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!


  1. Very intresting! I have never heard of such a thing. I never know what to expect to read next on here. If I get there I would love to see a play sometime...and it's all men!!!

  2. What a great post! And a very intresting place. To date back that far and the place is still in existence is something. It's also funny how the men still play both parts, that's got to be entertaining. I can just see the Mistress walking down the street with a elegant outfit on entering the club. Thanks for sharing this great tid-bit.

  3. Mistress Maddie #1 Fan4/26/2010

    I would love to see this place. I don't remeber ever passing it.

  4. What a fastinating place, and a excellent post! I love to see new things. They should feel real proud to be carrying on this tradition still and no easy task in these times. I would love to just see the mask faces on the outside and the interiors. Looks cool as hell.

  5. Like Hasty Pudding at Harvard only with talent!

    Fascinating tid-bit about your city & the theatre history, & the school. I love the building!

    Thanks for this post, Mistress B!

  6. Girl, can you believe all these years I have lived here I never saw a play there yet. I have been there for many a party though. It is where I saw the ever hot Reichen from Amzing Race?

  7. Coco de Mere4/28/2010

    Why have you never taken me hear to see this place? Girl you know I love me some odd and different places!

  8. Greeting to you Very Strict Mistress badnaughty.slut lick kiss your black boots now


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