

  12. I worked in the parking lot pointing people to spaces and was an usher. Fellow parking people were our Fire Department’s Nate Gibbons and usher Brad (okay Bradley) Jones. We had a lot of fun. It was in the days when the roadway went up a hill on the right and fed cars into the middle of the lot. My mom was a customer and eventually worked at Brooks Hirsch. I was thinking the first photo was mid to late sixties and was shot before the children’s matinee.

  13. 2 things :

    1. I miss those benches ! They accommodated larger people a lot better and I liked the coziness too.

    2. For many years, we hosted the actor families that performed at the Playhouse. It was a privilege and a pleasure- one actress became a good friend . I hear they don’t do that anymore, but if they do, we would love to sign up.

  14. Dale Nordling

    I think Anne Marie’s Figure Forum opened in the early 70’s – – possibly 1971?

  15. Kim Manchester Shaw

    Way back when I worked at the Darn Yarn Shoppe which opened in 1970, I believe. The owner was a faithful supporter of the theater. I fondly remember spending many summer weekends (circa late 70’s early 80’s) ushering at the WCP – it was a highlight of my year!

  16. I was treasurer of the Playhouse back in the 80’s when we didn’t know if we could make the next mortgage payment. Joanne Woodward and Bob Wright were the Angels we so sorely needed. The Board always had raffles with big prizes as a fundraiser. We always parted the curtains and popped out to make a spiel for selling tickets. As a ham I loved doing that.

  17. India Penney

    THANKS for the “break a leg” tidbit. Fascinating.