Local Vaudeville Troupe: Rossley Kiddies

Rossley Kiddie Company Collection (Coll-472) 1.01.005 Rossley Kiddies on stage, "Beauty and the Beast" Annotations on verso: "J. C. M. Hayward, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 24 Upper Water Street, Clara"

All images from this post are sourced from Rossley Kiddie Company Collection (Coll-472) held at the Archives and Special Collections

Rossley Kiddie Company

St. John's has been an entertainment hub. More than 100 years ago a mysterious family, the Rossley's, arrived from New York and operated several theatres in downtown St. John's and on Bell Island. Under Jack Rossley's management The British Hall was known as a "Photo play picture palace". Rossley boasted that his establishments "were not forbidden by the Church". Newspaper accounts describe eventful evenings of entertainment that mixed live music, theatre and dance with silent films.

1.01.002 Formal portrait photograph of Rossley Kiddies in gypsy costumes with tamborines, affixed to cardboard. Annotation on verso: "The Majestic, Halifax": 8 unidentified girls

Rossley Kiddie Company Collection (Coll-472) 1.01.001 Formal portrait photograph by S. H Parsons of Rossley Kiddies in white costumes, affixed to cardboard: 4 unidentified boys and girls

Not only were the Rossley's operating a business in theatre they were regular performers themselves. Jack's wife, Marie, also directed the vaudeville troupes that performed in Rossley theatres as well as touring Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during the summers of 1915-1917.

Top Left image: 1.01.012 Snapshot with handwriting on image: "Dorothy, Alice, Bonnie, Marie and Mrs. Eagon-our mother who takes care of us
Top Right image: 1.01.013 (2) postcards of the Rossleys at a beach, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 1 September 1917. Handwriting on front "Rossleys, Yarmouth, N.S." Annotations on verso of one card: "My Dear Mother, This is the beach where we go Bathing it is a dandy place I am on the end sat down and Kathleen is on the other end this was taken the day when we were on the picnic, good-Bye from Dorothy with love xxxx"
Bottom images: 1.01.011 (2) snapshots of Rossley girls with Canadian soldiers, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Annotations on verso: Image 1: "Gertie Kennedy, Canadian soldier, Anna Farrell, Rose Field, Rossley troupe at Yarmouth Nova Scotia, Canada". Image 2: Note

In addition to the Rossley Kiddies there are references to the "Rossley Dumbells," "Rossley Company," "Rossley Group," "Sunshine Girls," "Merry Minstrels," "Pickaninnies" and the "Pantonmines". Were these troupes comprised of essentially the same performers or were they completely different groups directed by Jack and/or Marie?

Top Left image: 1.01.009 Formal Portrait of Rossley Kiddies in clown costumes by S. H. Parsons, [1916]. Annotations on verso: "St. John's Nfld, Rossley Troupe: A Squires, Lizzie Earle, Kitty Squires, Marcie [Renouf], Gertie Richards, Dot Marshall, Aileen Squires, Clara Squires."
Top Right image: 2.01.003 Newspaper advert for Rossley's "Jock and the Pied Piper" at Lyceum Theatre, Sydney, Nova Scotia 3 July 1916. Photograph by S. H. Parsons.
Bottom Left image: 1.01.007 Rossley Kiddies in costume, in park or field, 1917. Date written in ink on image, annotations by Marie Rossley on verso.
Bottom Right image: 1.01.006 Portrait of "Rossley Dumbells Jr, Halifax, NS" at steps of War Memorial
Sometime after 1917 the Rossley family relocated and eventually settling in Saint John, New Brunswick. Why did they leave? What happened to the Rossley Kiddie Company? We know from the stationary posted below that the company was active in Saint John into the 1920s under the direction of Marie Rossley and the patronage of B. F. Keith Imperial Theatre Management.

2.01.005 Rossley Kiddie Company stationary, Saint John, New Brunswick 192-

What brought Jack and Marie to Newfoundland with their two children, Bonnie and Victor? Why did they leave?
Left image: 1.01.015 Portrait and business card. Annotation on verso: "Halifax, N.S. Sept 12th, Bonnie Rossley, 84 Princess St, St. John, NB, Canada" Middle image: 1.01.017 Snapshot. Annotation on verso: Mae Donnelly, Miss Hanlon, Bonnie Rossley, Mother (Mrs. Rossley) and Victor Rossley, 1919" Right image: 2.01.003 Newspaper clippings related to Rossley Kiddies' "High Jinks"
Curious? Check out the finding aid or browse/search the online collection which has been completely digitized! Search through Evening Telegram newspapers during the peak of the Rossley's time in the province here.


Archived Alive!

International Dance Day is April 29th and the province is celebrating Dance Week from April 22-29 I'm sure you'll be inspired to dance by Charles Henry Danielle and memories of the annual Peace-A-Chord in Bannerman Park. Do you know who Charles Henry Danielle was? Do you remember the Peace-A-Chord?

Uber-talented students, Erin Normandeau and Heather Rumancik, from Memorial's Diploma in Communications and Performance Media have creatively shed some light on the above awesome-ness. With support from Memorial's Quick Start Fund, mentoring from NIFCO (thank you Brad Gover!) and access to the Performing Arts Collection (PAC) here at the QEII's Archives and Special Collections, these talented emerging filmmakers created two amazing, entertaining and informative short films about our province's eccentric dance master and hotelier as well as the youth driven festival the Peace-A-Chord.

Check out the Archived Alive! website full of great photos and the watch these magical short films.

Interested in learning more about the Peace-A-Chord or Charles Henry Danielle? Come into the Archives and check out the Peace-A-Chord Collection (COLL-406) and the Charles Henry Danielle Collection (COLL-164). The Performing Arts Poster Collection (COLL-143) online also has many posters from your favourite Peace-A-Chord.


"What's the Buzz?!....Tell me what's happening!"

There's a lot of buzz surrounding Thursday 19 March 2015. It's opening night for TaDa! Productions Jesus Christ Superstar. This is not the first time this musical has made it's appearance on our local stage....and so close to Easter!

In honour of Throwback Thursday the Archives and Special Collections salutes past productions of this musical. Which show do you remember seeing?

The 1983 version performed at the Stephenville Festival. Is that local NDP MP Ryan Cleary listed as part of the mob? (program 1212 from COLL-138: Newfoundland and Labrador Performing Arts Programs and Handbills)

Or perhaps you caught the version in Grand Falls in 1984? Were you lucky enough to catch Gordon Pinsent in Cyrano de Bergerac the night before? Looks like two nights of fantastic theatre! (program 211 from COLL-138: Newfoundland and Labrador Performing Arts Programs and Handbills)

Or perhaps you went to the production by the Holy Heart Musical Theatre Company in 1988? (program 3141 from COLL-138 Newfoundland and Labrador Performing Arts Programs and Handbills)

Aiden Flynn as Simon with narrators Beth Power and Shelly Neville?

Or maybe it was Artistic Fraud's production in 1998 where all 37 cast members were on stage for every scene acting as a unit... (Poster 1665, COLL-143: Newfoundland and Labrador Performing Arts Posters)

Beothuk Street Players 2006 production? (program 2685 from COLL-138: Newfoundland and Labrador Performing Arts Programs and Handbills)


Barbara Barrett (1922-2014)

What a woman! What a life! A Toast to the Toastmistress

Barbara Barrett was an award-winning journalist, dramatist, teacher, musician, actor, and director. She was an inspiration, often lauded as the matriarch of our province's theatre community. Born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England on 3 November 1922 began a career in theatre at a young age. At 18 she was directing church plays. During WWII she volunteered in the war effort as a farm larbourer and an air-raid warden. A war bride, Barrett moved to Newfoundland in 1946 with her husband Arthur, his home. Barbara taught music and dance lessons privately, founded various community clubs and troupes (including the Corner Brook Joystars, Stephenville Players, and Gander's Avion Players), directed radio plays, hosted her own radio programs, taught in high schools and with MUN's extension services, AND volunteered with community groups and organizations. Barrett is, perhaps, best known for her work as Artistic Director of the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre's Basement Theatre, renamed the Barbara Barrett Basement Theatre in 2012. During her 16 years at ACC's Basement Theatre she was responsible for presenting 1014 shows which included both professional and amateur productions.

Barbara Barrett’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. She has been formally recognized for her individual productions as well as her body of work. Awards include: Order of Canada (1995), Order of Newfoundland and Labrador (2007), honourary Doctorate from Memorial University (2013), as well a lifetime honourary membership from the Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival.

To learn more about Barbara, visit the Archives and Special Collections, and check out Barbara Barrett Collection (Coll-178) , interviews (including several with Barbara) in the STAGE Collection website(Coll-370), Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival Collection (Coll-180)and the Barbara Barrett Basement Theatre Collection (Coll-173). many of Barbara's productions can also be found within our poster (Coll-143)and program (Coll-138) collections.

Poster #79 in Coll-143 NL Performing Arts Posters


'Longside Players

*Poster 1240 from the NL Performing Arts Poster Collection (Coll-143)
The 'Longside Club was founded in 1983 by Geraldine Rubia, a rehabilitation counsellor and author, with the goal of providing a social club for physically and mentally disabled persons. The name derived from the belief that disabled persons could socialize as equals "alongside" those who are not so disadvantaged.

The 'Longside Players, an associated theatre group, was formed in 1984 by writer and musician Ed Kavanagh. Like its parent institution, the 'Longside Players focused on the promotion of independence of disabled persons. The Players supplied an outlet for disabled persons to experience theatre. The theatre group provided employment opportunities to those on welfare or unemployment insurance with funding for the group's activities coming from various sources including federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. Participation in the theatre group acted as a therapy for many of the members, providing a source of self-confidence. The group also worked to alter negative stereotypes of disabled persons by demonstrating their capabilities on stage.

Interested in learning more about 'Longside Players?


Pride: Tommy Sexton

It is Pride week in Newfoundland and Labrador and what better collection to spotlight than the Tommy Sexton Collection (Coll-235)?!

Tommy Sexton (1957-1993) comedian, actor, writer, musician, dancer and ultimate creative spirit is known for his memorable CODCO characters. Many of us have vivid memories of Tommy as Nanny Hynes, Prince Charles, Marg, Duncan (or was he Jerome?), Barbara Walters, Tammy Faye Baker, Pee-Wee Herman, Little Minnie Wateracher, Capt. Picard (see below) to name only a handful. Tommy was multi-talented, spending a year (1974) studying dance at the Toronto Dance Theatre. At 14, he was the youngest member of the Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company. In addition to his work with CODCO (on stage and television) Tommy was also involved with short and feature films (Adventures of Faustus Bidgood, The Rowdyman, and A Whale for the Killing etc.) and other theatre (Two Foolish To Talk About, ) and television (The S and M Comic Book, A National Doubt, The Root Seller etc.) projects. Wonderful Grand Band is not the same with Tommy!

**Poster 516 from Coll-143 NL Performing Arts Poster Collection

In October 1993 Tommy publically announced his personal battle with AIDS. 13 December 1993 we lost Tommy to that disease. In 2006 the AIDS shelter in St. John’s was opened, bearing his name.

Interested in learning more about Tommy?

· See his entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia

· Check out the Archives and Special Collections' CODCO collection, come in and watch a few episodes and see him in action!

· View our Tommy Sexton Collection Coll-235

· Support the Tommy Sexton Shelter

· Watch Tommy-A Family Portrait, directed by Mary Sexton, a National Film Board production

**Poster 382A from Coll-143 NL Performing Arts Poster Collection


Sound Symposium--3 decades of experimentation

The Sound Symposium, is a biennial festival that takes place in and around St. John's in the summer that celebrates sound exploration and performance. Interested in attending this year's events? You may have already heard some of the Harbour Symphonies at 12:30 every day? Described as "inescapable," they are heralded as being "Sound Symposium's doorbell." Check out their informative website here. Interested in learning more about the sound symposium? The PAC houses a small collection (Sound Symposium Coll-394) of material that includes recordings from the 1984, 1986, and 1988 performances! There are more than 20 Sound Symposium posters in our handy poster collection (Coll-143)


Canada Day

July 1st is both Canada Day as well as Memorial Day here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Don't you wish you were in St. John's in 1982 for this celebration of film? It was a blow out "Burstday" and $3 entry for two films? What a steal!
1 July 1924 The War Memorial in St. John's was unveiled. Check out the Centre for Newfoundland Studies blog entry about this event.


Spring recitals

May and June in Newfoundland will not guarantee spring-like weather, but you are guaranteed a plethora of Spring Recitals. Students of all ages and abilities take to the stage to showcase their performance skills. Budding dancers, musicians and singers may take the stage for the first time, often igniting a lifetime passion for the perfroming arts. Every year the Arts and Culture Centres’ and other stages are a-buzz with thousands of dancers in a wide variety of styles including: Tap, Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Hip-Hop, Irish and Newfoundland Step, Highland, Bellydancers, Bollywood and the list goes on and on! Enjoy this poster for Sandra Blackmore School of Dance annual recital from 17 years ago. Search or browse the biggest online collection of performing arts posters (aka Coll-143) for your favourite recital.


Downtown St. John's Nightlife in the 1990s

Downtown St. John's 20 years ago was bustling with live bands, solo acts, dance performances, poetry readings, and the list goes on and on. How to know what's on the go? Luckily Moonlighting Promotions posted a great calendar of events happening in the downtown bars. What band were you going to see 17 years ago? Bung? Potatobug? Sheavy? Fur Packed Action? 1997 Festival of New Dance? Shy Mary at the Ship? A feed at Chucky's and catching Kathy Phippard's set at Calio's?
Have a stroll down 1990s George Street by browsing through the Moonlighting Promotions posters part of the Newfoundland and Labrador Performing Arts Poster Collection (Coll-143)


Farley Mowat, Canadian Author, dies at 92

Iconic Canadian author passed away 6 May 2014 at 92. Mowat's connection to Newfoundland and its people, wildlife and resources was incredibly strong. Three of his books relate to his 8-year residency in Burgeo:

The Rock within the Sea (1968)

The Boat Who Wouldn't Float (1969, Leacock Medal 1970)
A Whale for the Killing (1972)
Did you also know that Harold Horwood had adapted a radio play called "A Serpent's Coil" from an earlier work by Mowat? Curious about this script? We have thousands of Scripts in the Newfoundland and Labrador Script Collection (COLL-144) all arranged alphabetically.


In honour of Dance Week...

This week is Dance Week in the province and what better way to honour this fabulous week than a few photographs from the archival collection (COLL-164) of the infamous dancing master, hotelier, and fancy-dress maker Charles Henry Danielle aka "Professor."
Born in Baltimore in 1830, a regular visitor to St. John's Danielle relocated to St. John's ca.1885 where he held dance lessons and balls (fancy-dress parties). Also a restauranteur, Danielle settled in Paradise where he built the lavish "Octagon Castle" a resort hotel decorated in Danielle's eccentric splendour. In addition to its unique architecture the interior design was one-of-a-kind. Danielle put the glass casket he planned to be buried in on display and its design and fine satins and gold details was marvelled by many Octagon Castle no longer stands but the name Octagon Pond nods to Danielle's imprint.
In addition to his passion for dance and costume he was also an inventor. His use of shingles affixed to the backs of his cows to prevent rain water from diluting their milk was one his better-known and entertaining ideas.
For more information on Danielle check out the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador
Today marks the 112 year anniversary of his death. Danielle's body was laid to rest in the Church of England Cemetary on Forest Road in St, John's escorted by a public funeral procession.


What archivist are you?

Fun little quiz for my fellow archivists and all those wanna-be archivists!


Oh! You Nasty Nazi Man: Novelty March Song from Newfoundland

Songwriter from Newfoundland, A. J Dee wrote this little ditty in 1940. Who isn't tapping their feet to this catchy march song from WWII with lyrics like "Scuttler Adolphus" who can resist? Not much information can be found about the composer. These lyrics and musical score (MF-586) were donated to the Archives and Special Collections by Joseph R. Smallwood.


Anniversary of 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster

The 100th anniversary was yesterday. This short animated documentary called 54 by the National Film Board retells the story and incorporates some fantastic material from our archives, especially from the Cassie Brown Collection Coll-115


Looking Back to March 28 1990 (24 years ago)

24 years ago David Rudkin's Ashes made its premiere in by the St. John's Players. Mandy Joseph and Morris Hodder have been teaching drama and theatre in high schools. Avid local theatre buffs will recognize the other names on the poster! Check out more posters on our DAI.


Contact the Performing Arts Collection

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