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4-H Plays, Skits and Drama
4-H Boys at 1937 Illinois State Meet
4-H boys perform an original skit they created themselves at the 1937 Illinois State Meet in Urbana.
Cast of Berden 4-H Club 1936
Cast of Bearden 4-H Club of Oklahoma which won southern honors in 1936.

Historically, providing local 4-H clubs with ideas for entertaining their club members was an important service from the national level, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s. Often it was an expanded audience including parents, other family members, and the community at large.

The National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work (now National 4-H Council), pushed many of these efforts. The leader magazine, National 4-H Club News, carried promotions for short plays and skits in nearly every issue. The 4-H Handy Book, forerunner to the National 4-H Supply Service catalog, promoted plays, skits and drama. The National Committee often contracted with various writers and educators to create new plays and skits for 4-H audiences. National 4-H events - including National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago and the National 4-H Camp on the Mall in Washington, D.C. - often premiered these plays and dramatic presentations. When delegates and chaperones saw these plays and skits performed at the national events, they went back to their respective states and counties and replicated them in their own clubs, at local and state 4-H camps and at county fairs and achievement nights.

In addition to the plays written specifically for 4-H, the National Committee also promoted and sold other plays written for a wider audience, but appropriate for 4-H groups, as well.

We are fortunate to still have the scripts for a number of these presentations. They speak for themselves in conveying the history of this important part of 4-H. Some of the plays representative of the decades of the 1920s, 30s and 40s are described below in the same wordage as they were promoted by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work 70 or 80 years ago:

In addition to the many plays offered nationally by 4-H through the years, many 4-H clubs selected other plays on the general market, buying the scripts and putting on productions. There is little historic information as to exactly how broad this 4-H activity became but it can easily be estimated that hundreds, if not thousands of clubs put on one or more production each year. What a broadening experience this must have been for young rural boys and girls to successfully participate in these plays before live audiences in their communities and beyond. One can not help but wonder if any of these budding actors and actresses ever became successful in Hollywood or on Broadway. The decade of the 1930s seems to be the pinnacle for the 4-H plays and acting activities, however records show 4-H'ers performing plays in the years prior to 1920. Of course, the 1940s ushered in the years of World War II and much of the 4-H club effort was refocused to the war effort. Once the war was over, it seems like other activities may have replaced the 4-H play activities in many clubs and states.




4-H By Television and Radio by Mrs. Squire Parker, Needham, Indiana
Acts: 3
Cast: 14 characters

This play can be adapted to any club achievement day program. Circa. 1950. Distributed by National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

4-H Club Tackles Father by Pearl Holloway
Length: 30 minutes
Cast: 9 characters; 5 male, 4 female

To Tom Hollister, old-style farmer of the slack school, the 4-H Club activities of his children, Irene and Bill, are nothing but tom-foolishness, until he sees the new furnishings, made under 4-H Club auspices, with which they have brightened up the shabby farmhouse, and learns that Bill's new-fangled methods of hog raising have prize-winning possibilities. Then Tom listens more respectfully to tactful advice on ways of improving his run-down farm. Full of 4-H Club pop and enthusiasm. Published in 1938. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

A 4-H Beauty Shop by Mrs. Chas. A Martin Written in 1932 especially for 4-H clubs.
Cast: 8 characters

The scene is a fresh food shop and the theme is getting people to eat healthy, fresh foods. (Not sure why it is titled A 4-H Beauty Shop.) A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

A Mountain Jewel by Pauline Peoples
Scenes: 3
Cast: 6; 3 male, 3 female

A play in three scenes about a family that finally allows their son and daughter to join 4-H and share in some of the successes. Distributed by National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Achievement Day Festival

A short playlet produced in support of the 1919 Minnesota Achievement Day Festival, published for the benefit of Club Achievement programs. Script for the play appears in the October 1919 issue of Farm Boys' and Girls' Leader on page 16. Issues of the Farm Boys' and Girls' Leader have been digitized and appear in the Magazines section of the Print Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

All Four by Adena Joy
Acts: 1
Cast: 8; 3 male, 5 female
Length: 25 minutes

Easy to stage. Clever plot. Bright, witty conversation. Unusual. Shows why an all-around girl wins a popular boy's recognition as against five girl friends with narrow interests. Demonstrates the value of broad training to be gained in 4-H Club work. All Four was published in 1934 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Buddy Answers an Ad by J. C. McMullen
Style: Comedy
Acts: 1
Length: 40 minutes
Cast: 8; 4 male, 4 female

Buddy has a mania for answering ads - face cream, shaving soap, pills, and guinea pigs. His mother and father are kept busy answering the telephone and turning away agents who call to follow up buddy's letters. Finally, his mother, sister, and friends play a trick that cures him.

Cinderella at Home: A Good 4-H Play by Edith Setter 1930

Published by Eldridge Entertainment House, Franklin, Ohio

Cupid Advertises by Amy Clarke Bone
Style: Comedy
Acts: 1
Length: 30 minutes
Cast: 10 characters; 4 male, 6 female

A light, ridiculous comedy resulting from mixed want ads when uncle advertises for a housekeeper and nephew for a wife, and each interview the other's applicants. Circa. 1950.

Echo Hill Dramatized by Louise Burleigh Powell (former director of The Little Theatre League of Richmond, Virginia, and Edna Turpin, author of the book, Echo Hill).
Acts: 3
Cast: 14 characters; 9 male, 5 female

The story of the saving of a home; the mystery of a lost will; the brave and clever adventures of the young Meades. Echo Hill was published in 1933 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Educatin' Mary by Nellie L. Fischer Written and first produced as an argument in favor of higher education of country boys and girls.
Length: 25 minutes
Cast: 8 characters; 4 male, 4 female

Scene: Easy interior, a living room. Mary goes to normal school and learns interior decorating. It meant sacrifice for the parents but it proves a blessing to all. Not a "teachy" play, but a lively comedy. Published in 1924. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Elmer by Beatrice H. McNeil
Style: Comedy
Acts: 1
Length: 40 minutes
Cast: 9 characters; 3 male, 6 female

You must meet the Colliers - Jeanie and Janie, the beautiful twins; Mrs. Collier, sweet and motherly; Susan, poor Cinderella; and Elmer, the adolescent. You will get many a laugh from Elmer's lines, and you will sympathize with his youthful ideas and grow fond of him before the play is over. The twins are always considered first in everything, which displeases Elmer who has lots of affection for Susan. With his help Cinderella blossoms, and the way he accomplishes it makes for a genuine and sincere comedy.

Elmer Cleans Up by Paul McCoy
Style: Comedy
Acts: 1
Length: 25 minutes
Cast: 5 characters; 2 male, 3 female

Elmer aspires to write. He mysteriously gets the family to sign an agreement to allow him to use them as characters in a story, agreeing to give them each $10 if he sells the story. They sign, and he immediately gives them the money. He has already sold the story which creates a great stir in town but brings consternation to the family. Elmer has used the love letters of his father, mother, and sister as the basis for his story "Love, Yesterday and Today." A knock-out comedy for contest use.

Follow the Gleam by Ruth Sayre Bitter
Length: 15 minutes
Cast: 4 or more female characters

Althea didn't think she was following the Gleam, but when the Gleam appears she finds that the little helpful things she had been doing made her a follower of the "Gleam whose Chalice is the Grail." Presented at 4-H camp by a group of 4-H girls around 1937 or 1938.

French's Budget Plays by Samuel French 1947

Especially recommended for 4-H Clubs. (Samuel French, Inc., located in New York and California, continues to issue catalogs of plays but no mention of 4-H.)

From Man to Man by Howard Southgate

Written for 4-H Clubs. A drama of the history of communication - The cave man's beating drums, fire, medicine man, speech, Christianity, town crier, newspapers, postal service, carrier pigeons, telescope, heliograph, electricity, telegraph, telephone, wireless, radio. A fast moving dramatic spectacle. The episodes are short. Can be adjusted to any length presentation. Historically correct. Equal to 16 short plays. Number of characters is optional. From Man to Man was published in 1937 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and first presented at the annual banquet of the National 4-H Club Congress that year. A copy of the play s in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Good Cheer Valley by Mrs. Maggie C. Fry, Local 4-H Leader, Claremore, Oklahoma
Acts: 1
Cast: 9 characters

Money-strapped widow and her children move from the city to the country and among the hillbillies to make ends meet - and decide they like it. Distributed by National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Goose Money by Mrs. Carl Felton
Style: Comedy
Length: 25 minutes
Cast: 10 characters; 5 male, 5 female

A comedy where everybody is after Mother's goose money - the daughter wants a dress; th son a sweater; Dad a bull calf; and Mother herself a new brooder house. But its finally spent on something quite different. A real play centering on the self-sacrificing mother who finally asserts herself. From a Collection of Wisconsin Rural Plays.

In Doubt About Daisy by Germaine Haney
Style: Comedy
Acts: 1
Length: 30 minutes
Cast: 6 characters; 3 male, 3 female

Mac and Honor bring Katherine home to the farm with them. To Mother, Katherine is just one more tie binding her son to the city when he should be farming; and she is just as eager to have Honor marry Herb, a young farmer. To show up Katherine as a helpless clinging vine, Mother and Dad slip away for a little vacation. To explain his parents' absence, Mac makes up a plausible story about a sick Aunty Daisy. Herb supposes Daisy is a sick cow, and this misunderstanding makes a riotously funny play.

Junior Rural Program Builder by Maude Arthur and Elizabeth Arthur 1941

Plays for 4-H Clubs and other youth organizations. Published by Eldridge Entertainment House.

King Row by H. E. Mansfield
Style: Drama
Length: 25 minutes
Cast: 7 characters;3 male, 4 female

An old checker player's efforts to move his piece into the king row takes on a tragic significance as he struggles to save his son "King" from a girl who typifies all that is trashiest in city life. From a Collection of Wisconsin Rural Plays.

Life Begins on the Farm by Pearl Holloway
Length: 25 minutes Cast 11 characters; 4 male, 7 female

A visit to the prosperous Duncan farm proves an eye opener to the Duncan's city relatives, the Lesters. The young Duncans introduce their delighted cousins to the joys of the local 4-H Club, and even snobbish Aunt Laurayne has to admit that life on the modern farm may offer just as many advantages for comfortable living and social intercourse as life in the city. Brisk and snappy. Published in 1938. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Members Love 4-H by Mrs. Carlo Kronenberg of Newfield, New Jersey
Cast: 16 characters

This playlet is short but actually 16 people take part in the script as it is designed for involving an entire club. The playlet might be used to inform new members, attract new members or just for the pleasure of telling about 4-H Club work. The entire script is printed in the August 1953 copy of National 4-H News starting on page 24. National 4-H News issues are digitized in the print archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Mother's Share, A 4-H Club Play by Mary Eva Duthie and Emma Dodson Nevin
Style: Comedy
Length: 20 minutes
Cast: 4 female characters

A 4-H Club comedy. You wouldn't exactly get lost in Marge's and Jean's bedroom, but you certainly needed to pick your way around carefully. Shoes, schoolbooks, clothes were all scattered about in a mess. Their mother frowns on the idea they bring home from the 4-H Club on constructing a closet to care for their things. "It's too much bother. You'll never be able to carry it through successfully," etc. In Mother's absence an opportunity arises to try out their plan. But what will Mother say when she returns? She says plenty at first, and the girls who have been so proud of their tidy room, are almost crushed. Then Mother repents and adds the finishing touch to their work in a charming ending. A fine play for 4-H Club girls or others, by two leaders in the Department of Rural Social Organization of Cornell University. Published in 1938. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

New Vistas by Mary Agnes Tynan

3 plays and prologue can be used as one play or three separate one-act plays. Each part tells the story of a famous painting.
"Girl at the Open Half Door" - artist Rembrandt;
Cast: 4 characters; 2 male, 2 female
"Landscape" - artist Segonzac;
Cast: 4 characters; 3 male, 1 female
"Tornado" - artist John Stewart Curry ;
Cast: 4 characters; 2 male, 2 female

These three short plays give us human interest stories about the artists and their paintings. Humor and pathos. Historically correct. Written especially for the use of 4-H Clubs and was performed at the annual banquet of the National 4-H Club Congress in 1935. Excellent material for art appreciation programs. It is hoped that rural youth will come to have a greater appreciation of the color and beauty found in nature all about them. New Vistas was published in 1935 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

On the Go by A. W. Greer, County Club Leader, Middletown, Connecticut
Acts: 2

The club playlet, which describes a 4-H Club success story, is based on a real life story of a club of boys in one of Middlesex County's "back towns." The entire script for the play is published in the September 1919 issue of Farm Boys' and Girls' Leader beginning on page 8. Issues of Farm Boys' and Girls' Leader have been digitized and appear in the magazine section of the Print Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Our Club
Cast: 20-35 characters

A play for 4-H Club members first staged at the 19th National 4-H Club Congress in 1940. The presentation is patriotic but rather complex including a narrator, choir, color guard and a cast of 20-35 characters. Distributed by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Outwitting Public Opinion by Nora Miller, home demonstration agent, Olney, Virginia 1939
Style: Inspirational
Cast: 20 characters

A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Pig of My Dreams by Spranger Barry
Style: Comedy
Acts: 1
Length: 20 minutes
Cast: 6 characters; 3 male, 3 female

Jimmy is warned to move his Poland China pig out of the woodbox behind the kitchen stove before Jane and her parents arrive from the city. Jimmy, though eager to make a good impression, thinks the barn is too cold for the pig and so he leaves it in the kitchen without mentioning it. The nursing bottle arouses the concern of Jane's mother... has Jimmy been married before? Then, the love scene is interrupted with a soft "oink oink" which Jimmy tries to cover with a fit of coughing. Here is a delightful, refreshingly different comedy.

Plays and Stunts for 4-H Clubs by Ethel Rogers 1945

A collection of plays, pageants and stunts for the promotion of 4-H Club activities. The theme and plot of each play or stunt in this book deals directly with the aims and purposes of 4-H Club work. Each number is short, snappy, and actable.

Pleasing Plays of Country Life by Blanche H. Pickering and W. L. Miles

A charming collection for 4-H Clubs and other rural groups. It consists chiefly of one-act plays running from 10 minutes to one hour, with simple costumes and scenery. Most of the 4-H plays bring out some phase of club work such as poultry, pig and calf projects, camp cookery, sewing, home management, etc. Some of the familiar club songs are introduced. And fun? Yes, lots of it. Here are some of the titles: That Julie; Ten Minutes to Think; H Stands for Health; The 4-H's; Two 4-H Clubs Plan a Program; Bill Cooks Breakfast; Planners and Planters; Strikers and Workers; Careers and Tears; Farmers All; The Widow Brown's Hired Man; Across the Fence; The Cowboy Complex; Fumididdle; Farming at Green Acres; Out of the Rut; and more. Circa. 1938.

Point of View by Pearl Holloway
Length: 35 minutes
Cast: 8; 4 male, 4 female

"Millions for up-to-date farm machinery but nary a cent for an electric washing machine" is Farmer Hodgson's watchword; and his indignant family are up in arms about it. His wife seeks the means of modernizing the farm home through the money-making activities of the farm women's clubs and broadcast her work over the radio. Finally Farmer Hodgson's spinster sister talks turkey to him, and he sees the light. (Interesting social issues play promoted by 4-H Supply Service in late 1930s.)

Rhythm 'Round the World by Josephine Larkin. A musical folk-lore program consisting of folk dances, tableaux, and songs. Written especially or the use of 4-H Clubs. It was first presented at the annual banquet of the National 4-H Club Congress in 1936. Contains narration, music, description of dances. Illustrations of costumes in color.

Short Cut by Marcia B. Cox
Style: Comedy
Length: 10 minutes
Cast: 2 males

The loyal kid brother sets up fake detour signs to help business so his brother, a football star, can return to college. A traffic cop catches the boy but helps him out. From a Collection of Wisconsin Rural Plays.

Sons of Soil
Style: Drama
by David E. Lindstrom
Length: 25 minutes
Cast: 8; 4 male, 4 female

One brother stays on the farm, the other goes to college, and both love the same girl! Their resentment is increased by interfering neighbors and rises to intense drama. From a Collection of Wisconsin Rural Plays.

Spirit of American Music by Morris A. Epstein and Louis Bachmann

This musical dramalogue was first staged at the annual banquet of the National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago in 1934. The complete presentation is available in outline form. The presentation was published in 1934 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the musical drama is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Sunbeams - A Kansas Bread Club Play by Alene Hinn, Kansas Assistant State Club Leader.
Cast: 6 female characters

They make good bread in Kansas... the Kansas wheat bread has become famous and club girls are to a great extent responsible. Hence, Miss Hinn wrote a bread club play for the girls in the bread project. Cast of six characters. The entire script appears in the June 1922 Boys and Girls Farm Leader beginning on page 2. The Farm Leaders have been digitized and appear in the magazine section of the Print Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The Arrival of Club Work by Mrs. L. E. Kemp, New Hampshire

The short play consists of thee
Cast: Farm Child, Club Work and 4-H's. The concerns of young farm boys and girls going off to the cities rather than staying on the farms... 4-H to the rescue. The script is presented in its entirety in the May 1921 Boys and Girls Farm Leader on page 9. The Farm Leaders has been digitized and issues are available in the magazine section of the Print Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The Better Way

A playlet telling the story of 4-H success, a true-life story of a young man who found the truth in the old statement, "It isn't where you look that counts, but what you see when you look there." Undated. Distributed by National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The College Chest by Mrs. P. S. Read
Acts: 3
Cast: 11 characters

This three act play takes place in Central Missouri town. Distributed by National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The King was in His Counting House Counting Out His Money by Dorothy Emerson

A 4-H Club play for both younger and older girls. University of Maryland. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The Order of the Fifth H by Adena Joy
Acts: 1
Length: 20 minutes
Cast: 5 to 15 characters, males and females

Simple stage setting. Plot concerns the strange disappearance of a club boy's pig and exciting search in which a non-member, too poor to own a pig, comes under suspicion but proves the hero by rescuing the lost animal which he is given as a reward for his honor. The Order of the Fifth H was published in 1938 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The Quest by Margaret Lowry, Washington County, Maryland

A short pageant first used in 1936 at a 4-H banquet where many of the guests were not familiar with the 4-H club goals and program. It is suitable for any meeting of this character. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The Rejuvenation of John by W. D. Weger, Oklahoma

A short playlet involving a father, mother and three children discussing the merits of boys and girls club work. The entire script appears in the March/April 1919 issue of Junior Soldiers of the Soil starting on page 10. Issues of this publication have been digitized and appear in the magazines section of the Print Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

The Special Chair by Loraine C. Harned
Acts: 1, Scenes: 2
Length: 25 minutes
Cast: 7 characters; 3 male, 4 female

Fine farmer, loved his children, good citizen, and all that. But he was old-fashioned. Wanted the old home to be just like before his good wife died. Always had money for everything but to brighten up the house. Children threaten to leave. Old man heart broken. Then follows a series of events - imagine the pathos. The Special Chair was published in 1934 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and was a special feature of a national contest sponsored by The National 4-H Club Leader magazine. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Wall Flowers by Dorothy Emerson

A 4-H Club play designed to show that a girl who is lonely and unhappy can change her way of living by changing her daily habits of thinking. University of Maryland. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

When Old Songs Were New by Howard Southgate
Scenes:12; Can use one or several. Each a complete presentation.
Cast: 54 characters; A cast of 20 actors is sufficient, each doubling or tripling.

Each scene portrays events bringing about the origin of a famous song. Historically correct. Written especially for 4-H Clubs. Some of the scenes are - Yankee Doodle, Star Spangled Banner, Home Sweet Home, O Susannah, Dixie, Old Dan Tucker, John Brown, Casey Jones, On the Banks of the Wabash, America the Beautiful and others. When Old Songs Were New was published in 1938 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and first presented at the Annual Banquet of the Seventeenth National 4-H Club Congress that year. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Winnin' Pa by Georgene Mary Brameld
Acts: 1, Scenes: 3
Length: 25 minutes
Cast: 7 characters; 3 male, 4 female

A scream from beginning to end. Thrilling presentation from start to finish - with Aunt Mehitable who is "frugal, flighty, and fifty" and the final conversion of "Pa" that 4-H Club work is worthwhile. Winnin' Pa was published in 1939 by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Winning Club Members by Jessie Adee
Acts: 3
Cast: 9 characters

Shows the successes of belonging to a 4-H club, particularly to a couple of girls that were not exactly grateful for anything prior to the 4-H exposure. The entire script appears in the January, 1921 issue of Boys and Girls Farm Leader beginning on page 14. Issues of the Farm Leader have been digitized and are in the Magazine Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.

Youth Faces Tomorrow by R. W. Kerns, Rural Sociology Extension, The Pennsylvania State College
Cast: 6 major characters, 20-70 extras

The Pennsylvania State College. A pageant presenting the purposes and projects of 4-H Club work. Six major characters, plus 20-70 others can be used. A copy of the play is in the Plays and Skits section of the Books and Printed Materials Archives on the National 4-H History Preservation website.




National Contest Based on 4-H Play

In early 1933 the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work announced a nationwide contest centering on the play "The Special Chair." This play consisted of two acts and called for six characters, an old farmer, his son, two daughters, their aunt, and the home demonstration agent. The play was full of laughs and some tears, and told a valuable lesson in a subtle way. It highlighted the 4-H home furnishings projects.

4-H clubs were encouraged to put the play on in their local community and then write a report on how the play had helped their 4-H club in serving its members and the community. Reports had to be submitted to the National Committee by May 1 to be eligible for the cash prizes being offered. The winning prize for the successful club was $25... not a great deal of money, yet equivalent to nearly $500. today. There were also lesser amounts available for the second, third, fourth and fifth best reports.

The Northeast Scott 4-H Club of Bourbon County, Kansas was the first place contest winner. Two New York 4-H clubs from Chemung County, the Earnest Workers Club of girls and the West Hill Peppy Pluggers Club for boys combined their talents to win second place.

4-H'S Competitive Play Contests

While most of the plays produced and distributed by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work were designed to be used by clubs for sheer entertainment (with the exception of "The Special Chair"), some states created an impressive structure for clubs to compete in play and skit competitions. One such example, from over 75 years ago, is Wisconsin which is featured in an article in the January 1938 National 4-H Club News. The article is titled "Fun Before the Footlights," by Genevieve Tippett.

"'All the world's a stage' to 4-H'ers in dramatically-active Marathon county, Wisconsin, when spring comes. It is then that their fancies turn, but not lightly, to thoughts of play production preparatory to taking their part in the statewide dramatic tournament. For about 10 years, under the guidance of C. J. McAlevy, County Club Agent, they have been developing amateur Katherine Cornells and Leslie Howards in a series of plays selected from a list approved and submitted by the State Leader's office at Madison. This list is used by all participating counties.

"Early in the winter plays are chosen, casts selected, and actual work begun. 'Props' are gathered from far and wide - stage 'business' is evolved by coaches and actors - costumes designed - and last, but far from least, parts are studied until the lines are so firmly impressed upon the minds of the characters that they live the various sequences of the plot.

School for Coaches

"A kind of training school was held at Wausau just before dramatic work began last winter, and here the leaders and coaches were taught something of make-up and stage art by a former professional actor. They learned the proper procedure in making up the various character types, and exchanged ideas in stagecraft.

"In a great many cases, the coaches are instructors in local schools, though occasionally the 4-H leader will undertake to direct the club's theatrical venture. When a certain stage of perfection has been reached, the play is produced for a local audience in the school building, community center, or some such gathering place. This gives the young folks valuable experience and furnishes an opportunity for them to 'get their bearings' and overcome the inevitable stage fright that comes with the first trip into the land of footlights and greasepaint, before entering actual competition. Many times, too, the club is able to enrich its treasury by such local showings and buy the few things needed for future performances, such as make-up and smaller properties.

"During the late winter local or district elimination contests hold the spotlight. Marathon county, like many others, is divided into four districts, and in these four are some 18 or 20 clubs which take part in dramatics. The winning club from each district is eligible for the county contest.

Choose Same Play

"And so, on a rainy April night last year the J.O.G. 4-H Club from Mosinee, Athens 4-H from Athens, Valley View Club from Wausau, and Colby 4-H from Colby gathered in the Wausau Y.W.C.A. Auditorium with thumping hearts to present their bit of historic art. Coincidental was the fact that from the list of 73, the Mosinee and Wausau groups had chosen the same play, 'His Just Desserts,' and the Athens and Colby clubs both selected 'The Howl of the Wolf.'

"The first play, a light comedy, was set in the living room of a cabin at a summer camp, and six characters, three girls and three boys took part. The latter was a folk play, dealing with superstitious mountaineers whom the county nurse endeavored to convince of the value of education, and also had six characters, two boys and four girls. An excellent opportunity was given for study of character development in seeing each of the plays twice. Musical numbers were furnished between plays by the Colby High School 4-H members.

"The Athens group was very superior in its production of 'Howl of the Wolf,' in which the cast mastered the mountain dialect and carried out their character portrayals like professionals. Second place was taken by the Wausau Valley View club for the pep and snap put into 'His Just Desserts.' Local people, interested in the activity, acted as judges, and advertising was taken care of by the Wausau Record-Herald, other county newspapers, and radio station WSAU. The Athens group was named to represent the county in the State Contest where a cast was chosen to play at the State Fair.

Are Well Attended

"Approximately 5,000 folks from all parts of the county saw the four plays in the several times each was given. For them the 4-H dramatists provide entertainment that they enjoy, for it takes them from their daily routines into a land of make-believe. Wausau audiences laugh with the book-worm Oscar and the tricks played by his ludicrous friends in 'His Just Desserts,' and they shed a few tears with the pathetic 'Griefie' and her pleadings for the nurse to 'well her' in 'Howl of the Wolf.' They forget their own trials and live in the world created by the company of young players.

"'We are firmly convinced of the value of drama in our club program,' states Mr. McAleavy. 'It teaches the boys and girls to work together, aids in creating acquaintances among groups and individuals throughout the county, provides valuable experience in appearing gracefully before the public and helps the young folks to be good losers and good winners. The drama work also furnishes wholesome and interesting leisure activity during the long winter months, and it widens the interest of local people in what clubs are doing. On the whole, its value to the club member as an individual and the community as a whole cannot be stressed too much."


Principal author: Larry L. Krug








Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.


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