Monday, April 26, 2010
The Mask and Wig Club
One thing that is held close to Philadelphians is the arts. We are lucky to have lots of support in our community to have wonderful museums, 3 classical/jazz radio stations, and a wonderful theater and playhouse community, but one of the best kept secrets is what's tucked elegantly away down one of the old cobblestone streets in the quaint gayborhood. The Mask and Wig Club. When I first heard of it I was all excited. I though how cool to go to a club wearing masks and wigs! Like I didn't already right? But I thought everyone had to wear them. Wrong.
The Mask and Wig Club, founded in 1889 by Clayton Fotterall McMichael and is the oldest all-male collegiate musical comedy troupe in the United States. Founded as an alternative to the existing theatrical and dramatic outlets, Mask and Wig has presented comedy, music, and dancing to the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and audiences across the country. The club's performers, or "The Cast" put on two all-original shows each year in collaboration with the Club's own Stage Crew, Band, and Business Staff. The players being all-male, play both the men and the women's parts. Many Mask and Wig originals were made famous on the radio by mid 20th century luminaries. The well-known "Route 66" was composed by club member Bobby Troup and launched to the height of popularity by Frank Sinatra. Troup's song "Daddy" was written for a Mask and Wig show. Other Mask and Wig songs, such as "The Gypsy in My Soul," written by Clay Boland and Moe Jaffe, have been performed by the likes of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Ella Fitzgerald. The first electrically recorded album ever released was Mask and Wig's “Joan of Arkansas,” in April 1925. After nearly a century and a quarter at the cutting edge of American musical comedy, the Mask and Wig Club still thrives and remains true to its credo: "Justice to the stage and credit to the University."
In 1894 the Club purchased a property at 310 South Quince Street to serve as a gathering place and rehearsal hall, the Mask and Wig Club, where it still is located today. The Club is made up of four distinct sections: the cast, the band, the crew, and the business staff. The cast writes and performs all of its own material during the Fall and Spring Shows. The band often functions as a pit orchestra, playing original, self-arranged pieces for the Fall show, and professionally arranged pieces for the Spring production. The band also holds the headliner spot at the University of Pennsylvania's annual Spring Fling festival. The crew builds elaborate, ornate, and completely original sets for both the Fall and Spring Shows. The business staff is responsible for advertising and selling tickets for the club's shows. In addition to the plays, the club has also held all gay dances, drag charity shows where the likes of Madison Avenue, Carlotta Tendant and Brittany Lynn perform, and the Mr Gay Philadelphia America show.
In 2007, the club under went a massive renovation, and was completed in the fall of 2009, allowing the club to once again return to its own stage for the 2010 Annual Productuction, "A Cheshire Catastrophe. And this one seems like a very interesting play which I hear is a cross of Alice in Wonderland, meets Oz! May have to check this play out! Tootles!