Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Operetta "In Old Vienna" at Mineral Ridge School, April, 1936

When I first looked at the photograph for this post, it was so busy and the actors so small that I could tell little about them. My scanner and computer allowed me to enlarge it so I could see faces and details. As I peered at the students in their unusual costumes I couldn't help but wonder about the story line of "In Old Vienna." The characters could have been clowns or gypsies, society people, outlaws, a policeman, waiters, a business man. I began a search to see if I could learn more about the play.


Hooray for Sean Martin of High School Musicals -- the Origins who has two posts about this musical comedy. (It couldn't have been anything but comedy with those costumes, could it?!) In the first post, In Old Vienna, or Pickles, Sean explains the plot lines:
-- a businessman from the US, accompanied by his daughter, has come to Vienna to take a holiday
-- his "advertising expert" has also come along and makes it his mission to convert the entire city to "pickle mania"
-- an English widow has come to Vienna to search for her long-lost daughter
-- a corrupt Viennese policeman tried to engineer a "fake daughter" in the form of his own fiancee, thus assuring that, if his plan succeeds, he gets to cash in as well on the widow's fortune
-- a gypsy girl revolts from the domineering control of her father
-- and an impoverished American artist, ten years too early for the mania of going to Paris to be an impoverished artist, seeks recognition (not to mention monetary support) for his talent.
It all sounds crazy, confusing -- and fun. Can't you imagine these high school students of 1936, still in the middle of the Great Depression, enjoying themselves? In Sean's second post, Pickles, he tells about a revision he found which improved upon the original. I don't know if the students in this photo performed the original or the revision.

You may be wondering what this photo has to do with my family history. When I first looked at it I wasn't sure who I was looking for or if I'd recognize the person. It was my mother's sister, Geraldine Mae Meinzen - Aunt Jeree, to me - whose face I saw. She was a junior in high school at the time. After enlarging the photo, her face, even with stage make-up, couldn't be missed. A second look through the faces gave me another of my mother's sisters, on the far right, who was probably a freshman that year.

At the top of this post are the left and right sides of the photograph. At left is the center section and below is the complete photo. The last shows a beautiful view of the Mineral Ridge School Auditorium but it's so busy the actors almost disappear into the background.
Carrie Shaffer and Donald Barbe were the directors and the photo was taken by Gareg of Warren, Ohio.

Sean wrote another interesting post, I received a new one a week ago..., in which he discusses some of the challenges of high school play production in the 1920s and '30s. Today's directors and actors can easily go to youtube or find a video of a play to see how others interpreted and performed the roles, but 80 years ago each director had to decide how the actors should play the scenes. There was no "central repository of production information that could clue the director or his cast or his musicians or his design team. Sure, every script had a 'stage manager's manual' that would walk you through the scenic requirements and the dance steps, but you wouldn't know what it all looked and sounded like until it came together.... You didn't know what the original looked like, because there was no 'original'."

I'm sure it would have been fun to see this production's interpretation of "In Old Vienna." Impossible for us now, of course, but at least we have a great photograph.

The laughter's over and curtain's come down on this scene. For more entertainment visit Sepia Saturday where you can find other posts focusing on old photographs.

22 comments:

  1. I'm most impressed at how much you've managed to tease out of this photograph. Thanks for the link to Sean Martin's site - it will be very useful for researching the background to a Mikado photograph that I have been wanting to write about.

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  2. You are so right about the stage productions of schools in the past. I remember our 1956 Senior drama and compared to the ones I see my grands in it is almost unbelievable. My gd was Eliza in My Fair Lady and she was amazing. Great post.
    QMM

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  3. I remember seeing some operettas when I was in high school. I never heard of Pickles or Old Vienna. I wonder if it is still performed.

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  4. This must have been fun to be involved with. You have found so much out about the photos and your sisters' involvement. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I guess the same would be true up through the 1990 about having to do the play without youtube or other visuals to help out. Very interesting post from a small photo.

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  6. I'm so impressed that you managed to spot your aunts in the photo, and also that you managed to find out so much about the musical. Wonderful!

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  7. I love the full photo, spectacular shot! I just was reading up not long ago myself on Operetta as I have an old photo of 2 kids and it says "At the Operetta" on the back, and so I had to explore what that was too. And how neat to have several relatives in the shot. What a fun photo to have, I love this type of stuff!

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  8. Brett, it seems like so much is on the internet these days that I was surprised to find so little about "In Old Vienna." I was really grateful for Sean's site. I hope you find what you need when there.

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  9. Peggy - in may respects, things get better as time goes on and I think that's true of high school productions. Congratulations to your granddaughter.

    Postcardy, high schools these days are probably too sophisticated to do "In Old Vienna" and the like. People seem to want to see and perform more modern productions. I thought I might be able to find someone selling the music but I didn't.

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  10. Kristin, I think it might have been even harder before the advent of movies but yes, the before videos and the internet was harder than now.

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  11. An additional note about this photograph. The original is about 8.5" x 11" so it's not really that small, but the faces ARE small.

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  12. Flat-bed scanners, IMHO, are the greatest thing since sliced bread for unlocking the mysteries hidden in old photos which by necessity had to be taken from far, far away. I loved an old 3X5 (maybe not even that big) snapshot from around 1918 from 50 yards away of father, his two younger brothers and their parents perched on the side of a hill that was/is a local landmark. But I loved it even more when I got my first scanner and was finally able to zoom in on their faces and found that my dad was sticking out his tongue, certain, I suspect, that his face would be mostly a blur in the photo itself!

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  13. Oh, JamaGenie, that's hilarious. Was he still alive when you enlarged it and did you ask him about the photo? I wonder if he remembered the photo being taken. I love scanners, too. Photographs come alive in a way they didn't when we had only the naked eye and a magnifying glass. Thanks for visiting.

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  14. Very impressive - and what a charming and amusing photo. I can imagine the fake German accents. Must have been delightful.

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  15. I hadn't thought about the German accents, Christine. That surely would have added to comedic effect.

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  16. Great post : and a post which illustrates the old saying about a picture being worth a 1,000 words so well. But, as others have already said, you do so well to extract the 1,000 words out of the image by giving us the back-story.

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  17. Nancy, my dad had been dead for several years before I discovered the treasures hidden in those old snapshots. Wish he'd been alive, tho, to tell me the significance of the rifle lying across HIS dad's lap. A Father's Day or birthday present maybe.

    Another trick one can do with a scanner is turn old negatives - really old - into "real" photos when the photos themselves have been lost. This works best on B&W negatives that are the same size as the "positive" would be, and don't care that parts of the image have disappeared from time and improper storage. But I've successfully rescued several otherwise-lost treasures using this method.

    This also works to clarify names, dates and such on old birth certificates that were printed as negative images...i.e. black background, white text.

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  18. I was in three Gilbert and Sullivan operettas when I was at school (mid '70s), and I know how much I enjoyed them!
    The plot sounds fantastic, sounds like it would be worth seeing!

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  19. I am amazed as well at the results of your sleuthing! You shuld be rightfully proud. Your entire post got me to thinking about our high school plays, nothing that elaborate at all though. Scanners and todays technology sure do make it worth checking out these old photos.

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  20. Plays have always been a very special part of school...even during the grade school years!...Junior high better yet, and High School unbelievable!

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  21. A very interesting post. I love old photos of people dressed in stage costume - especially schoolchildren and students (being in the business).

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  22. Just to add a quick observation about schools wanting to do "modern productions"... there's a good reason why Gershwin is still performed these days. :-)

    PICKLES would need a bit of dusting off, but it would definitely work... even for the most finicky school.

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