Theater club

The Barnstable Comedy Club is hosting a 100th anniversary party

Barnstable Village will be the place of celebration this weekend, as the Barnstable Comedy Club Theater commemorates its 100th anniversary with a big party at its longtime home.

The public is invited to join the centennial event from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 20 at the Village Hall, which will provide guests with entertainment, refreshments, sales of specialty items and a silent auction , as well as exhibits of theatrical memorabilia that commemorate BCC’s community theater history.

A scene from a 1967 production of "The Fantastic" at the Barnstable Comedy Club.  The actors have not been identified.

Among the roster of performers will be young cast members who attended this summer’s “Kids on Broadway” workshops held at the comedy club, performing excerpts from their “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” show. Jim Ruberti, a local comedian and longtime BCC supporter, will present his sit-stand comedy. And there will be a taste of numbers from the musical “Rock of Ages,” the theater troupe’s fall season opener.

The auction will include a framed and signed poster by author/artist Edward Gorey, original artwork and prints, jewelry, gift cards and baskets from a wide range of merchants and organizations premises, according to Ann Ring, commercial director of the club.

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Organizing the event required “an amazing group of people doing amazing things,” says Cissy George, Centennial Committee Chair and new Board Member.

A 1950 production of the play "Arsenic and old lace" at the Barnstable Comedy Club.  The actors have not been identified.

During the party, organizers say, there will be a presentation of a Massachusetts State Centennial Citation recognizing the BCC’s many theatrical contributions over the years.

100 years of theater

Archival information shows that the Barnstable Comedy Club began as a local theater troupe around 1913, rehearsing in the Old Barnstable Inn, where the Barnstable Tavern is now located. The group’s first play to display the comedy club’s nickname on tickets was Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan” in 1922, with a reserved ticket price of 75 cents. The troupe then performed at the newly constructed Village Hall, which opened in 1912 to much fanfare, with guests including famed author Joseph A. Lincoln.

One hundred years later, Cape Cod’s oldest live community theater and one of the oldest amateur theater groups in the country are still in operation, in the same Village Hall – which the BCC purchased in 1961 from the owners of origin, the Barnstable Women’s Club. The venue, which has retained its designation as a village hall, has remained a familiar institution, hosting community activities over the years.

The Party Hall on Route 6A in Barnstable since the early 1920s, when it became home to Barnstable Comedy Club theater productions.

The comedy club’s history is dotted with well-known characters and events. Perhaps among the best known is the late writer Kurt Vonnegut’s involvement with the band. Vonnegut and his family lived on Cape Cod in the 1950s and 1960s, and the famed author worked on many BCC productions – mostly behind the scenes – briefly becoming club president in the early 1960s. Vonnegut’s daughter, Edith , an entertainer who still lives in Barnstable, will be one of the guests at the centenary event, and organizers hint that her father’s many contributions will be remembered at the party as ‘Happy Birthday’ is sung. Kurt Vonnegut, too, would have turned 100 this year.

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According to George, the word “comedy” in the BCC’s original name defined a wide range of dramatic plays performed at that time. Over the years, she says, the Barnstable Comedy Club has been first and foremost dedicated to presenting “community theatre,” and over the past century has mounted more than 284 productions. These range from dramas like “The Caine Mutiny”, “The Lion in Winter” and “Death of a Salesman” to lighter musicals and comedies such as “Anything Goes”, “Calendar Girls”, “Bye Bye Birdie and “South Pacific.”

A complete list of all BCC performances since 1922 can be found on the club’s website, www.barnstablecomedyclub.org.

Create good memories

Productions have included all ages and are sometimes a family activity. Sonia Schonning, who has been involved there since 2013 and will direct ‘Rock of Ages’, says the BCC is “home” as the first theater to welcome her, where she has made “theater friends forever.” and where she shared the stage with her husband and daughters in several shows. “The single greatest thrill (than) being on stage is seeing your children shine with confidence through the gift of acting,” she wrote in a reminiscence.

From the 2015 Barnstable Comedy Club production of "South Pacific," clockwise from left, Sonia Schonning played a lieutenant), Addie Schonning played Liat, and Tala Schonning played Ngana.

The surname “George” appears frequently in the annals of the club. The current chairman of the board, Lloyd George (Cissy’s brother-in-law), has the blood of the Barnstable Comedy Club running through his veins: his father, Harold George, was chairman of the board in the early 1960s and was active in acting, directing and directing. manager roles.

Lloyd George remembers that as a youngster of around 12 he spent a lot of time around the theater with his family and was often enlisted in cleaning and other chores. He and his buddies, he says, particularly enjoyed going up and down in the dumbwaiter that once served the building’s entertainment and refreshment functions. (“A secret,” he said, “it still exists today!”)

As a child, he recalls, “We were always involved in activities at the club such as basketball games, square dancing… and of course ballroom dancing lessons…” About the dance, he adds, “Most of the children in the village participated…because their parents said they had to.

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His anecdote about the comedy club’s history is one of many collected to be printed in an upcoming centennial yearbook due to go on sale later this year.

Lloyd George has recently become more involved in BCC activities, assuming the position of Chairman of the Board in January. “I followed in my father’s footsteps as president. Who would have ever predicted this? he adds. He calls the longtime comedy club “a hidden gem.”

Celebrate 100 years of Barnstable Comedy Club

When: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. August 20

Where: Town Hall, 3171 Route 6A, Village of Barnstable

Admission: Free

Information: 508-362-6333, www.barnstablecomedyclub.org