In the spring of 1938, when the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre scheduled performances of Little Women, so many girls wanted to portray the March sisters that our beloved director, Hazel Glaister Robertson, doubled the cast, with two actors alternating in each role. My best friend, Maryetta Fagan, and I, were thrilled to be cast as Amy, the youngest of the sisters.
A major problem arose at once. Louisa May Alcott described Amy as a blue-eyed blond, “a regular snow maiden.” Maryetta and I were brunettes, with black hair and brown eyes. Hazel’s first thought was wigs, so we all trekked to Goldstein’s the old theatrical supplier in San Francisco. We tried on their wigs (which were meant for the ample persons of the San Francisco Opera) and we girls simply disappeared under the cascades of golden Valkyrie hair. Next, Hazel dusted our hair with gold and yellow powder and sprayed it with hair shellac. Under the stage lights, our hair turned a sickly green. What to do? Hazel decreed that Amy would be brunette—and literal- minded little girls in the audience would just have to accept it.
In rehearsal, there were hilarious moments as we active girls learned to tame our hoopskirts, and an unforgettable moment in the Pickwick Club scene when the boy playing Laurie Laurence emerged from under the desk where he had been concealed by Jo, sneezing his head off. The lad playing old Mr. Laurence had shaken pepper liberally into the hidey-hole.
We “toured” Little Women to San Francisco and Burlingame, giving lots of performances. When I stepped out of my hoopskirt for the last time, it was like saying goodbye to a good friend.
— Patty Hoagland McEwen
“The Children’s Theatre gave me something consistent, to count on when I was growing up. Plus, friends! The people I’m friends with now that I’m an adult are the people I met there. I made really strong connections.”
— Alissa Newman, participant 1998-2006
“Growing up, I would definitely consider the Children’s Theatre to be my second home. I met amazing people there who I am still friends with today. It shaped all the people who went there, and it was a great community to be involved with.”
— Claire Martin, participant 1997-2008
“The theatre became such a community and I met so many people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I really learned from those relationships. Obviously I learned about acting, but it was really the relationships and the community that taught me the most.”
— Emily Blum, participant 1996-2007
Q: What does the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre mean to you?
A: I have to think, because what it really means to me is something that probably can’t be written down. For me, the Children’s Theatre is a place where, no matter what age you are, you will always find people who care about you and support you and are there to share and shape your memories. Without it, I would not have become the person I am.
— Blake Soderstrom, participant 1999-present
“I don’t know if I want to use the words “nurturing environment.” Because it sounds cheesy, not because the Theatre isn’t one. The people I have met through the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre are special and one-of-a-kind. The people I grew up with at the Theatre, those are the people I want to spend time with; those are the people I care about. Not only do the participants care about each other, but the facilitators and administrators do too.”
— Jonathan Amores, participant 1997-2007