The following is the manuscript of a 1961 term paper for a drama class at Sacramento State College. I researched and wrote a history of the first five years of JayRob’s existence. It has become the catalyst for Phil, Diana and me to re-create the full 17 season history of JayRob. Feel free to add any comments or information relevant to the material presented.
THE JAYROB THEATER of SACRAMENTO
Dr. Carl Thomas
June 1, 1961
On November 17, 1956, a new drama group made its initial bow into the Sacramento theatre scene in the Theatre Studio Playhouse at 1513 – 18th Street, to a highly responsive audience. This successful opening was just a slight indication of what was to become the most successful little theatre group to enter the domestic scene in many years. The name of the group is JayRob, and after five seasons of performances, is still active and growing. The product of the combined efforts of many talented people, JayRob is essentially a father-son effort, conceived by Justus Wyman and his son, Robert Wyman.
To understand the full effect of JayRob and Sacramento theatre life, it is best to start at the beginning, and the beginning starts in 1908.
Justus Wyman was born February 20, 1908, and started in show business during his sophomore year at Richmond Junior High School, in Richmond, California, doing a comedy dance routine, as “Spark Plug,” the comic horse. From 1924 through 1926, he worked as a member of a dance team, with which he toured the vaudeville circuit on the west coast. The next two years were devoted to writing and directing reviews and sketches and appearing as a second black face comic with an orchestra leader. From 1929 through 1932, Justus wrote and produced sketches at the Wigwam Theatre in San Francisco. These productions consisted of two comedians, a straight singer, and a number of other principles who were drawn from a line of girls. It was during this time that he originated and produced the first bingo shows in motion picture houses. These shows consisted of stage entertainment, blackouts, and bingo as a packaged feature. In 1935, Justus was stage manager and assistant director at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco. During the next five years he wrote and produced several series of radio programs in San Francisco and wrote, produced, and directed two original plays which were performed in San Francisco, Menlo Park, and San Rafael. In 1945 and 1946 he wrote and published two books, one a child’s book entitled “Mr. Pimney,” and the other, a novel, “Gabriel.” From 1947 to 1950 he produced and directed over six plays for McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento. He coordinated a television series for KCCC TV in 1953 and 1954 and originated and produced the series “These Are Your Neighbors” for Channel 10, in Sacramento.
Alice Wyman, Justus’ wife, was born Alice Frankel on March 23, 1909. At the age of fifteen she was a ballet dancer with Theadore Kosloff troupe in San Francisco. The next year, she and her two sisters formed a singing and dancing act and played in vaudeville on the west coast. In 1926 she was in practically every dance contest sponsored in San Francisco and won every Charleston and Varsity Drag contest she entered. During the same time, she had a job singing for the Villa Moret music publishing company, singing the hit songs for the customers.
In 1926, Alice was a singer and dancer with the Olson and Johnson show, and toured the Orpheum circuit with such names as Ray Bolger, Bill Demarest, and many others. The following two years, Alice was with a package show giving Vaudeville and motion picture theatre presentations at the Fox Theatres in San Francisco. One group was Franchon and Marco. In 1929, she played the soubrette in a musical comedy company at the Wigwam Theatre in San Francisco and danced solo engagements for clubs and special groups.
On May 7, 1928, Alice Frankel gave up her career to become Mrs. Alice Wyman, and a year later, on May 5, 1929, gave birth to Robert Wyman. Their second child, Shirley, was born three years later, and although she is not directly connected with the staff of JayRob, she has managed to work on a great many of the productions in between giving birth to three children.
Robert Wyman started his professional career in theatre in 1936. A young man, theatrically speaking, he has an outstanding record of achievements. He has acted in approximately 80 different shows, directed about 100, and designed sets for over a hundred shows, and also has worked as a professional stagehand in over one hundred shows.
Bob has directed at Sacramento Senior High School, Sacramento Junior College, Sacramento State College, Wilma Murphy’s “Children’s Theatre of the West,” as well as the United Nations Pageant, and of course, JayRob Theatre. His radio work includes local radio stations KXOA, KFBK, KROY, and KCRA, as well as the programming department of the McClatchy Broadcasting Company.
Bob started his career in the Federal Theatre in San Francisco, being paid fifty dollars a week to act in “No More Frontier,” which ran for three months. He then went into radio stations KYA, KSFO, KFRC and KGO in San Francisco, acting in drama serials. In 1941 his family moved to Sacramento and he worked in the radio program “KFBK Goes to School,” for two years. From there he concentrated on getting his experience in extensive work in high school.
In 1947, Bob entered Sacramento Junior College and proceeded to act in four plays, “Male Animal,” “Twelfth Night,” “Macbeth,” and “Dover Road.” He wrote three variety shows, directed two of them, and starred in one. In 1949 he left Junior College for Sacramento State College and acted in “John Loves Mary,” “Merchant of Venice,” “East Lynne,” “Adding Machine,” “Ah Wilderness,” and “As You Like It.”
Bob received his B.A. Degree at Sacramento State College, then went on to get his M.A. Degree at the same college. He has taught drama at the Theatre Studio Playhouse for one summer, the Eaglet Theatre for one semester, and was a student teacher at Sacramento Junior College for one year. He taught drama for two summers for Sacramento State College and has a regular teaching position at Sacramento Senior High School, where he has been for the past six years.
The idea of beginning a new theatre group was brought into focus by the father and son combination, both of whom had had a great deal of experience and the knowledge required to undertake such a project.
The idea of starting a new theatre group was succeeded by several questions. What will the name of the company be and what type of shows will it produce? When and where will the productions be staged? Where will they obtain their actors and stage crews? How will the staff be composed? These questions and their answers are the things which had to be taken into consideration before any actual presentation of plays were to be made. They formulate the concept of JayRob.
The name of the company was decided to be JayRob. The reason for this choice is a simple one. Since this production company is a father and son effort, the name of the company ought to support this. So the first letter of Justus Wyman’s first name was taken and used to form a syllable, ‘Jay,’ and the first syllable of Robert Wyman’s first names added to it, forming the name, ‘JayRob.’
What type of play should be presented? Since the two Wyman’s had been in almost every type of theatre venture, they felt they had a well founded background and knowledge of the type of entertainment to which the audience would most eagerly respond. They also decided that the type of productions which they would produce would not be an attempt toward the so-called fine theatre art, but an effort to make people laugh and to leave the theatre with a feeling of complete enjoyment. If, in the meantime they accomplished what could be termed ‘fine theatre,’ then this would be wonderful. Their main objective, however, and it must be remembered, is to entertain people. The decision, then, was to get the rights for the Broadway hits as soon as possible after they finished their Broadway run and to produce them in Sacramento with as professional an attitude as possible. Each play was handled in the old-time stock tradition of rehearsing for only two weeks before putting it on.
Where will they obtain their actors? Having a close relationship with people in radio and television, as well as people in stage theatre, JayRob was not at a loss for good actors. They did realize, however, that at some future time, the amount of actors whom would be readily accessible for the plays might not fit the parts. They decided then to have mass readings periodically in order to find persons who could play these character roles, and also to find new leading or straight actors. From these mass readings, they would compose a list and classify each person under the character grouping in which he would fit.
How would the staff be arranged and who would fill the staff and crew positions? The decision made was that Justus would be the producer and Robert would be the Director. Alice would take care of the business involved with the box office, and therefore would be the business manager. Phil Bettens, an executive at Aero Jet General Corporation, would be stage manager and all other help as needed would be drawn from available sources.
When would the plays be presented? JayRob was new and because it was new, could not expect to put on plays each day of the week and expect to draw enough customers to pay for the cost of production. So they decided to produce their plays on Saturday nights, for an indefinite run. They planned to run one play for as long as the crowds warranted it and then to close one night and open the following week with a new production. With this plan, there would not be a lapse of time between productions, and the patrons of the theatre would begin to realize that there would always be something playing at JayRob on Saturday nights.
Where would the plays be presented? The selection of a theatre brought up several new questions to be answered by the Wymans. How much rent would the theatre group be able to pay? What size house and stage would be best suited for the purpose of JayRob? After carefully considering these questions and others, the Wymans decided on Elissa Sharee’s Theatre Studio Playhouse. The rental on the theatre is usually $25 per performance, but Elissa Sharee, as a gesture to help JayRob get started, rented them the theatre for only $10. The theatre was a small one, able to accommodate only about 150 persons, but it was sufficient for JayRob’s purpose. The theatre had been at its location at 18th Street between O & P Streets for some time, so that at least some of the patrons would be familiar with it.
JayRob finally had the answers to the primary questions of the concept. Feeling confident that they had their best judgment, they plunged into their first season.
THE FIRST SEASON
“One of the best little theater groups to come on the local scene recently may well be JayRob Producers, featuring Sacramento working people in Saturday night comedies. The basis for this observation is the current offering of ‘Oh Men! Oh Women!’.”
“JayRob productions, a new local drama group, made a highly successful initial bow in the Theater Studio Playhouse Saturday night with a funny production of a funny play, Edward Chodorov’s ‘Oh Men, Oh Women’.”
Statements like the above by Patty Merz and William C. Glackin, respectively, were expressions of the beginning of a very successful opening season for JayRob.
Taking parts in the comedy were Rhoda Fischell, Bill Furnell, Robert F. Fischell, Diana Lions (who, a few seasons later, was to become Mrs. Robert Wyman), J. Franklin Davis, Jean and Mercer Runyon, and Phil Bettens. The play deals with a psychoanalyst who, on the eve of his marriage, discovers that his fiancée has a knack for driving men into nervous breakdowns. The play, which opened November 17, 1956, for an indefinite Saturday night run, closed after five weekends, and the next production, ‘Seven Year Itch,’ opened the following Saturday, December 8, 1956.
Featured in the cast were John Ickes, as the man with the ‘itch’ and Diana Lions as the ‘girl upstairs.’
Said William C. Glackin in his review column for the Sacramento Bee, “JayRob productions, the new local drama group formed by Justus and Robert Wyman, continues on its merry way in engaging fashion in ‘The Seven Year Itch,’ the George Axelrod comedy which opened Saturday night before a full house at the Theatre Studio Playhouse.”
JayRob scratched the ‘itch’ on January 26, and because they were unable to find a leading lady for their next scheduled play, ‘The Moon is Blue,’ they opened the following Saturday with ‘The Tender Trap.’ This play was the first to be produced with the label of ‘an indefinite run.’ Scheduled for a run of six weeks, it was extended to eight, and starred John Ickes and Mercer Runyon, with Joanne Blomberg, Diana Lions, Betty Anderson, Caroline Wiley, Jim Wahl and Robert Wyman.
Glackin, in his ‘Critic’s Corner’ review, had this to say: “Judging by the reaction of the audience at Saturday night’s opening, JayRob Productions has its third comedy hit in a row in the ‘Tender Trap.’.”
For its fourth production, JayRob reverted back to its policy of an indefinite run and opened with the Northern California premiere of ‘The Little Hut,’ a French farce about three britishers; a man, his wife, and her lover, all shipwrecked on an island with a native.
Jim Arnold, in his review for a local paper remarked, “Doubtless the phenomenon of the season in Sacramento theater is the remarkable success of JayRob Productions, a father-son venture by producer-director team Justus and Robert Wyman, which continue to put a strain every Saturday night on the seating capacity of Theater Studio Playhouse, a cozy little brick hall among the 18th Street apartment houses.”
A cast of four included John Ickes, Joanne Blomberg, Bill Andrews and Mercer Runyon. After an eight week run with packed houses, ‘The Little Hut’ closed.
JayRob’s final play of the season, ‘Janas,’ opened May 25th for a six week run with a husband-wife team, Carl and Del Yocum, taking the leading roles. Also in the play were Ogden Miles, Caroline Cooke, and Tom Winston.
About the production, Glackin said, “… the play … is a steadily amusing piece with a good many solid laughs and Justus Wyman has staged it with some talented, well chosen people.”
In the show, one of the gags of the play was putting a typewriter, papers, books, and a man into a dumbwaiter in the shortest possible time. Things went fine until one performance when the girl stuffed all the junk inside, including the man. When it came time to open the dumbwaiter door, it jammed. She beat on it with her hand – and so did the fellow inside. Fortunately, someone backstage reached in behind him with a crowbar. The door flew open like a shot and the concealed lover made a relieved, but very surprised entrance.
At the conclusion of the season, Justus Wyman declared his pleasure with the venture in a quote to the papers that, “for 34 weeks, Sacramento theater goers have climbed the stairs to the Theater Studio Playhouse and by their return and applause have given their stamp of approval to JayRob.”
THE SECOND SEASON
The second season marked the innovation of more concepts for JayRob. First of all, they decided to set their performances for runs of eight weeks. Another was the season ticket. This ticket cost $5 and allowed the holder to see four of the six shows at a savings of $1.60.
Their first production of the season, ‘Anniversary Waltz,’ which opened September 14, foiled JayRob’s first innovation, since it was such a smash hit, that it ran a record of 14 weeks. During this production, JayRob offered free tickets to all persons whose 15th wedding anniversaries fell on any of the production dates. In the review by Dan McGreel, it was expressed, “As far as I’m concerned, JayRob Productions has a hit on its hand.” Mr. Glackin wrote, “Anniversary Waltz set an all-time long run record last year in San Francisco, and JayRob Productions, the local drama group which this weekend opened the comedy for a run of eight Saturdays, could keep it around for a long time, too.” In the show were Mercer and Jean Runyon, Bert Graham, Joanne Carver, Dave Baldwin, Linda Hinman, and a supporting cast of six. After the first eight weeks the Wyman’s decided to extend the run because of public demand. Because of this, some of the actors had to drop out because of other engagements. Carolyn Rosqui stepped into the part enacted by Linda Hinman, Tod Argante took over David Hunter’s role, and the same week, Dick Baldwin, a young actor of growing merit, stepped into the part played by his brother, Dave Baldwin, in two days’ notice, when Dave came down with a broken nose. The next to last presentation of the play was held in the California Junior High School because of lack of ample seating capacity.
On December 21, JayRob opened its second production, “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?,” after a long search for a leading lady to play the Jayne Mansfield role. In Mark Curtis’ Reno Tahoe Dateline column on the subject of searching for the femme lead, he wrote, “If you measure up – rather if your lines – that is if you can fill – there’s no way to say it, but you know what I mean.” Dan McGreal must have known also, as he reviewed the show by saying, “The strength lies in Jeanie Ball’s luscious imitation of J. M., the blond baby doll whose walk took the glitter from the Oscar.” In the play were Jeannie Ball, Eddie Gish, and Mercer Runyon, plus a supporting cast of five, one of whom was Norman Roundtree, playing the role of a muscle-bound character who was thrown out the window every performance. Throughout the run he was picked up and tossed through a narrow window, doing an acrobatic roll in a very confined space—with no injury. On stage, however, while standing still, a rolling chair hit him from behind, nearly throwing him into the audience, and cutting his forehead on the edge of a desk. Near the end of the run, JayRob offered an additional Friday night performance of “Success” and closed the following Saturday, February 8.
JayRob’s next play consisted of a family of witches, a magical cat, an amorous boarder, and a drunken author. Filling the roles were Bill Furnell as the boarder, Joanne Blomberg as one of the witches, Mal Campbell and Caroline Cook, as her brother and aunt, respectively, Warren Ramsey as the author, and Ching as the Siamese cat, Pyewacket.
Dan McGreal reviewed the play for a local paper by reassuring the readers, “If the idea of another play about witches turns your hair or sends it upright, change your idea. ‘Bell, Book, and Candle’ will put a spell on you; the most delightful, invigorating spell you’ve had in many a moon.” The play ran for six weeks and on March 29, gave way to the opening of the long-awaited ‘Moon is Blue.’
In taking a year to find the properly naïve girl for the role, JayRob chose April Smith, who received her training at the State College. Also in the cast were John Ickes as the lecherous roué, Harry Martin (known to local television viewers as Captain Sacto) as the young architect, and Robert Conger, as the irate father of the girl.
At the end of the play, the players took bows from behind the parapet wall atop the Empire State Building. From the audience’s point of view, this was quite in keeping with the play. From the backstage point of view, it was ludicrous. Here stood two men in shorts and bare legs, but dressed from the waist up. The scene was so rapid, neither had time to dress fully before taking the final bow so Bob Wyman rigged up the bows behind the wall.
In producing ‘The Moon is Blue’ for a run of five Saturdays, JayRob altered their policy in adding three Friday night performances. With these extra production nights, the play was still so successful that it was extended for two extra Saturdays and one Friday, finally closing on May 24th.
The closing of this play marked the close of the second season and the end of a two year stay at Theatre Studio Playhouse.
THE THIRD SEASON
“JAYROB MOVES TO AUDITORIUM LITTLE THEATRE”
This was just one of the headlines marking the beginning of a three season stay at the little theatre of the Memorial Auditorium. Although the theatre had been turned down by other theatre groups because of its limited stage opening, the Wymans had the foresight to realize with a small amount of labor, the proscenium could be expanded an extra three feet by knocking out two hollow pillars. Other advantages of the theatre were its location, in a spot with which most Sacramentans were quite familiar, and only two blocks away from the city parking lot. The theatre had slanted floors for better viewing, and a balcony. The total seating capacity of the theatre was 290.
At the beginning of the season, JayRob again made moves toward new concepts. The admission price was raised to $1.80 per person and a season ticket was offered which would give six plays for the price of five. Also, the lengths of productions were set up for eight Saturday night performances for each play. With these concepts in line, JayRob opened on September six with their first production of their third season, ‘Champagne Complex.’
In the play were Del Yocum, as the girl who, whenever she drinks three glasses of champagne, disrobes; Ogden Miles, as her stuff-shirt fiancé, and Eddie Gish, as his psychiatrist Uncle. Also in the cast was Pamela, a little pooch who played the role of T.S. Eliot, the girl’s dog.
In his review, Mr. Glackin had naught but praise for the production and the cast. Concerning Eddie Gish, who played the uncle, he said, “… He reads laugh lines beautifully, he has the kind of physical control that means either much experience or great natural talent or both, and his timing, in both respects, is superb,” of Del Yocum, “(she) brings an effective sense of life and intelligence to the girl; this heroine is not just a doll, she’s bright and she has a temper. She also looks great in underwear. Finally Ogden Miles, in the most difficult role, makes the fiancé just what he should be—stuffy, … His work excels anything I have seen him do previously.”
During this production, the Dore Schary movie production came to Sacramento to film crowd scenes for their movie, “Lonelyhearts” which was to star Montgomery Clift, Myrna Loy, and Robert Ryan. JayRob was notified to engage the services of thirty actors to play walk-on parts in the movie. The shooting took less than two days, and everyone involved walked out with at least $20; some had as much as $50 for the day and a half’s work. ‘Champagne Complex’ closed its run on October 25 and on the following Saturday, ‘Cloud Seven’ opened with practically the same cast as ‘Anniversary Waltz’ of JayRob’s second season. Taking the leading roles were Jean and Mercer Runyon, Carolyn Rosqui, and Dave Baldwin. The supporting cast consisted of eleven other actors. The play was the story of one man’s revolution against the hum-drum existence of his day.
Dick Williams, in reviewing the play for a local paper, had this to say in his headline and column. “Cloud Seven Gets Away to Good Start With JayRob…The cast is large and it is capable.” He was quite impressed with Diana Lions, as he wrote that she “…probably turns in the most credible performance as Fiona Bostwick, the neighbor girl whose husband’s many hobbies have stolen the romance from their marriage.”
There were a lot of blackouts during the show, and actors were rehearsed to go in particular directions during blackouts, as scenery and furniture came on from opposite directions. On opening night, the director heard someone calling “help” in a whisper. He followed the voice and found Mercer Runyon pinned between two flats. He had turned the wrong way and in the blackout, the furniture and scenery had moved in, pinning him to the back wall.
The crew let him out and the play went on, closing December 20. The play which followed was quite a change from the large cast of the previous show. It starred the husband and wife team of Bill and Marian Sibley, playing the husband and wife, Michael and Agnes, in ‘Fourposter,’ a play spanning thirty-five years of married life. William C. Glackin wrote, “A two character play takes two very good performers to keep it interesting, and JayRob has them in William and Marian Sibley, two actors who are talented, experienced, accomplished, intelligent, and married.” The set was one of a very few which were not designed by Bob Wyman. Warren Hovious, in designing and executing the construction of the set, used a stencil pattern to create a wallpaper effect.
The Fourposter packed the audiences with near capacity audiences, the largest in JayRob’s history, for eight weeks, and closed February 14.
The next show was a change from ‘Fourposter’ in that the subject was not so much marriage, as it was divorce. A young divorcee, played by Joanne Blomberg, went to New York to get a college education because her husband left her for an intellectual female, and while in New York, finds that a fast talking salesman, played by Dean Borba, and a clothing tycoon, Tom Wilde, consider her ‘Fair Game’ which is the name of the show. The remaining cast of ten persons aided so much to the success of the production that it prompted Mr. Glackin to write, “This is also, however, one of the most solid collections of acting talent JayRob has had yet.” After eight highly successful weeks with this cast, ‘Fair Game’ closed.
‘Tunnel of Love’ opened April 18, and one of the leading roles was taken by Diana Lions Wyman, four months after her marriage to JayRob director, Bob Wyman. Eddie Gish and Mercer Runyon also starred, with Merle Hughes, Eileen Fishback, and Sophia Goritsan rounding out the cast. Bill Glackin wrote, “The Tunnel of Love is one of the happiest of all JayRob Productions – a funny play, a fine cast and an admirably polished production.” On May 16, the Sacramento Medical Auxiliary bought out the entire performance, and JayRob had no trouble filling the houses the remaining weeks. In the show, the leading man had to wear boxer shorts as he came on early in the first act without his trousers. Suddenly, just five minutes before the sixth performance began, he realized he was wearing a briefer type of shorts. Out front only one man had on boxer shorts – the house manager. So a hurried change was made. Later, when the actor appeared without his trousers, it looked quite incongruous. The actor was about 125 pounds while the house manager was a man weighing over 200. The house manager never thought he’d have to give up his shorts so the show could go on.
On June 13, JayRob opened its final production of the season with ‘Voice of the Turtle.’ The cast of three included Dean Borba, Joanne Blomberg, and Phylis Perry Warren. The play was more on the sophisticated comedy side of entertainment, and was reviewed by Mr. Glackin. He wrote more about the play than the production, but when he did slip things in, they were of praise. “Robert Wyman and his excellent cast ought to feel very good about the success of their production.”
JayRob closed their play and their season on July 18, with predictions of better things to come in their fourth season; one, their first musical.
THE FOURTH SEASON
The fourth season brought some new innovations to JayRob and its public. The plays were scheduled to play a run of seven Saturdays. Another innovation was the proposed new playhouse. It was to have a seating capacity of 252. Financing was to be accomplished by the sale of stock at par value of $1 per share. The location for the new theatre would be between the Sacramento Inn and the Sears, Roebuck store just north of Arden Way.
Another new innovation of the new season was the production of a musical, but more of this later on. Starting September 12, JayRob’s first production of the season was ‘Desk Set,’ a play which ran on Broadway with Shirley Booth and which was also made into a movie. Millie Sullivan, of Channel Three’s local ‘Valley Playhouse’ took the leading role alongside John Skordakis, Frank Delmar, and Marian Sibley. A supporting cast of eight rounded out the production. Norma Ricketts reviewed the play by writing, “The question of man versus machine was settled last night to the satisfaction of everyone who saw ‘The Desk Set’.”
It was during the run of ‘The Desk Set’ that JayRob opened its first musical venture since its beginning, ‘The Boy Friend.’ It was scheduled to play at 7:30 on Sunday evenings for an indefinite run, and featured the choreography of Mark Hertsens. Written by Sandy Wilson, it was a spoof of the gay 1920 era. Bill Glackin, in reviewing the show, was highly impressed, writing that “…JayRob, with the help of a fine bunch of talents onstage and off, has given it an excellent production – perhaps the proudest achievement in the history of this organization …” And Norma Ricketts wrote, “Usually a show builds up to a climax. There was no buildup here – the first scene set the pace for all that followed – a snappy sparkling pace which never let down.” Neither did the performances which played a record of thirteen Sunday evenings. Two reasons for the shows closing were that one member of the chorus had to enter the hospital for an operation, and the leading lady found that she was expecting a baby. Taking the leading roles in the show were Jack Finch, Eileen Fishback, Donna Ragan Bales, and Robert Wyman. The chorus consisted of Pam Akert, Karlene Jones, Dorothy Derania, Monte Montgomery, Harry Demas, and Dick Baldwin. Completing the cast were Alice Wyman, Robert Conger, Jan Bryant, Jerry Curry, and Carol Perea. The show ended its three month run with its final production on December 27, 1959.
During its production, two Saturday night shows opened and two closed.
The second Saturday night production, ‘Who Was That Lady I Saw You With’ opened on October 31, and featured Bill Furnell, Mercer Runyon, and Merle Hughes, with Victor Larson, Bonnie Cooper, Sherrill Fritschie, who had originally been cast in “Boy Friend” but had to drop out because of a fractured foot, and Dorothy Derania. Eight supporting roles rounded out the cast. The headlines for William Glackin’s and Norma Ricketts’ reviews respectively, summed up the show. “New Krasna Comedy has Fresh Lines, Rapid Pace,” “That Lady I Saw You With is Loaded With Laughter.”
‘That Lady’ bowed on December 12 to allow the third production, ‘Grand Prize’ to enter its run. This show featured Mercer Runyon and introduced Nancy Edwards and Don Hills, with a supporting cast of six. Of ‘Grand Prize,’ Norma B. Ricketts had this to say: “Mercer (Runyon) was the backbone of this show – he is an experienced actor and, as such, did much to keep last night’s opener together. It went off with such precision that it seemed almost mechanical.”
It was at the end of this production, JayRob produced what was termed a timely play, called ‘Make a Million.’ With the then recent uproar about Payola and T.V. show rigging, ‘Make A Million, which deals with these subjects, seemed a logical insertion.
Starring Tom Wilde, Doree Steinmann, Pamela Akert, and Bud Cary, ‘Make A Million’ had a supporting cast of thirteen.
Of the show, Norma B. Ricketts remarked, “…the satire is so cleverly carried out by such an outstanding cast, that the audience practically panics from the opening scene to the final tag line.”
It has been said that next to sex and baseball, conventions are the ‘Third Best Sport,’ and a convention was the theme of JayRob’s next production, starring Bill Furnell, Nancy Edwards, William Lagomarsino and Mercer Runyon. The remaining cast included Ruth Martin, Mauvra Baker, Clint Liles, Fred Bonetti, Jr., Jean Carver, Joe Rivas, and Geno Commottor. Conventions took the beating but, as Norma Ricketts pointed out, “It was a good-natured beating and an enlightening one…,” and William C. Glackin stated, “Justus and Robert Wyman have done a crisply efficient job of staging this show . . . . they have a talented bunch of actors to work with.”
It was during ‘Third Best Sport’ that the Wymans began to worry about the capacity of the house, as almost all of the performances were sold out before each Saturday night.
The last production of the season, ‘Drink To Me Only’, was even more successful than ‘Sport;’ this was due in the main by the timing talent of Eddy Gish. Bill Glackin’s opening paragraph concerning the show was that “Eddy Gish is delivering a brilliant and whoopingly funny impersonation of a man under the influence of an incredible amount of Scotch Whiskey in ‘Drink To Me Only,’ the latest offering of JayRob Productions, and the sight is worth the price of admission.” It was truly Gish’s show, but he was ably assisted by a fine supporting cast consisting of Mercer Runyon, Victor Larson, and ten others. It closed with the end of the season on June 11.
THE FIFTH SEASON
Early in the fifth season, JayRob went to work setting up more innovations. Their production procedures were altered to the point that each play would be produced for five weeks, with two performances per week, one on Saturday and one on Friday. The Friday addition was established to fill the demand for more presentation of a play during a smaller length of time.
It has always been publicized that JayRob was a family affair, and the first production of the season tended to support this. Produced and Directed by Justus and Robert Wyman, it starred the wives of the two men, Alice and Diana Wyman. Titled ‘The Girls in 509,’ the play concerns itself with two wacky recluses who have not left their room since Hoover lost the 1932 election. Also in major roles were John Skordakis, William Lagomarsino, and Fred Bonetti, Jr., plus a supporting cast of five. Philip C. Freshwater summed up his review in the headline “JayRob’s Girls in 509 Keep Hotel Buzzing and Audience Entertained.” The show opened on September 23, and closed after a five week run at their theater. During this run it was announced that JayRob had incorporated and would sell stocks for their theatre to the public, since they had already given their patrons the opportunity to invest.
‘Springtime For Henry,’ the second production on the slate for JayRob, opened October 29 with a four actor cast of Fred Bonetti, Jr., Nancy Edwards, Mercer Runyon and Suzanne Chase. After handing the cast what could be termed a verbal applause, Mr. Glackin, in his review, continued, writing “Even allowing for their (the cast’s) talent and experience, it seems likely that the crispness and bright pace of the show is also due in considerable measure to the direction of Robert Wyman.”
The play involved a man who makes love to his best friend’s wife and his friend, who is glad to get her off of his hands every so often. The kicker is when a beautiful blond secretary breaks up the romance, causing anger among all involved. ‘Springtime’ closed on November 26, making way for ‘Goodbye Charlie.’
The play starred Nancy Edwards as Charlie, a man reincarnated as a woman, John Skordakis, as his/her best friend who falls in love with him/her, and Liz Dokimos, as one of the wives with whom Charlie had had an affair. Completing the cast were Mauvra Baker, Victor Larson, William Lagomarsino, and Horace Arnold.
Sydney Rosen reviewed the play for one of the local papers, writing “John Skordakis…set the pace, for the quietly ribald humor which had the audience chuckling through most of the evening.”
The next production, ‘Marriage-Go-Round,’ opened on January 6, 1961, and proceeded to entertain packed houses for the next five weeks. Concerning a happy marriage of two professors, played by Millie Sullivan and Mercer Runyon, and a young Swedish girl who wants to borrow the husband of this marriage for some advanced experiments in human genetics, plus the amorous advances of a language professor, Bob Jumper, ‘Marriage-Go-Round’ was another Broadway first for JayRob.
About the play, Mr. Glackin wrote, “This is, in short, a highly effective production of a slick play about that laughable animal, man.”
On February 10, JayRob opened its fifth production of the fifth season with ‘Golden Fleecing,’ the story of two navy officers and a civilian electronics technician, who try to break the bank at Monte Carlo by use of an electronic brain. The show starred Eddie Gish, John Skordakis, Mauvra Baker, and Bob Jumper, with a supporting cast of seven.
William Glackin was impressed with the production and the set. “Wyman has also thrown up a really brilliant set on the little stage, full of glitter and color, one of the best he has ever done.” Concerning the performance of Eddy Gish, he wrote “Swinging like a happy manic depressive from deceptive mildness to exuberant confidence, shrewdly charming the admiral’s daughter and terrified that it might lead to wedlock, he is a deft performer and a steadily engaging one.”
It should be pointed out that a great deal of the funny lines of the show were delivered by Eddy, a very talented ad-libber. The play closed on March 11.
JayRob’s sixth presentation was a return to the two person cast, and a switch from the all-comedy type of play which they normally produced. Termed a comedy-drama, it starred Bill Furnell as a young lawyer divorcing his wife, and Elizabeth Huddle, in her first JayRob appearance, as Gittil Mosca, a woman with delusions of being a dancer. In noticing the change of style of the play, Mr. Glackin wrote, “Perhaps the most important thing about the success of ‘Two for the Seesaw’ … is that it demonstrates clearly that JayRob can please its audience with a serious play.”
Concerning Miss Huddle’s JayRob debut, Jim Meyers, critic for the Sacramento Union, wrote: “In the role of Gittil Mosca, Elizabeth Huddle reaffirms my belief that hers is one of the few genuine talents to be seen on any of Sacramento’s several stages.” The show closed on April 15.
JayRob’s next production was their first venture in an original play. Written by Justus Wyman, it was titled, ‘The Bees Are For the Birds.’ The cast was the largest in JayRob’s history, a total of twenty-two actors. The play was taken from a Thorne Smith theme and hoked up by insertion of an Olson & Johnson treatment, and put together in the manner of a revue without music. The story was about a playboy producer who finds out that he is going to have a baby. The play required a rehearsal period of three weeks to allow for changes in script, and used several blackouts to add to the fun of the play. It was a bit unrealistic in its plot, but as JayRob’s program stated, “So here we go on a merry – madcap – unrealistic – pursuit of fun. Any resemblance to reality is purely accidental.”
The cast included Eddy Gish, who, although the script was funny in its own right, livened it up even more with his tremendously funny ad-libs. Also starring were Mercer Runyon, Bob Jumper, Nancy Edwards, Fred Bonetti, Jr., and William Lagomarsino, plus a supporting cast, the list of which is too long to write. Philip C. Freshwater, in his review of the play, wrote, “What Justus Wyman and his friends have put together down in the Memorial Auditorium’s Little Theater is a lot of fun, even if it cannot be explained” It is not meant to be explained, for it was written as a play just for fun’s sake. It played the regular successful five week tenure and closed on May 20.
The last production of the season was ‘Maybe Tuesday,’ which opened on May 26, 1961. It starred Nancy Edwards and John Skordakis, probably the two busiest actors of the season on JayRob’s roster. Another two of the busiest who took major roles were Bob Jumper, and Fred Bonetti, Jr.; a supporting cast of nine completed the production.
Rod Kurry, reviewing the play for a local paper wrote that “Justus Wyman has assembled another strong cast … The set by Robert Wyman was executed in good taste and the lighting by Phil Bettens was ‘lovely’.”
During the season, the stock sales were discontinued with the plans of having the building put up by William Gannon, but with the plans also of reselling the stock at a later date.
Groundbreaking ceremonies began on May 19, and construction began the following Monday.
‘Maybe Tuesday’ closed its run ‘maybe Saturday,’ June 24 (this paper was written before the close of the show).
JayRob now looks forward to its sixth season with great anticipation, and many plans. On the boards for the coming season include the regular Friday-Saturday night performances, plus, by popular demand, they will bring back ‘The Bees Are For The Birds,’ and play it on Wednesday nights, this time using musical numbers in it. Other plans under consideration include children’s theater, and Avant Garde productions.
This is the history of JayRob. Beginning with an investment of $150, it has grown in five short years to a company in its own theater, a task quite noteworthy in this era.
All sources used for the writing of this term paper were of the primary source classification. Those persons whom I intervened concerning my subject were as follow:
Robert Wyman, Director of JayRob
Justus Wyman, Producer of JayRob
Alice Wyman, Business Manager of JayRob
Philip Bettens, Stage Manager of JayRob
Diana Wyman, Publicity Director of JayRob
Elissa Sharee, Manager of Theater Studio Playhouse
Other sources of material used were the following newspapers:
The Sacramento Bee
The Sacramento Union
The Sacramento News Shopper
The McClellan Spacemaker
Plus information as listed in the programs of the productions.