PEG O' MY HEART (1953)...
"Don, "Peg O' My Heart" was performed here from June 30 - July 5th, 1953 Anita"
"Summertime for New York actors in the 1950's meant summer stock. They spread out to rural towns and burgs where residents otherwise rarely got a chance to see live theater. In June 1953, Steven was cast opposite child star Margaret O'Brien, a onetime Oscar winner, who found little demand for her services as an adult, in the J.Hartley Manners turn of the century chestnut PEG O'MY HEART. Steven was her leading man. He listed himself as Steve in the program, the name he now preferred. On opening night stage fright got the better of him and he forgot most of his lines, leading him to think seriously about giving up acting and going back to being Steven."  {Steve McQueen, Marc Eliot pages 27/28}
"The recent death of Cloris Leachman (27th January 2021) called to mind the years when Broadway actors came to East Rochester to perform in Summer theatre." {Anita Mance}



"Don,  Love the photos.  During the early 1950s, when the Famous Artists Playhouse occurred in East Rochester, the performances were held in what was then our village high school auditorium.  In 1959, our new high school opened in another part of our village; and so the old high school became a middle school.  It is now called the T.L.R. Morgan Middle School and its address is 120 East Avenue.  Anita Mance, Historian"



{Auditorium in 1948}




"Don,The auditorium is still there. It is right off the lobby of the main entrance to the building as seen in your photographs. I am not sure what rooms were used for rehearsal. Anita"




In American theatre, Summer stock theatre is a theatre that presents stage productions only in the Summer. The name combines the season with the tradition of staging shows by a resident company, reusing stock scenery and costumes...

"The entrance would be the main entrance #2.  The tall windows to the left of the main entrance are for the auditorium.  We have no information in our archives about Steve McQueen, other than the program from the play in which he was a cast member.  What spurred my article in the first place was Cloris Leachman's biography and her mentioning Steve McQueen.  Then, when I looked at the programs we have from some of the Famous Artists series, sure enough there was Steve.  The article I wrote was part one of two articles.  The second was the Town and Country Musicals/Playhouse produced by ER school alumnus, Barry Tuttle.  Barry was an intern and later technical director for some of the Famous Artists plays. It was his sister who read the book on Cloris and found the information about Steve McQueen.   Anita"
"Don,  I have been reading your article a little at a time and noted a mistake.The former ER high school building was renamed the T. L.R. Morgan Middle School in 1979.  It was named for a former Superintendent, Theodore L.R. Morgan, who was superintendent of schools from 1932-1944.  The elementary school was named for a retired remedial reading teacher, Lois E. Bird, in 1980.  Miss Bird was a much loved teacher and very active community member.During 1979-1980 the elementary school had extensive renovations.When completed, it was decided to name the building in honour of Miss Bird who had retired in 1976. Now the two buildings are connected by a central office and have a single address of 120 East Avenue.They have retained their names, but are just referred to as Bird/Morgan. Anita "

Some smaller theatres still continue this tradition, and a few Summer stock theatres have become highly regarded by both patrons as well as performers and designers. Equity status and pay for actors in these theatres varies greatly. Often viewed as a starting point for professional actors, stock casts are typically young, just out of high school or still in college...


MAIN ENTRANCE from East Avenue...




The structure was to present different plays in weekly or biweekly repertory, performed by a resident company, generally between June and September. The usual fare consisted of light comedies, romances and mysteries. The theatres were located in rural areas. Touring companies would carry hand props and costumes to each venue, where sound, lights and set would be awaiting them...


Students took classes in acting, stagecraft, make up, and voice and if they were talented enough, they might be asked to appear in plays with the resident acting company. Additionally, many notable performers spent their Summers on the circuit. Plays and musicals that had closed on Broadway would play the circuit. By 1950, there were 152 Equity companies, including the Ogunquit Playhouse...
In 1980, the former High School on East Avenue was renamed the TLR Morgan Middle School...


Photograph Credit: Jim Lill
Credit: Jim Lill
Credit: Jim Lill
Credit: Jim Lill
Credit: Jim Lill
Credit: Jim Lill


"It all began in 1950 when the East Rochester Fire Department sponsored the Famous Actors Summer Playhouse, one of the earliest summer stock theatres in the state. Eight shows were presented in the High School on EAST AVENUE." [Anita Mance]





Rehearsing in the East Rochester High School...





"The Famous Artists series ran from 1950 to 1953. Actors who performed included Nancy Walker, Olivia De Havilland, Edward Everett Horton, Jerry Stiller...Ethel Waters and Margaret O'Brien. Sometimes, the plays were headed to Broadway. For the first three summers, Paul Crabtree was the managing director." [Anita Mance]








"George Englund came to East Rochester with Cloris Leachman, his bride of five months. Cloris had acted in other summer stock companies and Broadway."
{Anita Mance}






"The first play of the 1953 season was "Peg O'My Heart starring Margaret O'Brien.

As Cloris describes in her autobiography. the leading  man became ill and an unknown actor named Steve McQueen was named to play the part. Not used to stage acting, he was helped by Cloris in his acting role. Later that summer, McQueen was in another of the plays - "Member of the Wedding" with Ethel Waters. Local children had smaller parts." [Anita Mance]



"Well-known actors had the lead roles often stayed at the GREEN LANTERN INN in Fairport. Supporting actors of the permanent summer company frequently stayed at the homes of villages residents. Local people served as apprentices, including High Schooler BARRY TUTTLE. While Barry served as an apprentice in the early years, he gradually took on more responsibilities as Stage Manager and later Technical Director. He also acted in a couple of the plays." [Anita Mance]








{Personal note by Steve McQueen thanking for the support he received dated 7/5/53}


EAST ROCHESTER HISTORY COLLECTION has this scrap book on loan...the owner is still alive and will be contacted on what else she may know about Steve...
"Don,  The play was the first of the 1953 season.  I doubt the person who had this autograph has another.  She gave Local History her scrapbook of the summers of the Famous Artists Playhouse a number of years ago..  I learned today that she is still alive and in East Rochester.  One of her classmates is our former East Rochester historian who has left a phone message for her today.  We will see if she responds and has any more details. Some of the performers stayed with families in our village.  We are going to see if she knows if Steve McQueen stayed in East Rochester.   Anita"


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