Oklahoma Pride

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We are proud to be Oklahomans and to show our pride members of "Ponca Playhouse," one of the oldest community theatre groups in continuous operation in the United States, present an annual play honoring Oklahoma that we call our "Oklahoma Pride Series." In 2012 the Playhouse presented 12 sold-out performances of "The Broken Statue," by Bob Perry that tells the story of Oklahoma Governor, Philanthropist, and Oil Pioneer E. W. Marland and his wife Lydie. In 2013, the Playhouse presented an encore performance of "The Broken Statue" to sold out crowds.

For 2014, Ponca Playhouse will present John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," a play about the indominable goodness and strength that resides in the hearts and minds of the "common man," throughout the world. Please join us in celebrating and honoring Oklahoma and Oklahomans in this summers production. Reserve your tickets today.

Reserve Your Tickets

Contact Ponca Playhouse to reserve your tickets to this years "Oklahoma Pride" production of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

Tickets are $20.

Theatre Address: 301 S. 1st Street, Ponca City, OK 74601 Google Maps

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1414, Ponca City, OK 74602

Box Office Phone: 580-765-5360

Regular Office Hours: Tuesday through Thursday – 10 am to 3 pm

Email: PoncaPlayhouse@gmail.com

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Performance Dates and Times

Performance Dates for our eight performances of "The Grapes of Wrath" are: July 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27.

Performance Times: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm / Sunday at 2:00 pm. Box office is open 30 minutes before each performance.


Auditions: June 2 and 3 at 7 pm

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Volunteer Opportunities

Ever wanted to be involved in theatre. There are just as many people behind the scenes as there are on stage.

Ponca Playhouse needs: Actors, Choreographers, Concession Stand Attendants, Costumer Designers, Costumers, Directors, Hair Stylists, Light Technicians, Light Designers, Make-up Artists, Music Directors, Musicians, Photographers, Producers, Prop Handlers, Set Designers, Set Constructors, Sound Designers, Sound Technicians, Stage Managers, Ushers, and more.

Don't know the difference between stage right and stage left? Come, learn, and have some fun. We have a very welcoming environment.

Contact the Playhouse to find out more about volunteer opportunities.

Premier Sponsors for "Oklahoma Pride"

Hugh Pickens and Dr. S. J. Pickens

The Grapes of Wrath

The story of the Joad family and their flight from the dust bowl of Oklahoma is familiar to all. Desperately proud, but reduced to poverty by the loss of their farm, the Joads pile their few possessions on a battered old truck and head west for California, hoping to find work and a better life. Led by the indomitable Ma Joad, who is determined to keep the family together at any cost, and by the volatile young Tom Joad, an ex-convict who grows increasingly impatient with the intolerance and exploitation that they encounter on their trek, the Joads must deal with death and terrible deprivation before reaching their destination—where their waning hopes are dealt a final blow by the stark realities of the Great Depression. And yet, despite the anguish and suffering that it depicts, the play becomes in the final essence a soaring and deeply moving affirmation of the indomitability of the human spirit and of the essential goodness and strength that—then as now—reside in the hearts and minds of the "common man," throughout the world.

Photo: Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park presented "The Grapes of Wrath" in 2007.Photo Credit: Barry Burris Attribution-ShareAlike License

The Broken Statue

A limestone statue of a striking young woman is buried and lost for nearly forty years - a broken statue representing shattered lives and shattered dreams. The story of the statue is one of love, greed, power, and lost aspirations. The statue symbolizes what was and what could have been - a tale of a great oil empire betrayed, destroying the lives of the family who built it.

Ponca Playhouse announces that "The Broken Statue," a play by Bob Perry based on the real-life story of oil-baron E.W. Marland, who made and lost a fortune in the oilfields of northern Oklahoma, and the tragic story of his adopted daughter and later wife Lydie Marland, will be presented in Ponca City, Oklahoma in an exclusive run of nine shows that will be performed on July 18, 19, 20, 21 and 25, 26, 27, 28, 2013. Performances start on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m.

"Although partially fiction,'The Broken Statue' helps provide the public with an insight that feeds their curiosity of the life and times of E W, Virginia, George and Lydie Marland and their contemporaries. The play gives a glimpse of the extravagant glory days of the nineteen 'teens' and 'twenties' as they existed in Oklahoma," says David Keathly, executive director of the Marland Mansion."It's heartwarming, insightful, and clever," adds Jayne Detten, President of Ponca City Main Street. "Most of all, a delight to the senses and a respectful tribute to the Marland Family."

Oil Magnate E. W. Marland

In 1908 E. W. Marland came to Oklahoma after losing his fortune in the Pennsylvania oil fields in the panic of 1907 and by 1920 had reestablished himself and started the Marland Oil Company in Ponca City with a fortune estimated at $85 million (roughly $910 million in modern dollars). Marland was a visionary and not only pioneered the use of geophysical techniques in the oil industry but was years ahead of his time as an employer providing housing, loans, medical care, and other benefits for the thousands of employees who worked at his refineries and pipelines.

But misfortune would strike Marland and in 1928 his oil empire was destroyed by J.P. Morgan's banking interests. Marland was forced out of the oil company he had founded when bankers merged it with Continental Oil Company and renamed the company Conoco.

Although he lost his fortune, his company, and his home, Marland had something more important - the love of his wife Lydie and the high esteem of his fellow Oklahomans who elected him Governor. "The Broken Statue" reveals the determination, grit, successes, and frustrations of Marland and the tragic challenges he left for his young widow, Lydie, in an intriguing story that captures the wild risk-taking, broken lives, and the lavish lifestyles of the gilded age of the early oil industry. "Ponca City is defined by its history and our rich history could not be told without a long discussion of E.W. Marland. "The Broken Statue" provides the theater goer a deep understanding of the life and times of E.W., his family and the people of Ponca City," says Brian Hermanson, President of Ponca Playhouse. "All the people of Oklahoma should make a point to see the play to become educated and entertained."

Lydie Marland, First Lady of Oklahoma

In 1908, Marland came to Oklahoma with not much more than belief in himself and a letter of credit. Marland and his first wife, Virginia, made their home at the Arcade Hotel, and E.W. set out to explore for oil. Mr. and Mrs. Marland had no children of their own so they invited two of her sister's children to come from Pennsylvania for a visit, and they stayed. The nephew, George, and the niece, Lydie, shared in the wealth of their aunt and uncle, being sent to the finest private schools and enjoying lavish parties with their friends in the home on Grand Avenue. In 1916, E.W. and Virginia adopted George and Lydie.

In 1926, Virginia Marland died after a long illness and in 1928, E.W. and his adopted daughter, Lydie, traveled in his private railway coach to Flourtown, Pennsylvania where he had her adoption annulled and married her. The girl who was first his niece by marriage, and then his adopted daughter, became his wife, the second Mrs. Marland and the "first lady" of the new Marland Estate Mansion. They went on an extended honeymoon and in September 1928, they moved into their new home, E.W.'s gift to his bride.

When Marland was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1935, Lydie became first lady of the state. After Marland's death in 1941 and with the mansion sold to the Carmelite Fathers, Lydie lived a quiet, reclusive life and some people even thought she had died. Then, in 1953, she loaded her Studebaker with paintings and tapestries and left Ponca City, not to be seen again locally for 22 years. For most of that time, very few people knew where she was and once again, some even thought she had died. The Saturday Evening Post ran an article in November, 1958 titled "Where is Lyde Marland?" However, while she was gone, she was in touch with her attorney and continued to pay taxes on the little cottage and property that Marland had left to her in his will. She lived on the west coast for a while and in New York City near Central Park. In the 1960's, during the unrest that surround the Vietnamese War and civil rights, she participated in peace marches in Washington, D.C.

In 1975, Marland's mansion was put up for sale and Lydie came home and wrote a letter to the editor of the Ponca City News, asking the citizens of Ponca City to support the purchase of the mansion and to save this wonderful treasure. Following her return to the city in 1975, Lydie moved back into her cottage on the estate grounds, and she lived there until her death in 1987. Again, she lived a very reclusive life and was very shy when people approached her. She only went into the mansion, or the "big house" as she called it, a few times.

Playwright Bob Perry Brings Their Story to Life

Playwright Bob Perry's attraction to the Marland story began in 1999 when he came to Ponca City and stayed a week at the Marland Mansion during a conference. Perry took the mansion tour and when he saw Lydie's refurbished broken statue, he called his wife and said, "I know the title of the book I want to write - The Broken Statue." Perry tried to start the story several times, but didn't get serious about writing the first manuscript until 2006.

"At first, I thought E.W. Marland must have been a scoundrel to marry his adopted daughter," says Perry. "I was more intrigued by Lydie's story than E.W.'s at first. Through the process I have become a great admirer of E.W. Marland. He served as governor during one of the state's most trying times and I think did a good job. E.W. Marland had many opportunities to take his fortune and leave, but I believe he truly loved Oklahoma."

Perry began by writing a novel based on the Marlands' story and it took him less than a year to complete the novel once he got started. Then Perry started working on the play just to see if he could do it. "At first I took the dialogue from the novel and added a few things to get a first draft. The original script did not take long to write, but it was three acts and would have been about a 4 hour play. With a lot of help and guidance, I've done several rewrites to condense the story into a workable script."

"I think we've been able to tell the Marland story in an entertaining and concise way," says Perry. "In the novel, I was able to tell the story with imagery and words. On stage, it has forced me to tell the story with dialogue and rely on the actor's performances to get the audience to experience the story."

"The monuments left by E.W. Marland are everywhere in the state he helped form. The image of Lydie's statue was carved when she was the princess of the Marland Empire. The restored statue graces the entrance to the Marland Mansion to greet visitors that still come to marvel at the remarkable house and story. Lydie Marland always saw E.W. Marland as an exceptional man-we can only hope Lydie understood how special she was. I hope the play version of "'he Broken Statue' will motivate others to explore and get to know this extraordinary Oklahoma family."

Ponca Playhouse to Recreate the Marlands' Story

"The Broken Statue" was first produced at the Jewel Box Theatre in 2011 and a number of residents of Ponca City traveled to Oklahoma City to see the production. Then in November 2011 a group of Ponca City residents who had seen the show met at Ponca Playhouse including representatives from the Marland Mansion, Ponca City Tourism, and Ponca City Main Street and proposed that if Ponca Playhouse would produce "The Broken Statue" other community groups in Ponca City would support the production. "I took the report from our steering committee to a meeting of the Playhouse's board of directors meeting and the enthusiasm spread to the board and they voted that we should proceed with it," says Ponca Playhouse board member Karen Brown. "I think it's a good fit for Ponca City. It's an opportunity to perpetuate the history of Ponca City and it's an opportunity for community members to get involved with the Playhouse."

Ponca Playhouse is an organization that has been active in the community of Ponca City since 1958 and is one the oldest community theatres in continuous operation in the United States. In 2008 the Playhouse celebrated its 50th anniversary by moving into their new location at 301 S. 1st Street in Ponca City with a new flexible performance space. "The thing is that we wanted to have a design that was not limited," says Ruslyn Hermanson adding that the seating can be reconfigured in 30 minutes. "We wanted something that could be moved so if we want to have a proscenium stage, we can have it. If we want to have a thrust stage like we used in 'Tuesdays with Morrie' we can do that. If we want to do theater in the round, we can do that."

Another feature of the new Playhouse is that everybody has a great seat and that there be a new feeling of intimacy between the actors and the audience. "Nobody is more than three seats away from the production. Everybody has a great sight line. The actors are having eye contact and actually talking to you and you feel that you are part of the play rather than someone who is hiding in the back of the room," says Brian Hermanson. Karen Brown added that "when we had our open house for picking seats everybody wanted to chose seats in front. They couldn't quite get their head around the fact that now you can see the production just as well from the sides." Another practical advantage of the more intimate setting is that members of the audience can see and hear the play better. "The number of people with hearing problems, as you get over 50 is increasing," says Brian Hermanson. "Now people say after our first production 'I can hear everything. I can see everything. Even though I have a seat near the back wall I have a great view.'"

The production of "The Broken Statue" will be a special production of Ponca Playhouse that is not a part of their regular season and will be the first production to take place during the summer fulfilling the Playhouse's need to keep the theatre active year round. "I think that it will turn out to be something that is really positive for Ponca Playhouse and for the community," adds Brown who will produce "The Broken Statue" for Ponca Playhouse. "Its important that this story of Ponca City's history be told."

Get Tickets for this Limited Engagement

The Broken Statue will appear this year in a limited engagement of only nine performances. When the Jewel Box Theatre presented this play in Oklahoma City in 2011, shows were quickly sold out and even though additional performances were added, many people who wanted to see the show were unable to get tickets. In 2012 Ponca Playhouse sold out 11 performances of "The Broken Statue" which is one reason the Playhouse is bringing it back for an "Encore Performance" for 2013. With only 800 tickets on sale for this run, get your tickets now to ensure you can see this once-in-a-lifetime performance that tells the story of the Marland family in Ponca City. "This play will bring alive part of the Marland Story which in essence is the story of Ponca City," says Rich Cantillon, Executive Director of the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce. "People will leave "The Broken Statue" play wanting to know more about the rich history and culture of our great city."

About the Playhouse

Beginning in 1958 Ponca Playhouse made its home in the Civic Center paying $1 a year rent but the city closed the civic center in the early 1990's due to structural concerns and several years later began the centennial project to remodel the building. The Civic Center closed with the production of “Rumors” in the spring of 1994 and the Playhouse began looking for a place to rehearse and perform. Fortunately, the Poncan Theater had just reopened after renovations and offered a vaudeville stage to the Playhouse. Between 1994 and 1996, the Playhouse rehearsed and built sets in a number of locations including Martin’s Furniture building which is now Kem’s gym. “We were vagabonds looking for a place to land,” says JoAnn Muchmore. The Playhouse rented the Poncan Theater stage and produced its first production “Lend me a Tenor” in the fall of 1994 and the Poncan would be its home for theatrical productions for the next 15 years. During this period the Playhouse presented its productions on the stage of the Poncan but used the O’Reilly building on South First St., purchased in 1996 from the Monger family, for rehearsal space, construction of sets, and as a storage area for costumes and props.

Now fifty-one years after its founding, this September Ponca Playhouse began presenting performances in the O’Reilly building so that for the first time both the theatrical performances and the work area for preparation and rehearsal would take place in the same location. “We had a dream and I think that one of the big pushes was that we wanted a facility where we would have a home of our own,” says Ruslyn Hermanson. “We wanted a space where everything was together and we didn’t have to move from one spot to another.”

On September 18, I sat down with five members of Ponca Playhouse: JoAnn Muchmore (long time Director at the Playhouse and Director of “Tuesdays with Morrie”), Brian Hermanson (Producer of “Tuesdays with Morrie”), former Ponca Playhouse President Karen Brown, Jose Cervantes, and Ruslyn Hermanson to talk about what it took to get Ponca Playhouse installed and ready to perform in their new space, how the new space will affect the Playhouse’s productions, and what the future holds for Ponca Playhouse.

If necessity is the mother of invention, than the looming deadline of the opening of Ponca Playhouse’s first play of the season, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” galvanized members of the Playhouse to get the space prepared. The amazing thing is that the work on the seats and risers came together so quickly. “The work got done in one month. Three weeks before opening night you would never have dreamed we could do it,” says Brian Hermanson. “We were out in the lobby rehearsing and there were twenty-two people inside the theater working so hard they were sweating.,” says JoAnn Muchmore. “The actors said one night ‘What is plan B? If the theater isn’t ready and there is no place for us, what are we going to do?’ I told them it would be ready because I didn’t want to upset the actors, but I wasn’t so sure myself.”

The first thing the Playhouse did was put in new bathrooms that were handicapped accessible. “We did that with the help of the Vietnam Vets who did most of the work because they have a policy of promoting handicapped accessibility,” says Ruslyn Hermanson. Then came the seats. “Our office manager, Marlene Foxworthy, happened to remember that the Tulsa Performing Arts Center had remodeled,” says Karen Brown. “So she got on the phone and found the last remaining seats that had not been used elsewhere. The contractor removing the seats from the Arts Center told us ‘We have some seats and if you can come and get them within a week, you can have them.’” Sullivan Trucking provided a truck, a driver, and a helper and about six members of the Playhouse drove to Tulsa, got the chairs, loaded them up and brought them to Ponca City. “The chairs were in pieces, there were three different sizes of hardware so we had to put them together and fabricate missing parts,” says Jose Cervantes but what was most amazing was that the risers we had built “fit 108 seats which was exactly the number of chairs that we were able to get from Tulsa,” says Brian Hermanson.

As you come in the theater you will see that seats in the theater are arranged in six separate sections with each of the six “risers” self-contained with three levels of seats. The six risers are the crucial piece of the puzzle that made the design of Ponca Playhouse come together. Members of the Playhouse had discussed the design of the theater for 15 years and visited other theaters like “Town and Gown” in Stillwater to get ideas but what the final design came down to was two factors: flexibility and quality of seating. Members of the Playhouse came up with a unique solution that solved both problems. The first requirement for the design of the Playhouse’s new performance space was that the Playhouse gain the flexibility to rearrange seating easily to perform different kinds of plays. To meet this requirement each of the six risers was designed so it could be moved anyplace in the room with a pallette jack. “The thing is that we wanted to have a design that was not limited,” says Ruslyn Hermanson adding that the seating can be reconfigured in 30 minutes. “We wanted something that could be moved so if we want to have a proscenium stage, we can have it. If we want to have a thrust stage like we are using in ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ we can do that. If we want to do theater in the round, we can do that.”

The second requirement was that everybody have a great seat and that there be a new feeling of intimacy between the actors and the audience. “Nobody is more than three seats away from the production. Everybody has a great sight line. The actors are having eye contact and actually talking to you and you feel that you are part of the play rather than someone who is hiding in the back of the room,” says Brian Hermanson. Karen Brown added that “when we had our open house for picking seats everybody wanted to chose seats in front. They couldn’t quite get their head around the fact that now you can see the production just as well from the sides.” Another practical advantage of the more intimate setting is that members of the audience can see and hear the play better. “The number of people with hearing problems, as you get over 50 is increasing,” says Brian Hermanson. “Now people say after our first production ‘I can hear everything. I can see everything. Even though I have a seat near the back wall I have a great view.’”

The ways in which the new space will change the character of the Ponca Playhouse range from the economic, to the artistic, to a change in the way that the actors interact with the audience. “The Playhouse will be better able to weather the hardship of the loss of population in Ponca City by no longer having to pay rent for a performance space,” says Karen Brown and the Playhouse can expand their offerings outside of the regular line-up. “We can do dinner theater,” says Brian Hermanson. “Whether it be just desert or a full meal, we know that is something our patrons are wanting,” says Karen Brown.

Artistically the new space will provide a greater challenge and greater opportunities to the Playhouse’s directors. “When JoAnn Muchmore directs a play, instead of just directing her actors to the audience out in front, they are now playing to three or four sides, and this gives her the opportunity to teach us things.” says Brian Hermanson. Another advantage to the new location is that it gives the Playhouse more flexibility in scheduling performances. “With so many older people now who don’t like to drive at night, I think it would be good to plan more matinees,” says JoAnn Muchmore. Having their own space will also allow the Playhouse to have extended runs of their most popular shows. “Musicals generally have more people attending than conventional theater. If we sell out early we can add more performances,” says Brian Hermanson. “That’s a good problem to have.”

Construction of the new space has also been a real unifying experience for Ponca Playhouse and some say that the feeling of accomplishment and pride in putting together the new space is like the feeling when the Playhouse first started over fifty years ago. “We didn’t know for sure who was going to show up on a work day. It would just be announced that there would be people down at the Playhouse at this time and day,” says Ruslyn Hermanson. “One day twenty-six people showed up to work at the Playhouse. You wouldn’t hear people complaining” says Brian Hermanson. “You would hear people inside laughing and having a good time.”

“You are going to see some changes behind the stage,” says Brian Hermanson. “Right now we don’t really have traditional dressing rooms for the actors. Hopefully we are going to be able to expand to two buildings further down the block so we have have dressing rooms and additional work spaces.”

Another change will be adding to the infrastructure in the theater. “We want to own our own lighting,” says Brian Hermanson. “We want to add our own lighting and a sound booth back in the corner. Right now we are renting lighting because we don’t want to make that investment before we have a chance to work with the lighting during a production but our own lighting is something that you are going to see very soon.”

From a artistic standpoint the Playhouse may expand in other directions as well. “I think we may want to start doing some different, edgier plays that challenge the audience more,” says Karen Brown something that JoAnn Muchmore has argued for in the past. One possibility would be to start a reader’s theater on Sunday evenings where readers read from a “script” with reading parts divided among the readers. “There are plenty of sophisticated people in town who may want to see an edgier play, even if it is just on a Sunday night reader’s play. We respect our audience and we are not trying to go off on some crazy tangent, but there are ways to serve different audiences now that we have our own space.”

So now that the Playhouse has had their first performance in the new space – what is the bottom line? “There has been a tremendous response from the audience” says Jose Cervantes. “We haven’t heard a complaint – not about the seats, not about the air conditioning, not about hearing the play. The response from the audience has been overwhelming.”

External Links

  • Ponca Playhouse
  • Ponca Playhouse Facebook Page
  • Official Web Site for "Oklahoma Pride"
  • Official Web Site for "the Broken Statue"
  • The Marland Movie "The Ends of the Earth"

About the Author

Hugh Pickens

Hugh Pickens (Po-Hi '67) is a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon jungle, crossed the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia, and built satellite control stations for Goddard Space Flight Center all over the world. Retired in 1999, Pickens and his wife moved from Baltimore back to his hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2005 where he cultivates his square foot garden, mows nine acres of lawn, writes about local history and photographs events at the Poncan Theatre and Ponca Playhouse.

Since 2001 Pickens has edited and published “Peace Corps Online,” serving over one million monthly pageviews. His other writing includes contributing over 1,500 stories to “Slashdot: News for Nerds,” and articles for Wikipedia, “Ponca City, We Love You”, and Peace Corps Worldwide.

Articles about Ponca City

Other Writing

Updates to the Web Site

This web page is frequently updated so check back periodically to see the latest information added to "EW Marland and "The Ends of the Earth" or subscribe to the rss feed for this article. If you have any information or insights that you would like to see added to this report please contact Hugh Pickens by email at hughpickens AT gmail DOT com.


The material in this article is licensed under under the Creative Commons under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Except for short, fair use excerpts, the material on this article cannot be used for commercial purposes without permission of Hugh Pickens. Attribution for use of any material from this article must be provided to Hugh Pickens and if used on the web a link must be provided to http://hughpickens.com.