By Jeffrey Ullom (auth.)
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Additional resources for America’s First Regional Theatre: The Cleveland Play House and Its Search for a Home
Her reported connections to the Cleveland art scene contrasted by the absence of any record of her involvement in Cleveland politics or the suffragist movement symbolizes the varied social dynamics represented at the Brooks’ meeting. To understand fully the challenges overcome by the supporters in order to launch a new art theatre, it is important to remember that the meeting at the Brooks’ home was a collection of individuals rather than an organized group. These persons arrived at the East 115th Street residence with diverse interests and experiences, yet they met with one objective in mind.
This reception must have been a welcome change from Fiske’s previous engagement in Pittsburgh, where the controversial ending of the play left audiences confused. While some Steel City theatergoers opted not to attend because they believed A Doll’s House to be a children’s show, others who witnessed the third act “settled down to wait for a fourth act and the penitent return of the wife. The house lights went up, and down, and up—and still they failed to take the hint. ”14 By comparison, Forest City theatergoers were more cosmopolitan and better educated as to the latest trends in playwriting and theatre production, and the positive response to Fiske’s production of A Doll’s House and other professional touring productions of modern European plays directly impacted the play selection of the Play House.
30 Whereas Minerva Brooks’s involvement with the new theatre derived from a genuine interest in artistic exploration, the same cannot be said of her husband. For Charles Brooks, the impetus to support a new art theatre was more about opportunistic timing rather than his passion for theatre. After graduating from Yale in 1900, the Cleveland native returned home to assist in the family’s printing business. Over the next 15 years, Brooks demonstrated enough business savvy to justify his being promoted to vicepresident, but his heart was never in it.