By Aurand Harris.
Cast: 3m., 4w., plus extras for vaudeville entr'actes. A Toby Show brings back to the stage an American folk character of Toby, a country bumpkin who through naiveté, honesty and homespun humor outwits the city slickers. Toby is a great role for an energetic actor. The play is a colorful segment of American drama. This farce melodrama recreates traditional situations and stock characters through jokes and stage business. Starring in Cinderella, Toby enacts a comic variation of the fairy godmother. With music and specialty numbers, the production excitingly evokes the joy of experiencing an authentic example of American folk theatre, fitting for children of all ages. Costumes are American upper- to working-class clothing from 1915. One int. set. Approximate Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
In his twenties, Howard Lindsay, later a celebrated writer, actor and director, got plenty of experience onstage when he was cast in a traveling tent show in the early 1900's. These were shows that played in small towns across the country. He had ten days to learn six parts as the leading man.
"Being cast as the leading man was not as impressive as it sounds. Jack Percy's bills were all "Toby" shows. The Toby was a character peculiar to rural American theater in the early part of the Twentieth century, although he may have appeared earlier than that. He was portrayed not as an out and out clown but as a good natured yokel, complete with red wig and farmer clothes. When things go wrong, it is Toby who straightens them out. When the hero and heroine find themselves in danger, it is Toby who rushes to the rescue. The leading man hardly scores. Howard in that role found he could score even less when he was informed that when Toby (played by the manager Jack Percy himself) came onto the stage, all the other actors were expected to "fade" (a tent show term for underplaying). The rest of the time they could overact and yell their lungs out, which they did. Jack Percy, secure in his position as boss and "Toby" player gave some good advice for anyone appearing in his sort of show. Realizing that Howard's acting was too legitimate, he told him that the "man with the biggest gun and the loudest voice is the hero"."
"Howard had a busy eight weeks. In addition to having him play six leads, every afternoon Percy would drive him in his open touring car around the main streets and squares of every town, so that he could ballyhoo through a megaphone. "Great show at the Big Tent tonight." When he wasn't on stage, he was obliged to put on a white coat and sell Cracker Jack through the audience."
And kids today think they multi task. Phooey! They don't have any idea what kind of multi tasking they could do if they had to.
"Excerpt from LIFE WITH LINDSAY AND CROUSE.