Grand Valley History Players. A 1920’s Melodrama, The Darling, the Daring and the Decadent

Grand. Valley History Players. L-R: Angeline Roles (May West); Jessica Downing-Ford (Emcee); Michael Hardesty (Harry Houdini); Kathy Applebee (Annette Kellerman).

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

Hosted at the Montrose Center for the Arts, this presentation by the Grand Valley History Players explores the 1920s in America. It was a decade of unprecedented growth: buildings in major cities climbed toward the sky, interest in airplanes and air travel exploded with a $25,000 race to fly across the Atlantic. Staged performances became epic productions employing hundreds of performers. The movies created exotic escapes from reality and larger-than-life Stars. Tabloids hit the news stands and our fascination with public figures ignited.  The 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages—a debacle of unprecedented proportions—and the 19th granted women the right to vote—finally!

The Chautauqua Movement continued to enthrall viewers with great characters from history, new ideas, and issues of public concern.

Join the Grand Valley History Players for an evening of Chautauqua with visits from Annette Kellerman, The Mermaid Queen, Harry Houdini, master of escape, and Mae West, entertaining sex symbol whose flamboyant career spanned over seven decades.

Listen as they regale you with their stories, then enjoy the opportunity to ask questions of these icons. There will also be time to ask the performers about their research, observations, and what compelled them to choose their characters.

Angeline Roles, portraying May West

Angeline Roles, Grand Valley History Players. Portraying May West.

In 2018, Angeline stumbled onto a Chautauqua workshop and from that workshop, Roxy the Riveter was born, a woman based on her own mother’s experience as an ammunition’s loader during WWII. Angeline also portrays Minnie Pearl and Mae West.

Mae West, queen of the double entendre, was more than an actress, she was a pioneer. Writing her own material meant she could create the characters she wanted to portray: loud, bold, self assured, culturally defiant women. She had a mind for self promotion and sensation naming the first stage production which she wrote, produced, starred in and directed, “Sex.” She stayed relevant and employed well past middle-age, defying Hollywood’s fascination with youthful ingenues.

Kathy Applebee, portraying Annette Kellerman

Kathy Applebee, Grand Valley History Players. Portraying Annette Kellerman.

Kathy is involved in a number of school, church, community and professional acting troupes such as Mesa Murder Mystery. She began doing Chautauqua in 2018 and portrays Nellie Bly, Zelda Fitzgerald, Annette Kellermann and Grand Junction’s first school teacher, Nancy Blain. Kathy is also a competitive swimmer who continues to medal—most recently in the GJ Senior Games—where she won 4 out of 8 events.

Annette Kellermann, who as a child had wear leg braces, became Australia’s mermaid and America’s Diving Venus. She was the beauty who —long before Elle Macpherson—was known as “The Perfect Woman.” The self-promoter who—long before Madonna—got herself arrested, knowing the commercial value of sensation. The actress who—long before Nicole Kidman— was a Queen of the Screen. The Fitness guru who—long before Jane Fonda—showed middle-aged women how to stay Fit and sexy.

Michael Hardesty, portraying Harry Houdini

Michael Hardesty, Grand Valley History Players. Portraying Harry Houdini.

A veteran of Mesa Murder Mystery, WCCC films and commercial work, Michael has played many roles in his life. He currently portrays Bob Hope and Harry Houdini. He enjoys ballroom and swing dancing and instructing both.

Harry Houdini is known as the greatest escape artist in the World, but did you know he owned and flew a Bi-plane before Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic? As well as being a skilled magician, he was an adventurer as well a writer and publisher. Performing all over the globe, he left his audiences speechless, wondering if their eyes had deceived them!

Jessica Downing-Ford, Emcee

Jessica Downing-Ford, Grand Valley History Players. Emcee for 1920s Melodrama.

When the Museum of the West offered an adult Chautauqua workshop in the spring of 2018, Jessica didn’t have to grapple with choosing her historical figure—it was Abigail Adams. She fell in love not only with Abigail but with the art of Chautauqua as well; she jokes that she’d been waiting her whole life to find an avenue for her talents. Jessica enjoys bringing Abigail to life for history classes in western Colorado as well as coaching students through the Young Chautauqua program with Colorado Humanities.

The Emcee’s role is to weave together three distinct characters into one cohesive performance—easy, right? However, Jessica dove into her research to better understand the era and then spent days whittling down her words. Did you know Broccoli was introduced to American kitchens in 1928 from Italy? Neither did she and quite frankly she could consume the better part of 2 hours regaling you with more anecdotal info about that decade. So if you’re interested here are some of the books that were most helpful: One Summer, America 1927, by Bill Bryson (great narrative & fun read); From Harding To Hiroshima, by Barrington Boardman; Our Times, The Illustrated History of The 20th Century, published by Turner Publishing.

Programs & Events


Friday, Oct.1, 5-7 pm.
Opening Reception, Montrose Visual Arts Guild Group Show, Main Gallery
Dave Kaufmann, Wood Turning, Columbine Room
Music: Seaton Greenfield

Sat., Oct 2. 6-8 pm.
1920s Melodrama, The Darling, the Daring, and the Decadent
With Grand Valley History Players - Interactive performance
TICKETS, $20 Free if over 60.

Wed., Oct. 13.noon-2 pm
History Wednesday at MCA. Program: Old Tyme Recreation with Gail Saunders, OCHS.
REGISTER. FREE. Donations encouraged.

Next Month - NOVEMBER

Friday, Nov 5, 5-7 pm.
Opening Reception, 3-Women Show: Julia Reid, Cristin Johnson, Jenny McIntyre.
Bill Wilson, Ceramics, Columbine Room. MCA Art Mart opens.


Friday, Dec. 3, 5-7 pm.
Opening Reception: Cheri Isgreen, Solo Show.

Friday, Dec. 31, 5 pm.
MCA Art Mart closes.

Prior Events


Friday, Sept. 3. 5-7 pm.
Opening Reception, Pat Jeffers, Abstract Art. Solo show
Exhibit: SW Colorado Historic Opera Houses
Music, Jazz piano by Keaton Greenfield

Wed., Sept. 8  noon-2 pm
Program: Historic Opera Houses. With Kate Burke and Maggie Stevens

Friday, Sept. 17, 7-8:30 pm. Fundraiser
VIP Reception & Concert
Concert with Deb Barr, A Musical Retrospective
Montrose Methodist Church
Thank you to our Concert Program Supporters


Friday, August 6, 5-7 pm.
Opening Reception at MCA: A Midwestern Dream, photography by Natalie Heller.
Exhibit: The Rood Collection, 19th Century Art Exhibit.
Music: Noalani.

Friday, Aug. 13, 6-8 pm
Program: No Matter What, Keep Laughing
With comedians Nancy Norton and Stephanie McHugh and musician Cheryl Gaudet.

Wed., August 18. History Wednesday at MCA. Noon-2 pm.
Program: History of Montrose. With ZillaMay Brown, Montrose Historical Society.


Friday, July 2, 5-8 pm
Opening Reception at MCA: San Juan Mountain Mining & NG Railroad History. Jeff Ellingson Guest Artist, Final Sale Square Deal Fundraiser. Music by  the Lucky Stars, Ridgway.

Wed., July 14. History Wednesday at MCA. 1-2:30 pm
Program: Railroad History of the Uncompahgre Valley. With Karl Schaeffer.

Wed., July 21. Noon-2 pm.
Program: San Juan Mountains Mining & NG RR History. With Kathryn Burke.
History of Ouray. With Gail Saunders.

Wednesday, July 28-31. Montrose County Fair Art Show.
Art show at Montrose Fairgrounds Event Center. Show Superintendent, Kate Burke, MCA. 

A special Thank You to the Blue Sage Center for the Arts in Paonia, Colo. that shared their grant with us, so that we could offer this melodrama Free to those over 60 and also to military (active or retired).