University of Texas at Austin

Norman Bel Geddes Database

Job 11, Children's Theatre, 1916

Summary: The Children's Theater was designed and built by Bel Geddes for producer and theater patron Aline Barnsdall. Their intention was to create a theatrical space specifically tailored to the needs of children. The Children's Theater seems to have been built within the confines of a rehearsal hall at Barnsdall's Little Theater in Los Angeles. It was built with a proscenium opening 14 feet wide and 9 feet high and a stage apron that extended 10 feet in the center and curved to 7 feet at the sides. Two doors, opening either inward or outward, functioned as the curtain. The doors could be decorated on either side with pictorial panels relating to the plays performed. Seating on the ground level had places for 98 children in 7 rows, with additional seating for 28 adults in two glassed-in balconies on either side of the theater. In Geddes's design, the adults were purposefully separated from the children and would be removed if they attracted the attention of the children.

The theater opened on 27 December 1916. Only two plays were produced at the theater, Return of Persepine and Mother Goose, both adapted by playwright Florence Frank. Each ran for six matinees in two weeks. A third, Over the Hills, was written by Frank but not produced. Apparently the limited use of the theater was due to the fact that Barnsdall and Geddes felt that it "did not represent what Aline and I had intended" (Norman Bel Geddes, unpublished draft of autobiography, 1954, Norman Bel Geddes Papers, Harry Ransom Center).

Hunter Code: TH 10
Hunter Guide: page 171

Box/Location Folder Description
theater box 154 e 1 Preliminary Sketches --- Ground plan, curtain, proscenium door.
theater box 154 p 1 Production Specifications --- Notes on children's theatre.
theater box 154 q 1 Source Material.
theater box 154 y 1 Autobiography manuscript draft excerpts.