A high-heeled Cadillac driver does battle with a sexist film company in the Academy of Music’s original production this month.
The off-kilter world of 1940s Northampton is the scene for Nobody’s Girl, a screwball comedy ripped right from the headlines of seven decades past. When a dusty box of notes was found in the Northampton Academy of Music, a long-forgotten scandal was unearthed that inspired the Academy’s executive director Debra J’Anthony to have the story adapted for the stage. The documents concerned a one-time employee of the Academy, Mildred E. Walker, whose sudden promotion caused much consternation in the quiet western Massachusetts town. Once the Academy manager was called to duty in WWII, Walker was given his position temporarily, inciting the building lessee’s displeasure with having a woman manager. The conflict came to such a point that a law suit was filed seeking her ouster, and it is this drama that is captured in Nobody’s Girl.
Playwright Harley Erdman was commissioned by the theater to write the play, which, as he told The Republican, celebrates “the heroism and tenacity of ordinary, uncelebrated people–long-forgotten people–local to our community.” Nobody’s Girl creatively fills in the holes left in the history of Walker’s tenure while staying true to the documents found in the Academy’s files. It is more than a story of 20th-century sexism, and looks at the conflict through many lenses: power struggles within the company and the municipal board of the theater; the experience of class and mobility; localism versus national control. These serious and still-relevant topics mingle with screwball humor and punchy characters for a lively look at a chapter of Northampton’s history. The production hits the stage October 17th and 18th.