“Chin Chin” – Colonial Theatre – Pittsfield, MA – 15 May 1920.

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA, on 15 May 1920.

Vaudeville
Chin Chin
Donna Montran

“Chin Chin” played at the Bennington, Vermont, Opera House on May 13th and the Empire Theater in North Adams on the 14th. Then the show moved the 20 miles south to play at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA on Saturday, the 15th.

Advertising for the show began on the 8th of May with an ad showing “Chin Chin” would be coming for “One Night Only” on May 15th. On the 10th, a quick little note said, “’Chin Chin’ at Colonial – Manager Raymond has booked Charles Dillingham’s ‘Chin Chin,’ with Walter Wills and Ray Binder for the Colonial Saturday night.”

The Berkshire Eagle reported Monday, after the show:

The Berkshire Eagle – May 17, 1920

“Chin Chin” with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the leading roles played to a good-sized audience at the Colonial theatre Saturday evening. It was the second one night stand in two days despite this that there was a large attendance. Like other Dillingham shows it was a wonderful production.

The play is a modern version of the famous old Arabian Nights tale of “Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp.” Messrs. Wills and Binder become a couple of Chinamen who have more or less adventures in the pursuit of the lamp which brought its possessor all kinds of happiness. The musical numbers were very sweet and catchy.

Among the many features in this gigantic show are the Teddy Bear dance, Tom Brown’s Saxophone band, a real circus tent with an honest-to-goodness big white circus horse circling around the ring, while Mlle. Falloffski performs the most daring and screamingly funny bareback stunts. Tom Brown’s band was one of the big hits of the evening.

Theater

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA – (Photo courtesy of Granola via Cinema Treasures)

The Colonial Theatre was built in 1903 but burned in 1912. It underwent extensive renovation and reopened with state-of-the-art theatrical technology, in 1912.

The 1921 Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory indicated that the Pittsfield Colonial Theatre was operated by the Goldstein Bros. Amusement Co. and managed by L. H. Raymond. The theater played legitimate theater, stock, and picture attractions.[i] It had a seating capacity of 487 on the main floor, 309 in the balcony, 350 in the gallery, and 72 in the Box seats for a total capacity of 1218.

Specifications for the Colonial Theatre

Proscenium opening: 32 ft
Front to back wall: 45 ft
Between side walls: 58 ft
Apron 5 ft
Between fly girders: 46 ft
To rigging loft: 64 ft
Between fly galleries: 40 ft
The theatre had 8 Dressing rooms

Photo courtesy: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/masstravel/ (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Photo courtesy: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The theatre operated until 1934 when it closed due to the Depression. It reopened in 1937 as a movie theater with occasional community performances. It closed in 1952 and became a paint and art supply business. In 1998, the theatre was designated a National Historic Treasure. In 2001, the Colonial Theatre Association began a restoration of the building. In 2006, the theatre reopened to the public with its vaulted gilded enterence, elaborately decorated boxes and balcony, and exquisite ornamental detail.[ii]

Today

The Colonial Theatre of Pittsfield, MA, is a beautifully renovated facility.

Disclaimer

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Endnotes

[i] (1921). The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical guide and moving picture directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill via Hathi Trust – https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924063709764&view=1up&seq=7 – Accessed 21 July 2020.

[ii] Internet: Berkshire Theatre Group website, “History of the Colonial Theatre” https://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/berkshire-theatre-group/history-of-the-colonial-theatre/ – Accessed 21 July 2020.

Donna Darling Collection – Part 27 – Three Colonial Theaters

Three Colonial Theaters
Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at several vaudeville clippings from three different pages of the Donna Darling Collection. All of them relate to the Colonial Theater. One to the Colonial Theater in Lancaster, PA. The second one the Colonial Theater in Washington DC, and the third Colonial theater in Detroit, MI. Determining the various locations and dates was challenging but led to new words for my vocabulary and some amazing finds.

Lancaster, PA – Colonial Theater

The first venue was easy to analyze. Donna wrote on the clipping “Lancaster Pa Apr. 15.” It appears that she also wrote “Intelligence.” but I have no idea what that might mean in this context.

DD Collection – Scan 0107

Colonial – Keith Vaudeville – Best in the World
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday—April 17, 18, 19

Special Easter Show
Miss Donna Daring and Co….
Bruce Morgan and Tom Moran,

Valentine Vox,
Transfield Sisters,
[Movie] “Haunted Spooks: A Two-reel Lloyd Comedy…

Article: "Program at Colonial Starts with Whirl"
DDC – Scan 0107

PROGRAM AT COLONIAL
STARTS WITH WHIRL

Yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s program at the Colonial Theatre, opened with a whirl at last evening’s show. “A Song, A Dance and a Cocktail,” was the feature of the show. Miss Dona Darling eclipsed the limelight in brightness, wit and personality of exceptional quality combined with a vein of rascality that had the audience in constant bursts of amusement.

The rest of the program….

Analysis

Donna Darling and Company was a show that she had during 1922. A quick check of a 1922 calendar confirmed that April 17th, 18th, and 19th, were Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in 1922. Then on Cinema Treasures, I confirmed that there was once a Colonial Theater in Lancaster, PA. It opened before 1914 and later became the Boyd Theater. Besides the newspaper ad there were two short write-ups regarding the show.  This was a new date and location for me. Of particular interest is that the newspaper clearly says, “Donna Daring.”  This is a new search parameter for me to use in the future.

Washington, DC – Colonial Theater

Image of newspaper clipping - Colonial Theatre
Donna Darling Collection – Scan 0073

Colonial Theater – Two Shows 2 P.M., 7:30
Tom Rooney Presents
Donna Montran and Her California Bathing Beauties
presenting “A Classy Beach Promenade”
An Up to the Minute Musical Tabloid
A Carload of Scenery and Fetching Costumes

Also, on the bill:

Little Dolly Dimples and her “Man O’ Wars Man”
Taylor & Brown – Daring Doings
Herbert Trainor – Pleasing Magic
Davis & Kidaire “Make ‘em Smile Boys”
[Movie] Alice Calhoun Vtagraph [sic] Favorite in Princess Jones (6 Parts)

Analysis

The second clipping was dated March 15th. Donna still went by Montran and she did her California Bathing Beauties in 1921. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of March 1921 were the 14th, 15th, and 16th. Her mentioning it was the Washington papers that the ad ran in, tightens the location to the Colonial Theater in Washington, DC.

Detroit, MI – Colonial Theater

Image of newspaper clipping "Featured in Vaudeville" from about 19 December 1926.
Donna Darling Collection – Scan 1451

Featured in Vaudeville

The following features are announced for the week by the leading vaudeville houses:

Temple –May Wirth….

Colonial – A beautifully stages singing and dancing act in a futuristic version of the nether regions[ii], offered by Donna Darling, former Follies performer, is to headline the vaudeville. Miss Darling and Sammy Clark are both well known stars of terpischore[iii] and are assisted in the act by Barring, Lazure and Hal Dixon. Other acts include….  The Colonial announces a special New Year’s eve show, starting at midnight.

Analysis

This third clipping confused me a bit. I misread the last sentence which says, “The Colonial announces a special New Year’s eve show, starting at midnight.”  I misread that it to mean the special show was while Donna was playing there. I searched and searched for a place that had both a Temple Theater and a Colonial Theater. I could only find two places, Chicago and Detroit. Being in Detroit during the holidays made sense as Donna’s mother lived there. I found she played at the Palace Theater in Rockford during Christmas and at the Orpheum in Des Moines in New Years. During my search I used many new search parameters to look for Donna. I ended up finding well over a hundred new dates and venues. It was truly amazing what I found. I have added the new dates and venues to my Donna Montran page.

I eventually came to the conclusion that the note regarding a New Year’s Eve show doesn’t apply to Donna’s show.

Conclusion

Three new dates and venues directly identified because of Donna’s Colonial Theater clippings.

  1. Mar 14-16, 1921 – Washington, DC – Colonial Theatre – Donna Montran and her California Bathing Beauties. DDC Part 27
  2. April 17-19, 1922 – Lancaster, PA – Colonial – Donna Daring and Co., DDC Part 27
  3. December 19, 1926 – Detroit, Michigan – Colonial – Donna Darling Revue – DDC Part 27 –  Also see: Genealogy Bank

There were also over 100 new dates and performance venues I discovered while doing this research. They have been applied to the Donna Montran Vaudeville Page.


Genealogy Bank was used extensively during this research.


Follow-up

Further search my newspaper sources for “Donna Daring.”

ENDNOTES

[i] I have cropped and sized all images for the web – Original scan’s available.

[ii] Wikipedia – Hell, the Underworld, or any place of darkness or eternal suffering

[iii] [sic] “terpischore” should be terpsichore – Wikipedia – In Greek mythology, Terpsichore (/tərpˈsɪkəriː/; Τερψιχόρη) “delight in dancing” was one of the nine Muses and goddess of dance and chorus. She lends her name to the word “terpsichorean” which means “of or relating to dance”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terpsichore