The Haverstock family tent show
Theatre historians more and more are coming to acknowledge a heretofore unsung chapter in American theatre historyâ€”the tent show. For the first half of this century, groups of dedicated and often self-styled troupers loaded their props, costumes, seats and canvas tops onto horse-drawn wagons, trains, and. eventually, trucks, to forge their way into the hinterlands of America, where they performed for people who would otherwise never have experienced theatre. This popular form of entertainment reached its heyday during the 1920s, and began its decline during the Depression of the 1930s, until it became virtually extinct by the late 1950s. The Haverstock family tent show belonged to this movement
The Haverstock show was a small show playing small towns. However, for the people of these towns, the coming of the tent show each year was a special event, so much so that the Haverstock show became not only the source of an evening's entertainment, but a veritable institution in the life of the communities they visited. They shared the people's homes, their church services, their bad times and their good. They ate in the local restaurants, brought their soiled linen to the town laundress, and bought their supplies at the general store. When a tornado hit the town, the Haverstocks lost their tent at the same time the 'towners" lost their roofs.
The Haverstocks first raised their canvas in 1911 and performed continuously until they closed in 1955. Even when most shows were closing during the Depression and later when modern technology threatened their existence and a second world war drained their ranks, the Haverstocks continued to operate, often not even closing during the bitter winter months, as was the practice of most rep shows.
Many tent shows developed into extensive enterprises, such as the Harley Sadler Show, the Schaffners' Show and the Brunk Brothers. Several books have been written about these shows. But many of the canvas theatres were small, family-owned ventures, and they were no less successful than their larger counterparts in contributing to the annals of theatre history. One of these small repertory ventures was the Haverstock family tent show. The purpose of this study is to examine the Haverstock family tent show as representative of these small tent shows.
This study traces the history of the origins of the tent show founded by Harvey Haverstock, examines the reasons for the longevity of the show, and reviews the tent show itselfâ€”from rehearsals to advance advertising to a typical evening's performance. Maps indicating the routes traveled over the years, photographs, and memorabilia from the Scrapbooks will be inserted throughout the text.