Community Theatre Beaux Arts Ball History

Excerpted from
A History of Community Theatre of Terre Haute 1947-1991
by Jane Cunningham Hazledine

As soon as the CT playhouse was a functioning reality. Bob Wiandt and George Mayrose, creative cousins who were delighted with the camaraderie of CT people, proposed a glorious masked ball. Thus the Beaux Arts Ball, patterned after the traditional Mardi Gras, was born. Invited judges were asked to determine awards for various costume categories and designate who would be crowned King and Queen.

The beginnings are described in the 1957-58 chapter of this history. The first ball was truly a smashing affair, as were many of those that followed. Through the years, the variety shown in the many costumes and decorations was wonderful, the latter often massive and pretentious. Only a review of the CT pictures and scrapbooks can do justice to the ingenuity and imagination exhibited at these fun affairs.

Beaux Arts Revelers, a loose and autonomous group of anyone who was interested, was organized in 1962 by Peggy and Jack Thornton. They met the night after the ball to decide on the theme and chairmen for the next years’ affair.

By the late sixties a number of large groups had organized and were presenting skits and songs for the judges during the Grand March. Many of these had taken weeks of preparation and were ingenious, entertaining, and pure fun.

Over time it seemed as if the more elaborate CT productions were sapping the time and energies of many ball adherents; attendance began to wane and the Revelers’ group failed to attract enough interest. In the community as a whole, many private costume parties diminished the appetite for a grand affair. Perhaps the greatest contributing factor to the decline of the ball was the demise of the Mayflower Room and the Terre Haute House. The Cotillion Room at the former Deming Hotel had been a good place for it, but the Mayflower Room was better. Various locations were tried, but some were too small to show off the costumes or the decorations; others were too large to create the right atmosphere or too inaccessible in the frigid weather prevalent in February or March. Attendance declined and costs escalated, so the ball was discontinued in 1992.

The following list indicates the dates and places, the themes of the balls (if any), the chairmen, the kings and queens and their disguises, and any special programs or awards.

It should be mentioned that for many years, Wiandt’s Jewelers donated a beautiful piece of silver hollowware appropriately engraved for the king and queen. Later the theatre procured these and others.