Dramatic and Literary Clubs – The First 50 Years

by Bob Linnenberg ’63

American playwright Thornton Wilder once said, “I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms.” In December 1920, students at East High, later Withrow, agreed with that concept and formed the first dramatic club The East High Players. The group’s first year’s presentations were mainly plays written and performed by students. Skits with a holiday theme were presented at Christmas. When Withrow got its new name, The Players was replaced by the Thalian Dramatic Club, whose members performed their first plays in the 1925-26 school year. Eligible juniors and seniors had to try out for membership in Thalian and were judged on the “basis of character, merit, voice qualities, expression and poise.”

In 1928, a dramatic club for sophomores was founded in order to prepare students for Thalian membership. By 1931, freshmen were also admitted to this “preparatory” club, which was called Alphian Dramatic Club. Alphian did not survive but Thalian flourished under the direction of Miss Marjorie Rosenberger for almost 40 years, continuing even after her retirement in 1971.

The Withrow Players was formed in the 1935-36 school year replacing Alphian as the drama club for freshmen and sophomores. By 1944, Players was opened to all students and, like Thalian, required aspiring thespians to try out for membership. By the mid-1950s, Thalian and The Withrow Players merged and the new organization was known as Thalian Players.

Besides presenting such plays as You Can’t Take it With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner throughout the school year, the dramatic clubs also performed skits and short plays at assemblies, pep rallies, and PTA meetings. They also helped supply the end-men and walk-ons for skits in the yearly Minstrels and the Sounds of Withrow productions. The major theater productions also required the assistance of industrial arts students for sets and lighting, business students for ticketing and promotion, and other students for make-up and costumes. These opportunities for other than the dramatic students made these events truly a school-wide activity.

Scribblers, a girl’s literary society, was founded in 1924. Limited to 20 junior and senior members, Scribblers was responsible for publishing a guidebook to Withrow for incoming students. The Withrow Book contained information on school history, activities, and sports and contained all the Withrow songs and cheers that new students would need to know. In 1933, Literatus Club was organized for freshmen and sophomore girls and remained active throughout the 1930s and 40s. Admittance to these clubs was limited to those girls who submitted their own literary efforts such as a poem, essay or short story. Girls also had to be recommended by their teachers. Members had to maintain a “C” average overall and a “B” average in English. The entries submitted for membership were often published in booklet or magazine form; and for many years, Scribbler entries were published in Tower News.

 The oldest organization at Withrow was the Philological Literary Society. Founded at East High’s predecessor, Madisonville High School, in 1912, the club’s objective was to prepare young men for public speaking and debating. The club met every other week and all discussions, talks and debates were held within the bounds of strict parliamentary procedures. There were no dues, and the club made its money by fines on its absent, tardy or disorderly members. Admittance to the club was by application and the submission of a 500-word essay on a current topic of interest. Prospective members were then voted on by the membership. Philologians had to maintain a “B” average in English and Social Studies. By the late 1930s, Philologia was having joint meetings with the girls of Scribblers. The club lasted until the late 1950s. As was typical of such clubs founded in the early part of the 20th century, Philologia had a club song, the chorus of which was:

Onward with each brave endeavor,
In thy name we ’ll fail no ever,
Yet our love will die no never,

Of the literary clubs, the only one open to both boys and girls was Quill and Scroll. Part of a national organization, the Edmund D. Lyon (Withrow’s first principal) chapter was introduced at Withrow in 1942. The club first published a booklet Inklings, which consisted of literary works by student members. Another booklet, Memories of Withrow, was published in 1944. The club appears to have folded by the late 1940s, but was reinstated at Withrow in 1958. As its primary focus was journalistic writing, Quill and Scroll largely consisted of Tower News and Annual literary staff members.

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