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September 18, 2018

The history behind the theatre…


If Nila Mack was known as “The Fairy Godmother of Radio,” then certainly Marge Thomas could be called “The Fairy Godmother of the Children’s Glassworks Theatre” in Cleveland, New York. I would like to say a very special thank you to this group for inviting me into their home to share their love of storytelling.

Once Upon A Time… there was a children’s community theatre group sponsored by the Cleveland Historical Society who calls home the former St. James Episcopal Church. This nearly 150-year-old building was deconsecrated and donated by the Diocese of Central New York in 2003. With the hard work of Dave and Marge Thomas, and the tremendous support of this tight-knit community, a stage was built, costumes were created, and the Children’s Glassworks Theatre put out their first casting call.

Then and now, every child who answers that call has a role to play. They participate in all aspects of the production – acting, stage management, sound and lighting control. This involvement gives each member of the troupe a vested interest in the show and all suggestions are considered. The mutual respect between the children and Marge is as evident as their shared passion for the theatre. It is this connection which drives them and makes it difficult to tell who is having more fun – the children or Marge!

Now in their fifth year, the group has put together 10 different productions, including fairy tales and family classics such as “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

In this year’s show, “House of the World,” Good Will shows a small boy how to ‘break down the walls’ of Greed, Poverty, Vanity, Selfishness and Intolerance to promote love and compassion. The play was adapted by Marge from audio tapes of the landmark children’s radio show, “Let’s Pretend.” Stage direction and an additional scene were added to the hand-written script and production got underway.

Here are a few images of what you can look forward to. However, we saved the best for last… come to the show to see the grand finale!

The history behind the “House of the World”:
The play “House of the World” was created by Nila Mack in 1934 and performed annually by children on the radio program, “Let’s Pretend.” This quintessential Christmas show promotes brotherhood and tolerance.

Nila Mack
Once Upon A Time… a pioneer radio show director blazed her own trail on the airwaves. Nila Mack created the children’s program “Let’s Pretend;” which ran on CBS radio from 1934-1954. This critically-acclaimed and award-winning show presented adaptations of classic fairy tales and other children’s stories, including Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. These weekly programs focused on education and entertainment for the whole family.
The history behind the Children’s Glassworks Theatre:
The name, Children’s Glassworks Theatre, pays homage to the industry that once made the little village of Cleveland prosperous – glassmaking. The following images appear courtesy of Mabry Benson.
Cleveland Glass Works

Union Glass Company
Once Upon A Time… a German glassmaker came to America to continue his craft and Anthony Landgraff and Sons was founded. The family began manufacturing glass in Vernon, New York before moving the company to Cleveland for the thick hemlock forests that surrounded the village. This was very important as large quantities of wood were needed for the melting furnaces. The Landgraff family continued their trade until 1861 and their company eventually came under ownership of Crawford Getman.

The Union Glass Factory was another glassmaking plant located on the north shore of Oneida Lake. It was organized as a stock company by Cleveland citizens until it too, was eventually sold to Crawford Getman. He successfully ran both companies until 1889 when he sold them to the United Glass Company.

As time went on, the Cleveland factories were re-organized and modernized before falling victim to the fast-moving tides of the industrial age. They finally closed in 1912.

The superior quality of sand found here gave the glass its exceptional brilliance. So much so, that it was used in part by Corning Glass to make the lens for the world’s largest telescope which sits atop Palomar Mountain in California. The primary product of these factories was window glass; however, collectors have found and authenticated many ‘off-hand pieces’. These items were produced by the blower after hours from leftover bits of glass and include canes, pitchers, bowls, chains and the like.
Children’s Glassworks Theatre
“House of the World” Cast
The Children’s Glassworks Theatre celebrates the Christmas season with Nila Mack’s “House of the World” this weekend. Performances on Friday, December 4 and Saturday, December 5 begin at 7 p.m. Bring the family to St. James Episcopal Church on North Road in Cleveland to see this holiday classic. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and children.

Cheers,
Kelly

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