Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Dramatic Club of Indianapolis

Mary “Haute” Booth Tarkington was one of the leaders of a theatrical group which was established in Indianapolis in 1889. This group, originally called the Matinee Club, of twenty-five women from the city’s leading families was formed to provide private staged performances. The first performance of this all woman group was staged in a private ballroom in a home at 10th and Delaware Streets. By 1890, men were assisting in the productions and the group combined with another to form the Dramatic Club. Mary’s brother, Booth Tarkington, joined the group and designed the logo.

Beginning in 1890, the group began assisting local charities which led to its most ambitious effort when the group “adopted” four French children after World War I. The club grew from 149 people in 1890 to over 400 by the early 20th century. By the 1920s, the performances had moved from the confines of private ballrooms to English’s Hotel & Opera House, the Murat Temple, and the Athenaeum. By the 1950s the performances had been moved to the Civic Theatre. It continues to be an important theater group in Indianapolis.

Throughout its existence the Dramatic Club has attracted some of the leading social, civic and business leaders of Indianapolis including members of the extended Lew Wallace family. In the 1916 Blue Book for Indianapolis members of the Wallace clan listed as members in the Dramatic Club included Zerelda Leathers Grover (niece of Lew Wallace) and Mary Booth Tarkington Jameson (sister of Booth Tarkington and niece by marriage of William Wallace and his wife Cordelia Butler). More distantly related people listed in the 1916 Society Blue Book included Booth Tarkington and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. James Leathers, and Mr. Donald Jameson.

Lew Wallace, Jr. ca. 1917
Closer to home, Lew Wallace, Jr. (Lew and Susan’s grandson) and their future grand-daughter-in-law, Josephine Parrott, were active in the group. Lew, Jr. had grown up primarily in Indianapolis although he spent time in Crawfordsville with his grandparents. By 1916 he had finished his college studies at Yale and was back home for a stay. He had paralleled his famous grandfather’s military career with a stint in the mid-1910s chasing Pancho Villa during the Mexican border dispute which was followed by his military service in World War I in 1917 and 1918. Just when and how Lew Jr. and Josephine met is not recorded, but after their inclusion in the Blue Book in 1916, they made the social columns again in 1917 when they wed. Lew, Jr. and Josephine had four children and at least one of them, Margaret (Maggie Daly) followed her parents’ lead and enjoyed a brief career on the stage in the 1940s before she married and began her own family.

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

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