Donna in “Chin Chin” at the Empress Theatre, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada – January 5-6, 1920

Thanks to an article in the Calgary Daily Herald, I had known that “Chin Chin” played in Medicine Hat, Alberta sometime shortly before January 8, 1920[i].

I finally found an article regarding “Chin Chin” playing in Medicine Hat[ii]. We now know that “Chin Chin” played in Medicine Hat on January 5th and 6th. Page 8 of the Medicine Hat Daily News dated January 6, 1920 has a nice article regarding the show.

I know that “Chin Chin” played in at the Avenue Theater in Vancouver on Dec 25-27[iii], but still don’t know where the show played during the eight days before Medicine Hat.

According to the article, “There were some particularly pleasing vocal selections, Donna Montran’s ‘Violet’ and ‘The Grey Dove,’ two catchy songs excellently rendered by this sweet-voiced young lady….”

After the show, the company headed back west the 100 miles to Lethbridge, Aberta for one night there before heading to Calgary.

Empress Theater – Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

Photo Source: Esplanade Archives Page 22
Arts & Heritage Center

The Empress Theatre was built in 1913 at a cost of $25,000[iv]. It was located at 10 Sixth Ave, Medicine Hat and seated 625 people[v]. The theatre was said to be the best-equipped theatre between Vancouver and Winnipeg and hosted vaudeville and local theatre productions during the early years.[vi] In the 1930s, the theatre made the switch to movies with occasional live performances. The theatre was closed in the late 1940s and was demolished in 1953[vii].

Today the site is occupied by the Medicine Hat City Hall.


[i] See Donna & “Chin Chin” Play “The Grand Theatre,” Calgary, Jan 8-10, 1920.
[ii] Medicine Hat Daily News, January 6, 1920, Page 8, “CHIN CHIN” AN ATTRACTION DE | LUXE IN MUSICAL COMEDY LINE – Last Night’s Audience Was Delighted With This Breezy Footlight Attraction – A Show of Special Features (via Newspaper Archive).
[iii] See Donna in Vancouver, BC, Canada, at the Avenue Theater –December 25-27, 1919.
[iv] Archives Access – 2010 Edition – “In the Limelight” Issue – Esplanade Archives – Arts & Heritage Center. Page 22.
[v] Cinema Tour – Empress Theatre –
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Cinema Tour – Empress Theatre –

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Donna in Fort Wayne, IN, at the Majestic Theatre – February 15, 1920

This week I did more background research regarding Donna’s career with the “Chin Chin” production. I still haven’t determined dates or venue for their Minneapolis showing (other than late January to early February, 1920). I did, however, find where the production played at the Lyceum Theater in Rochester, NY sometime during the week of March 5th.[i] More about that in a future article.

Chin Chin in Fort Wayne, IN

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
(Fort Wayne, Indiana)
Feb. 12, 1920, Page 11
Source: Newspapers.Com

Other than some basic advertising in “The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette” (Fort Wayne, Indiana), I was unable to find any articles heralding the show. Although it had to be a busy Sunday. They played in Madison, Wisconsin on the 14th, both a matinee and an evening show then made it to Fort Wayne for an show the next evening. It is about 300 miles between Madison and Fort Wayne so it had to have been a late night packing, loading, sleeping on the train, then setting up for the show the next day.

Majestic Theatre, Fort Wayne, IN

It is not really clear if the
Majestic Theatre in Fort Wayne was a new construction or if it had been rebuilt[ii] when it opened at 216 E. Berry St., on October 24, 1904. [iii]  The 1894
Donaldson Guide
, (page 105) regarding Fort Wayne theaters only indicates
the Masonic Temple and the Broadway Theatre as venues, which suggests that it
was probably a new construction.  The
theatre was noted
for its great acoustics.[iv]
The 1913-1914 Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, Page 188 indicates that
the theatre was quite large, seating 1372 people and that the stage was large
as well, 44×38 feet, with six stage pockets. The theatre was managed by Milton
E. Rice.[v]  The 1922 Supplement indicated that the
manager was Orrin Stair,[vi] so management changed
sometime between those dates.
The 1918 Fort Wayne City Directory, indicates that Philip E Thompson
was the Stage Manager, Herman Selman was the advertising agent. Neither M Rice
nor Orrin Stair show up in that directory.[vii] 
Sometime between 1910
and the 1920s the Majestic underwent a facelift which replaced a plain front with
an classy arched entrance as photos of the earlier theater and later were quite

The production “Chin Chin” played at the Majestic on February 15th, 1920.

The Department of the Indiana Grand Army of the Republic held their business sessions for its forty-seventh Annual Encampment at the Majestic on May 17, 18, 19, and 20, 1926.[viii]

In 1928, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic reorganized with Emil Bouillet as conductor and began to play at several venues including the Majestic Theatre. Interestingly enough, the musicians were required to sell tickets for the concerts and banners were streatched across Calhoun street to advertise those concerts.[ix]

About 1941 the Majestic Theatre was renamed the Civic Theater, and it continued as a movie theater until at least 1950.[x]

In 1954, the Majestic Theatre was deemed unsafe for children by the fire department and so the Children’s Theatre spent the next 10 years at various locations in the city. [xi]

The Majestic was torn down in 1957, and the location is now the site of the Citizen Square parking lot. (Courtesy of Gene Branning) [xii]

Further Research

The Cahn-Leighton
Theatrical Guide indicates there are several other newspapers in Fort Wayne at
the time. Although the “Journal Gazette” was the largest of the papers in town,
the “News” and the “Sentinel” were also substantial and should be investigated
for possible news items regarding the show.

[i] Variety Vol
58, No. 2 – 1920-03-05, Page 116 – Rochester New York – Archive.Org –
[ii] Allen
County-Fort Wayne Historical Society at 90 Years – Some Reflections Posted by John Beatty. See:
[iii] The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, Indiana: A Review of
Two …,

Volume 1
 By Bert Joseph Griswold, Mrs. Samuel
R. Taylor – Page 543
[iv] News-Sentinel.Com:
“Vaudeville was popular in Fort Wayne’s many
theaters” By Sheryl Krieg of
The News-Sentinel
[v] The
1913-1914 Julius Cahn – Gus Hill
Theatrical Guide
, Page 188.
[vi] The Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide,
1922 Supplement, Page 40
[vii] Fort Wayne, Indiana,
city directory
Published by R.L. Polk
& Co.
 in Taylor,
[viii] Proceedings of
Forty-third Annual Encampment of the Department of Indiana, Grand Army of the
Republic. Dept. of Indiana. Volume XLIII – Page 84 – See:
[ix] Web: The Phil –
Fort Wayne Philharmonic | The History of the Phil. See:
[x] Web: Cinima
Treasures | Civic Theater 216 East Berry Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802. See:
[xi] Web:  Fort Wayne Youth Theatre | About Us. See:

(Postcard History)
 By Randolph L. Harter. Arcadia Publishing (2013) – ISBN-10: 1467110663 – Preview at:

Donna in Logansport, IN, at the Nelson Theatre – February 19, 1920

I haven’t discovered where the “Chin Chin” cast were immediately before they arrived at the Nelson Theatre in Logansport, Indiana on February 19th. We know they were in Madison, WI for Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th, but are still unsure where they were from the 15th through the 18th, immediately before the one night show in Logansport.


February 11th was the first announcement for the show in the Logansport Pharos-Tribune. It was a very lengthy article, “Chin Chin’ Is Coming To the Nelson Theater.” Another article appeared on the 12th.

The trials and tribulations of a show on the road is evidenced by the Logansport Pharos-Tribune on February 13th. Apparently, back on February 8th, the Barnett Hotel caught fire and was destroyed. With the “Chin Chin” cast coming to town there were not enough hotel rooms available for the cast of 55 members. Because of that, the cast would use sleeper cars during their stay[i].

Logansport Pharos-Tribune – Feb 13, 1920 · Page 2


Logansport’s loss in hotel accommodations, occasioned by the fire that destroyed the Barnett hotel last Sunday afternoon, made itself conspicuous yesterday when Jack Goettler, advance agent for “Chin Chin,” the Charles Dillingham production to be staged at the Nelson next Thursday, was unable to secure hotel accommodations for the company that will present the attraction here.

There are 55 members in the company, and Goettler sought all the local hostelries in his efforts to make reservations for the members. Before leaving the city last night, the advance agent said the company would come to Logansport in sleepers which would be used to house the people during their stay here. 

Donna is probably the 2nd from Left
Source: Logansport Pharos-Tribune
February 14, 1920, Page 5
Via Newspapers.Com

Also on the 14th was a picture of “The Four Leading Ladies of Chin Chin” Although the quality of the photo isn’t very good, it appears that Donna is the woman 2nd from left.

Additionally there was a short article about the show focusing mostly upon it being a Charles Dillingham Production and that it includes an Ivan Caryll score.

News on the 15th focused upon the show being an extravaganza and included photos of the bareback riders in the show which we have seen before.

An article on the 17th was really interesting as it explained something of the unknown previously [ii].

Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Indiana) · Tue, Feb 17, 1920 · Page 5

Salaries Are Higher
In “Chin Chin”

“Handsome is as handsome does,” is not applicable in the selection of the chorus of the present day musical comedy. The demand for a beauty chorus has increased the salaries of the fair young girls more than 100 per cent in the past ten years. In 190? the average salary was $15.00 per week. Today the lowest salary of a “Chin Chin” girl is $30, and range from that figure to $50.00 for the “first row girls.”

The American chorus girl recognized as the best in the world, receives many times the amount paid to the “flappers” of London or the “ensemble” of Paris. In London two pound is the average, while in Paris 132 francs is the highest salary paid.

In “Chin Chin” which comes to the Nelson theatre Thursday night, there are thirty girls, the average salary is #35.00 and the season last 40 weeks, bring the total charged to $42,000

In 1900 a company in a musical comedy usually had twenty-four girls with the salary of $15.00 the total paid was 0 the total paid was $12,499. So today the manager charges $29,600 to the “high cost of beauty.”
We know Donna was a “front row girl” so we can assume she earned $50.00 per week.

On the 18th, there is an article which mentions that “Chin Chin” will be greeted by a Full House and there was an unusual demand for tickets. There is also mention of an article in the Memphis Tenn. News Scimstar that the show played at the New Lyric apparently the Sunday night proceeding. [Possibly the 15th.]

1920-02-14 – Logansport Pharos-Tribune

On show day, February 19th, 1920 there is a very interesting photo of two of the cast members. There are errors between the header & footer. It shows Aladdin and the American Girl but it mentions that it is playing at the Colonial Theater for three days. A definite mistake but the costumes clearly appear to be “Chin Chin.” There is also a photo of the 16 “Chin Chinners” (women staring in the show, a short article, and the regular “Chin Chin” advertising.

The day after the show, an after show review ran in the paper as well. In it Donna is mentioned.

Miss Montran as the Goddess of the Lamp, was delightfully charming, and her rich, musical voice captivated the audience with her first solo, “Violet” and gained her more favor when she sane “The Gray Dove.”

The Nelson Theater
The Nelson theatre opened in 1908[iii]. It was renovated in 1917 and reopened to the public on 6 November, 1917, as the Majestic Theatre.[iv] Sometime between then and 1920 it must have changed its name back as it was called the Nelson Theater when Donna and Chin Chin played there on 19 Feb 1920. According to Cinema Treasures it was renamed the Luna Theatre in 1921. This is confirmed by the 1922 Supplement to the Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, which lists the theater as the Luna. Interestingly enough the manager in the 1922 supplement, H. R. Byerly must be the same person as the Harlow Byerly who announced the “Chin Chin” show coming to the Nelson in 1920[v].  Apparently there wasn’t a management change between the Nelson and the Luna theatres as is typical when theaters are renamed or change hands. The 1922 Guide also indicates that the theater capacity didn’t change between during the 1917 renovation and 1922. The theater held 1190 people, 422 on the floor level, 320 in the balcony, 400 in the gallery, and 48 in the boxes[vi].

According to Cinema Treasures, the theater was renamed the Roxy Theatre in November 1934 and operated into at least the early 1950s. It was closed in the late 1950s and stood unused into the 1970s[vii].

I have been unable to find a photo of the Nelson Theater that may be used on this site. There is an excellent photo on Flickr at which shows the Barnett Hotel and the Nelson Theater were next door to each other. I’ll bet you could smell the Barnett during the show at the Nelson only 11 days after the fire.

Further Research
Look for “Chin Chin” playing at the New Lyric in Memphis, TN, possibly the 15th of February. Check the News Scimstar for articles.

     [Update: I have been unable to find any Memphis newspapers from February 1920 on line.  Also, the Logansport paper mist named the Memphis paper. It should have been the News Scimitar.  The Library of Congress indicates that

Tennessee State Libr & Arch, Nashville, TN
Univ of Memphis, Memphis, TN

are both holding, however, neither have February 1920 issues. The Tennessee State Library & Archive indicates that they may have the issues in question.  I will put a visit there on my wish list.]


[i] Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport,
Indiana) · Fri, Feb 13, 1920 · Page 2 via Newspapers.Com
[ii] Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport,
Indiana) · Tue, Feb 17, 1920 · Page 5 via Newspapers.Com
Cinema Treasures – Roxy Theatre.
[v] Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport,
Indiana) · Sat, Feb 14, 1920 · Page 5 via Newspapers.Com
Cinema Treasures – Roxy Theatre

————- DISCLAIMER ————-

Donna in Madison, WI, at the Fuller Theater – Valentine’s Day – 14 Feb 1920

The Milwaukee Road-RosaliaAfter having played
the Grand Theatre in Eau Claire, on the 12th and the Myers Theater
in Janesville on the 13th, the “Chin-Chin” backtracked the short 40 miles to
Madison to play the Fuller Theater. The only railroad, of the time, between
Janesville and Madison appears to have been the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul
and Pacific Railroad – also known as the “Milwaukee Road.”
The Capital Times” – Via Newspapers.Com

The Capital Times
didn’t pay much attention to the show’s arriving, I suppose because it was a
return engagement. They ran the standard paid ads on the 10th and
the 11th and ran Chin-Chin provided “stories” on 11th and
13th. On Saturday, February 14th, “Chin Chin” played both
a matinee and an evening performance[i].
I couldn’t find any reviews of the show.

Fuller Opera House
Courtesy: Cinema Treasures   

Fuller Opera House

The Fuller Opera House  was a medium sized theater, seating about
1200 people on three levels—484 on the lower floor, 346 in the Balcony, 400 in
the Gallery, and 31 in boxes. The stage was a standard 35×35 ft. [ii]  Built by Morris and Edward Fuller, the Fuller
Opera House opened next door to Madison City Hall and across the street from
the state capitol on April 7, 1890. [iii]  Across the street, in 1904, a fire burned the
Capital building to the ground. [iv] The Capital was
reconstructed with construction completing in 1917.  In 1921 the Fuller Opera House was remodeled
and became the Parkway Theater. The theater was razed in 1954 to make way for a

Further Research

The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914 mentions several newspapers that should be researched for possible stories regarding “Chin Chin” playing on 14 Feb 1920 in Madison, WI. These newspapers include:

“Amerika” (Norwegian), Fri., cir., 8,000, R. B. Anderson, Ed.; 
“Cardinal,” daily ex. Sun. during col. year;
“Democrat,” A . M . ex. Mon., cit., 4.000,
“Journal,” P. M. ex. Sun., cir., 6,044, R. L. Jones[v]

————- DISCLAIMER ————-


[i]The Capital Times” (Madison, Wisconsin) ·
Tue, Feb 10, 1920 · Page 7 (via
[ii] The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914, Page 683, Madison.
[iv] Wikipedia
– Article: Wisconsin State Capital
[v] The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide
Page 683, Madison

Feb 13, 1920 – Chin Chin Plays Myers Theater in Janesville, WI.

Donna in Janesville, WI, at the Myers Theater – Date: Feb 13, 1920
Donna and the cast of “Chin Chin” completed their
one night stand in Eau Claire and headed for Janesville, 180 or so miles to the
south for another one-nighter.
Preshow advertising began with an announcement
on February 7th in the Janesville
Daily Gazette
by the theater manager, L. C. Hensler, that a Charles
Dillingham show was returning to Janesville for the first time in more than ten
years for “one night only.” The announcement mentions “Chin Chin” and the
“Famous Clown Saxophone Band.”[i]
Source: Newspapers.Com
Janesville Daily Gazette
(Janesville, WI) 11 Feb 1920, Pg 6
Leading Comedians, et al
The advertising continued with another
announcement on February 10th that mentioned both the size of the
company (65) with 40 Girls and 35 men back of the scenes.  (I know that adds up to 75 people.) It also
mentions “two car loads of scenery” and some of the acts as well as the hit
songs from the show, including:
Girls I’m Through,
                  Violet, Violet,
                  The Pekin Patrol,
                  Love Moon,
                  The Chinese Honeymoon,
                  Temple Bells,
                  Bally Mooney, (etc.)
The Daily Gazette of February 11th  showed a graphic of the two male stars, Roy
Binder & Walter Wills as well as 12 of the women in the show.  Certainly, Donna would have been one of those
12, however, the quality of the on-line image isn’t high enough to determine
which one is Donna.
After the show a short article detailing the
non-existent plot and the characters of the show including the role of the
Goddess of the Lamp, the part played by Donna.
Myers Grand Opera House

Interior of the Myers Theater – Post 1929 “Moorish” remodel
Photo Credit: [Janesville Daily] Gazette File Photo
When “Chin Chin” played at the Myers
in 1920, it was old.  It has been built
in 1870 as the Myers Opera House.  A fire
in 1891 caused the Opera House to be rebuilt and renamed as the Grand Opera
House. It was a modest sized, ground floor, theater held about 1000 people –
400 on the main floor, 293 in the balcony, and 300 in the gallery. The stage
was 32 by 30 feet in size.[ii]
In 1920 the 50-year-old theater, managed by Peter L
Myers, was sold to the Janesville Amusement Company[iii] who installed L. C. Hensler as the
theater’s new manager.
In the late 1920s the theater changed
from live performances to movies and was remodeled into a “Moorish” style movie
place to show Hollywood films.[iv] [v]  The theater remained open until the mid
1970s. Finally, in 1977, demolition began on the building and the site became a
parking lot for the Rock County National Bank. [vi]
Further Research

Review another source for the Feb 11, 1920 issue of the Janesville Daily Gazette for a higher quality image.
Besides the “Gazette,” the Cahn-Leighton Theatrical Guide mentions the Janesville “Recorder” as a daily A.M. paper. I can’t find an on-line edition of the “Recorder” on line. Annually see if it becomes available.


[i] Janesville Daily Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) ·
Sat, Feb 7, 1920 · Page 6
[ii] The Cahn-Leighton Theatrical Guide – 1913-1914.
[iii] Hedberg Public Library Local History Database Search results for” Myers Theater
[v] Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville’s history (1998), pg. 182. See:
[vi] Hedberg Public Library Local History Database
Search for Myers Theater