It wasn't Broadway, it was the Rockies
THAT'S THE TICKET|
This theatre in Denver is where Dorothy Parker's second husband, Alan Campbell, performed in 1934.
Photo by Leslie Gannon.
A thin strand of history connects Denver's gem of an old theater to Dorothy Parker, but these are the things that make up trivia books (and web sites), aren't they?
When researching the brief time that Mrs. Parker and Alan Campbell spent living in Denver in 1934, the place that drew the couple to the Mile High City from Manhattan's East Side was the Elitch Gardens, at West 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street, on a square of land in northwest Denver.
According to the Denver Post, for more than 100 years, America's greatest stars joined the Elitch's summer-stock theater company, including Grace Kelly, Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, Tyrone Power and Cecil B. DeMille, who in 1905 called the theater "the cradle of the American drama."
Photos by Leslie Gannon.
Alan, a second-rate actor who literally was taking his act on the road, dragged Mrs. Parker, his then-girlfriend, to Denver. Elitch Gardens is the oldest summer stock theater in the nation, and Alan had landed some parts.
While Mrs. Parker whiled away the hours in her garden or working away on short stories at their Meade Street rental, Alan was either in rehearsal or onstage. Sometimes Mrs. Parker, knitting bag on her lap, would sit in the dark and catch the show. She was a long way from The Cort and The Biltmore, but she told friends she was happy in Denver.
Thanks to researcher Leslie Gannon, digging in the Colorado Historical Society library, the credits for Alan have been uncovered:
Saturday, June 23, 1934
“No More Ladies” by A.E. Thomas, A comedy in Three Acts
James Salston: played by Alan Campbell
This program has a “Who’s in the Cast” credit on page 8, A.C. was listed as: Alan Campbell in addition to writing for the New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, and Vanity Fair, was with Noel Coward in “Design for Living” and was the lead for ten weeks in “An American Tragedy.”
Sunday, July 1, 1934
“The Shining Hour” A new play by Keith Winter
Mickey Linden: played by Alan Campbell
Sunday, July 8, 1934
“Big-Hearted Herbert” Adapted by Sophie Kerr and Anna Steese Richardson from a
Story by Sophie Kerr
Andrew Goodrich: played by Alan Campbell (listed as a juvenile role)
Also staring Elisabeth Risdon as Elizabeth Kalness (Her original part in New York)
Sunday, July 15, 1934
“Men in White” the Pulitzer Prize Play by Sidney Kingsley
Dr. Levine: played by Alan Campbell
Local celebrity/philanthropist appearance by Helen Bonfils who played Mrs. D’Andrea. Denver’s Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex was named after her. She built and financed the Bonfils/Lowenstein Theatre. She also helped establish a blood bank in Colorado in the 1940’s, which was originally named after her mother, but is now known as the Bonfils Blood Center.
Sunday, July 22, 1934
“Come What May” by Richard F. Flournoy
Fred Hayward (as a young man): played by Alan Campbell
Sunday, August 5, 1934
“That’s Gratitude” A Comedy in Prologue & Three Acts by Frank Craven
William North: played by Alan Campbell
Sunday, August 19 (sic), 1934
(Actual performance week was August 12, 1934 per handwritten note on one of the tear sheets.)
“The Return of Peter Grimm” by David Belasco
Frederick, Peter’s Nephew: played by Alan Campbell
Sunday, August 19, 1934
“The Wind and the Rain” by Merton Hodge
Gilbert Raymond: played by Alan Campbell
Sunday August 26, 1934
“The Pursuit of Happiness” A Comedy by Alan Child & Isabelle Loudon (Mr. And Mrs. Lawrence Langner)
Colonel Mortimer Sherwood of the Virginia Light Horse Calvary: played by Alan Campbell
On page 3 of this program there is a “Photo Farewell” to the Elitch’s Gardens Summer Stock company 1934. List of People in Photos:
Matthew D. Crowley
Albert Van Dekker
The theater itself is now in the headlines as it is getting a renovation. In December 2002, the city of Denver announced a $15 million campaign was underway to restore it. The 1891 theatre was closed in 1991. It was best known for the productions in its picturesque, octagonal structure with a two-story porch. By the 1920s, the theater was highly regarded in American drama. Some of the actors of note who performed there were Sarah Bernhardt, Grace Kelly, Edward G. Robinson and William Shatner. It is expected to reopen in 2005, with about 800 seats and year-round occupancy.
In December 2002, the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation formally launched a $14 million fund-raising campaign. According to Rocky Mountain News reporter Lisa Bornstein, the foundation already had raised $2.7 million of that amount, including a $200,000 matching grant from the Gurtler family, which owned and operated Elitch Gardens for 82 years. Perry Rose LLC, developers of Highlands Garden Village, gave an unspecified amount. The renovation is to begin at the end of 2003 and take about two years. If you want to donate, click here.
The new Highlands Garden Village development is where the theater is located and it will also have a restored carousel and community center.
Exploring this part of Denver is a good idea. According to Leslie Gannon, who took the photos for this page, "I guess something you should know about Northwest Denver is that it is very diverse," she said. "Its history includes and continues to be an amalgam. You know Mexican, German, Irish, Italian, old, young, Catholics, Hasidic Jews, gays/lesbians, lower income and upwardly mobile."
"Also," Leslie said, "I found out recently that at one time there was a recovery house for persons who had a sex-change operation down in Trinidad, where they could re-introduce themselves to society in their new identity. Just remember that White/Protestants lived in southeast Denver Proper (I-25 being the dividing line) and everyone else "at one time or the other" lived in northwest Denver. Which is probably one of the reasons (besides it being walking distance to the theatre) that Parker et al chose to live in the house they did while here."
An interesting chapter of Mrs. Parker's amazing life is tucked away in one of the best cities in the country.
For A Drink:
Sambuca located at 1320 15th Street, in LoDo
Click on the maps below:
Map of W 38th Ave At Tennyson St
Denver, CO 80212
W 38th Ave At Tennyson St
Denver, CO 80212