The Historical Marionette Theatre
One of the most wonderful memories of Graland graduates even older than I is the Marionette Theatre.
Thanks to Nancy Nye Priest, we have a glimpse into this “once upon a time” tradition:
“In the early days of Graland, the history program was the core around which most of the academic work was focused and things pertaining to history enlivened the daily lives of Graland children each and every day. In keeping with this idea, Miss Nelson asked George Nye to begin a marionette program which would research costumes, props, and scenery and put on plays with a historical background to enhance even further the feeling of living in another age, either Medieval, Roman, Greek, or whatever.
“It soon became evident that even though everyone was enjoying the program, there was just no place to house it. Classrooms and the Little Theatre always seemed to be needed just as a show was about to be set up. The problem was solved by a Graland parent, an officer of the Tramway Company. He gave the school two bright yellow, old street cars which were set up in a T shape on a lawn east of the school. The top of the T was used for the stage with two wings on either side of the stage to be used as a backstage and workshop. The other part of the T was used for seats for the audience. Everything was set, and the marionettes began again, but we had forgotten one important thing: heat. In those days, potbellied stoves could easily be purchased from Montgomery Ward, and one was soon installed along with a supply of coal. Although most children lived in coal-heated houses, they had little experience with potbellied stoves. It was exciting to maintaining heat in such an apparatus.
“Just as everything seemed in order, a phone call from irate neighbors came, “Get those hideous yellow monsters out of our sight! . . . You are destroying the value of the neighborhood with those street cars.” The complaints were very strong, and finally some people threatened to sue if something wasn’t done. At the time, Mrs. Nye was much involved with the. . . theater at the University of Denver. . . A friend of hers in the scenery department. . . helped to transform the street cars into a charming, tiny, gray and green building complete with landscaping. The neighbors calmed down, and the historical plays with marionettes continued until the Second World War put an end to such things."
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.