PLT 1950s

This page contains photographs, reviews and other information about Phoenix Little Theatre in the 1950s. For a general history, go to the main page.


  • SEPTEMBER 1959
  • Playwright: Ira Levin.
  • Director: Robert Begam.
  • Assistant Director: Helen Begam.
  • Cast: Tom Quillen, Lowell McGuire, Henry Balloni Jr., Michael Ivor, Robert Aden, Louis Leithold, Thornton Garst, Allan Beyer, Stephen Sandler, Roger Kaplan, Charles Tait, Walter Koch, Allen Robrechi, Robert Bushman, Hal Rhodes,  Neil Leavitt, William Yurik, John Milder, John Moffatt, Sy Clark, Don Sunde, Peter Cookson,  Tom Rosenbaum, J. Jevins, J. Cohen.
  • Comments: The husband-and-wife team of Robert and Helen Begam, by this time considered by all to be the Valley’s answer to Lunt and Fontanne, were in the director’s chair for this comedy which gave Tom Quillen one of his best roles. The play was based on Mac Hyman’s 1954 best-selling novel about a country bumpkin drafted into the Air Force.

Phoenix Theatre 1959 No Time for Sergeants 001

Arizona Republic, Sept. 27, 1959
Arizona Republic, Sept. 27, 1959
  • 1959
  • Playwrights: Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith
  • Director: Louis Leithold.
  • Comments: The Tender Trap debuted on Broadway in 1954. A New York agent is a happy-go-lucky bachelor until his best friend, whose marriage is in trouble, moves in and decides his pal must join the unhappy throngs. PLT veteran Louis Leithold helmed the comedy.
  • 1959
  • Playwright: Agatha Christie.
  • Director Louis Leithold
  • Comments: Christie’s play holds the record for longest run.  It opened in 1952 in London is still playing there. PLT has mounted several productions; this edition was led by one of the company’s veteran directors. Louis stuck to the script about an Inspector who comes to an isolated country house to investigate a murder. The play’s classic plot twist, though well known, won’t be revealed here. Partly as a publicity gimmick, partly as a means to preserve the twist, Louis held all rehearsals behind closed doors. He also removed the last three pages of the script, giving them to his actors only in the final week of rehearsal. Apparently the actors didn’t read mystery novels.
  • JUNE 1959 
  • Playwright: Tim Kelly.
  • Director: Tim Kelly
  • Cast: Paula Sobol, Betty Barry Turner, Irma K. Lange, Grace Etchen, Susan Francis, Don Seth, Jay Fineberg, Bob Dunnen, William Van Loo (Bill Van Loo), John Wesley Dear, Dorrine Maron and a troupe of actual Cub Scouts.
  • Notes: Susan Francis was 14 1/2, according to the papers.

phoenix theatre 1959 road show 00`

  • MAY 24, 1959
Arizona Republic, May 24, 1959
Arizona Republic, May 24, 1959

Phoenix Theatre Curtain Call Banquet Republic, May 24, 1959a

  • MAY 1959 
  • Director: Olga Roberts.
  • Cast: Kenneth Rosengren. Kathleen Haynes Howell, Ed Hayes, John Graff, Irene Minter, Skipper Oberly, Bill Beck . Happy, the Shaggy Dog, was played by Brisa, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Cobb.
  • Assistant Director: Martha Lind.
  • The Play: Comedy centering on the romantic triangle of an egocentric comic strip artist, his secretary and a younger man.
  • Notes: Kenneth was a Phoenix attorney. Kathleen was making her PLT debut. Previously, she had been active in Oklahoma theater. Prior to coming to Phoenix, Ed had worked with the Wurzburg Theatre Group in Germany and the Unitarian Players in Washington, D.C. John and Irene had appeared in a number of PLT productions and John had worked at Arizona Repertory Theatre. Like Kathleen, Skipper and Bill were making their PLT debuts.

phoenix theatre 1959 king of hearts 001


In 1958, Robert Aden received the Alfred Knight Award, given for the year’s most outstanding Shakespearean performance, for his role of Hotspur in Henry IV: Part One.

The late Dr. Knight, a rare book collector who was very involved with PLT, provided in his will for the presentation of awards to encourage excellence in portraying Shakespeare and in backstage technique.

  •  JANUARY 1958
  • Playwright: Tennessee Williams.
  • Director: Ken Drisco.
  • Assistant Director: Evelyn Curtis.
  • Cast: Helen Begam, Edith Shaw Long, Frank James, Mort Tolson, KT Hoehn, Mary Whitlow, David Barton, Wayne Vann, Mike Mullins, Tom Eilers, Grace Gill, David Long, E. Nora Ryan.
  • Stage Managers: Dorothy Conat, Jean Barber.
  • Technical Director: John Kircher.
  • Scenic Design: Elihu Sutta.
  • Note: Helen Begam was named the Best Actress of 1958 for her role as Blanche.
  • Comments: Helen Begam’s fans – and some are still around in 2014 – like to argue over what was her best performance. Was it her Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, her Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or her Blanche in this production of A Streetcar Named Desire? The money seems to be on Blanche.  One thing is for sure. Helen did not become the acknowledged queen of Valley theater by refusing to take risks. She tackled the big parts head-on and always came out on top.

Clipping from the Arizona Republic, Jan. 10, 1958