The Arden Club from 1925-1926

The vast importance of and respect for the arts (drama/theater, painting, music) in our society are undeniably apparent when looking at the growth/development in particular region.  This development with the arts is mainly thanks origins that seek out to expand and improve their environments appreciation and opportunities, either by participating in, or viewing an art form.  Even the smallest organization have made significant impacts on their culture that leave a lasting mark for how and why the environment became what it is today.  Southern Methodist University’s Arden Club is one of these small organizations with a rich heritage that can be seen through the records that have been kept well maintained.  These records for the Arden Club are basically broken up into three primary sources: interviews with past members, the Minutes (notes taken during the meetings) recorded, and one book in particular (that has been referred to as the Arden Clubs Bible) “A History of the Arden Club of Southern Methodist University from 1915 to 1942” by Billy Mack Abbott.  These sources unfortunately only give bits and pieces of what occurred, leaving some detail unknown and left as a mystery. However, these sources of information are still able to paint a rather broad picture of the core lifestyle of the club, how/what the Arden club did, and the functioning (committee, ranking systems, different groups) within the club itself.  Throughout this paper we will take a closer look at the Arden Club and its members over the course of two years from 1925 to 1926 (specifically during the 1925 season), in order to see how the Arden Club would usually conduct itself as an organization and what a year in the life of an Arden Club member was generally like.

Before addressing anything else, it is important to understand some of the significant advancements and setbacks for Arden Club leading up to the new season of 1925. The Arden club “was greatly enhanced” (Abbott 1951) by several things like the contribution of the new stagecraft course that was first introduced that fall 1924.  The members of stagecraft, under Mary McCord’s (the sponsor and director of the Arden Club) supervision, assumed responsibility for the setting of all the plays during the season and she said that they “did a consistently good job” in an interview.  They were also praised in an article review by The Campus on their review of “the Vegence Height, what men live by, the wonder hat, and milestones.”(Bible) The establishment of the Junior Arden Club was finalized. All of these paved the way for the major improvements discussed later on come because of the members and Leaders of the Arden Club.  Over the course of 1925 and 1926 the same sixteen dedicated members were recorded as being a part of Arden Club (Adnaorine Baynes, Mary Boon, Mrs. Edwin Calhoun, John Chapman, Ruby Clower, Harold Foster, Purcell Graham, Bryan Hall, Thomas Holloway, Satan Cheskla, Margaret Fortester, W. E. Miller (was only at the first meeting and never came back), David Russell, J. Lon. Tinkle, Cecil Peoples, Ruth West, and E.R. Wilkinson.  Besides the anomaly of W.E. Miller, all of these members would religiously make it to the meetings that occurred three to four times a month because they were often scheduled at the end of the meetings based on the majority of the members’ workload/prior commitments.  The Arden Club would regularly meet once a week (with very few, to none, cancellations of these meetings) predominantly in Arden Hall.  A standard meeting of the Arden Club would almost always religiously start with the president opening the meeting, followed by the Secretary of the Arden club taking roll call as well as notes on the essential aspects of the meeting.  The rest of the meetings would mainly revolve around relevant topics like debating on possible new projects or improving what they were currently working on, new ideas to strengthen or developed the club and its members, course, a surplus of other topics; with funding being the most commonly discussed throughout the years.

Arden Club had to ration their spending of funds very careful to make sure that the expenses were not bankrupting the performance.  No matter how careful they were, unexpected expenses are inevitable for organizations like the Arden Club.  Expenses like the fire that had occurred on December fifth during the first production of the year/season for the Arden Club.  It was during the production of The Passing of the Third Floor Back on December 4th; a performance that was not originally planned but became the exception so that the School of Theology were able to have their presentation of the play. A play in which Billy Abbout said, “the audience found the staging almost two realistic” (Page 74), due to the unfortunate fact that fire occurred in the theater because a curtain was accidentally pulled against one of the make-shift lights(The Campus December). Destroying the curtains, a rug, and the front wings, the fires estimated damages were said to be around four hundred dollars. Regardless of the damages, the members of the Arden Club, specifically David Russell (the President), still represented the fundamental spirit of the Arden Club as he explained that they thought “the show must go on,”(Abboutt, 1951(75)) and how they were able to clean up the theater in time for their next presentation to continue as planned, even despite the stench of smoke and lack of a curtain.  This was really the only major setback for the Arden Club through the 1925-1926 season, and sense the fire occurred in 1924, technically there were not major setbacks or expenses during this season.  All of these expenses are examples of particular costs that the club dealt with during these years, but the major expenses they had came from the plays and acts themselves.


“The Rivals” was a significant play for the Arden Club that way practiced and presented over the course of 1925-1926 season.  Play was first bought up in their minute’s March 10th (1926) practices for the “The Rivals” are on Saturday (going from December 9 to Jan 6th so they had been preparing but the play was actually in 1926.  Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s “The Rivals” is, in most cases, a five-act romantic comedy of manners that is set in 18th century England.  It was initially performed for the first time in 1775 and has had several revised versions, but unfortunately, due to the lack of records, it is unknown which script the Arden Club used in particular for their performance.  In these minutes (below) we can see a summary of a week or two of progression in the play from hearing about it to the nights before curtain call


Even though the Arden Club faced many difficulties throughout the years, there were far more advancements and accomplishments with the organization than setbacks.  Arden Club functioned as an organization, and when we take a much, much.  further step back to look at their overall mark on the community, we can see how much of an impact that they made at Southern Methodist Universities campus.  The growth and development of the Arden Club was an essential part of perpetuating the enhancement of the Southern Methodist Universities drama program and also brought hours upon hours of entertainment to their community.  Their well-organized organization is shown through the dedicated meetings comprised of specific committees (like the cast, stagecraft, “”, etc), members, and individuals like Mary McCord all doing their parts in preparation so that the club was able to have elaborate practices/rehearsals in order to be capable of presenting the best play that they possibly could have done.

Kody Stonecipher