Padua Hills Theatre - The Mexican Players - Website Home Page

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Historic Physical Setting | Resources | Links 
 
  Theatre Image #1 Theatre Image #2 Promotional Flyer Theatre Image #3 Theatre Image #4 Theatre Image #5 Theatre Image #6 Theatre Image #7 Theatre Image #8 Theatre Image #9 Theatre Image #10 
  Theatre Image #14

 This web site will attempt to tell the unique story of The Mexican Players at Padua Hills Theatre as a photo essay using pictures, programs, flyers and first-hand reminiscences of the Players and their families. It is a work continually in progress, which relies upon participation from visitors. If you have material (or usable scans of that material) that you would like to contribute to the effort, please communicate with us at info@loscalifornios.com. We especially need help identifying the names of Players shown in the photographs, and we hope to add family histories of their experience at Padua. Thanks to those who have already helped us: the Vera Family, Isabelle Green, the Alfaro Family, Linda Hayes, and Nancy and Brian Hogan from the Fages family.

Theatre Image #11 
  Theatre Image #15 Lunch Menu 
 

Members of The Mexican Players — about 1950
Theatre Image #1
                           Historical photograph by Irene Welch Garner
                           Alfaro Family Collection,
                           Group photo of The Mexican Players Theatre Image #1 — Historical photograph by Irene Welch Garner
Alfaro Family Collection



In Summer the cast presented an after-theatre fiesta, called Jamaica, outside in this quiosco. This appears to be the cast used for the performance of Festivales, as performed October 18 to November 25, 1950: Gregorio Valadez, Catalino Alba, Francisco Velázquez, Hilda Ramírez de Jara, José O’Beso, Micaela Velázquez, Conchita (Concepción) Gallardo, Enrique Lerma, José Alba, Porfiria Lerma, Vida Amador, Mauricio Jara, Alfonzo Enrique Carrillo.

  The Historic Physical Setting

 Alfaro Family Collection
                           Historical photograph by Irene Welch Garner

 In the 1920s a group of involved citizens from Claremont, California banded together to purchase a large tract of land in the beautiful foothills just outside town, land from the former Rancho San José that was threatened with insensitive development. They went to work to develop the area themselves in ways that would benefit their artistically conscious community, calling their project area Padua Hills.

Padua Hills Promotional Flyer - Front Padua Hills Promotional Flyer - Back
Padua Hills Promotional Flyer - Inside
Click on images above to see larger versions of this promotional flyer for the Padua Hills development.
Los Californios® Collection


  Historic Postcards of Padua Hills Theatre

  Attributed to Irene Welsh Garner

Theatre Image #3 - Padua Hills Historic Postcard Los californios® Collection

 Incorporated as Padua Hills, Inc. under the direction of Herman Garner, the group subdivided the more than 2,000 acres of land into residences for an artist community.

Theatre Image #4 - Padua Hills Historic Postcard Los californios® Collection

 As they formulated their plans for the area, they incorporated the idea of an arts center as a central focus for the development — a center with a dining room, arts studios and shops as well as a small theater.

Theatre Image #5 Los californios® Collection

 In 1930 this vision came to fruition with the construction of the Padua Hills Theatre, an elegant Spanish Mission Revival style building designed by the Pasadena architect firm of Marston and Mayberry that included a dining room and restaurant quality kitchen, to be the home of the Claremont Community Players.

Theatre Image #6 Los californios® Collection

 The columned entrance to the theatre and dining room created an inviting environment for cultural gatherings, and eventually became a well-recognized image symbolizing what soon became an experiment that was radical for its time and unexpectedly successful.

Theatre Image #7
 Los californios® Collection
   Theatre Image #8
 Los californios® Collection

Theatre Image #9 Los californios® Collection

 

 

 

 

Serene and elegant patios with artistic landscaping complemented the building.

 The Little Theater movement¹ was still strong when plans for the Padua Hills development began. The Claremont community, which still includes substantive participation from the university culture, was enthusiastic in its support of the project.



Theatre Image #10 Los californios® Collection

Back of postcard shown in Image #10 Los californios® Collection

This postcard, mailed March 17, 1946, says:

“This is where Nom Manker makes his pottery. An art colony in the heart of these fabulous hills. It’s my idea of next door to heaven. When their inn is built you must come here for your honeymoon. Greetings to all.”

Theatre Image #12
                           Historical Photograph by Irene Welch Garner
                           Alfaro Family Collection Theatre Image #13
                           Historical Photograph by Irene Welch Garner
                           Alfaro Family Collection
 Martha Longnecker with potter at Padua Hills & another potter. The work of Padua Hills artists is still sought after.

Theatre Image #14
                           Historic Postcard of an inside fireplace
                           Mailed in 1938 Los californios® Collection

Theatre Image #15
                           Historic Postcard of Padua Hills Dining Room Los californios® Collection


 Folding Advertising Card for Padua Hills Theatre and Dining Room

Folding Advertising Card for Padua Hills Theatre and Dining Room

Folding Advertising Card for Padua Hills Theatre and Dining Room


 Padua Hills Dining Room Lunch Menu

Theatre Image #16
                           Front of Lunch Menu  Theatre Image #18
                           Back of Lunch Menu

Theatre Image #17
                           Inside of Lunch Menu

 But the economic pressures of the Great Depression were about to fundamentally change the mission of the Padua Hills Theatre. Click below for the next part of the story.

 The People — Los paduanos

  The Beginnings of The Mexican Players


 Other Resources About Padua Hills Theatre and The Mexican Players

Pauline B. Deuel, Mexican Serenade: The Story of the Mexican Players, 1961, Padua Institute.

Matt García, A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900 — 1970, 2001, The University of North Carolina Press. Pay particular attention to chapter 4, “Just Put on That Padua Hills Smile: The Mexican Players and the Padua Hills Theatre, 1931-1974,” pages 121 — 154.

Matt García, “Adjusting the Focus: Padua Hills Theatre and Latino History,” Organization of American Historians: Magazine of History 10 (Winter 1996).

Matt García, “Just Put on That Padua Hills Smile: The Mexican Players and the Padua Hills Theatre, 1931 — 1974.” California History 74, No. 3 (Fall 1995), pages 244 — 261.

Bess Garner, Notes in the Margin, Houghton Mifflin, 1937. In her comments on her travels to Mexico, Bess Garner frequently relates events and her observations to her work with the Theatre.

  1 Matt García, A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900 — 1970, 2001 provides
  background for the Little Theater movement as it applies to the Padua Hills Theatre.

If your family has recollections of Padua Hills Theatre that you would like to share on this web site, please contact Los californios® at info@loscalifornios.com.

 Related Links

Adjusting the Focus: Padua Hills Theatre and Latino History,
By Matt García

“Reveals an interesting and overlooked chapter in Hispanic cultural history. The Claremont, California, Padua Hills Theatre presented Spanish-language, Mexican-theme musicals to a mostly white audience from 1931 to 1974. Although it presented romantic, and occasionally stereotypical views of Mexican American life, the theater deserves recognition. (MJP)”

The Commedia Dell’arte in a Mexican Folk Theatre By Pauline B. Deuel
Hispania, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Sep., 1964), pp. 537-539

The Padua Hills Theater: Bringing a piece of history back to life

Padua Hills Theatre — National Register of Historic Places

Chanterelles Fine Catering at The Padua Hills Theatre

© Vykki Mende Gray, 2008
All rights reserved.

Web design: Ellen Wallace and Vykki Mende Gray
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