List of Grove Plays

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Maynard Dixon's illustration of the 1909 Grove Play St. Patrick at Tara, showing the spirit of Irish hero Cuchulainn appearing to Saint Patrick among the Redwood trees of Northern California

The Grove Play is an annual theatrical production written, produced and performed by and for Bohemian Club members, and staged outdoors in California at the Bohemian Grove each summer.

In 1878, the Bohemian Club of San Francisco first took to the woods for a summer celebration that they called midsummer High Jinks.[1] Poems were recited, songs were sung, and dramatic readings were given. In 1881, the ceremony of the Cremation of Care was first conducted after the various individual performances.[2] Eventually, the readings and songs were woven into a theme or framework, such as in the solemn Orientalism-themed Buddha Jinks of 1892 and the Christianity-triumphs-over-paganism-themed Druid Jinks the next year.[3] In 1897, the Faust Jinks were constructed within the musical form of Charles Gounod's opera Faust.[4] Finally, in 1902, both the music and the libretto were composed by club members, setting the "Bohemian grove-play as a distinct genre of stage art."[4]

Each year a Sire and a musical Sire are selected by the club's Jinks Committee, part of the club's Board of Directors.[5] The Sire is responsible for producing the script and libretto of the Grove Play, and the musical Sire composes the music. The Sire may select others to write the dialog and song lyrics, but remains responsible for the overall theme and final form of the spectacle.

A 1911 sketch of the Grove Play stage, showing extensive upstage pathways and platforms amid the ferns and redwood trees

In the earliest productions of the Grove Play, several restrictions were imposed upon the Sire including that the stage setting be the natural forest backdrop and that the "malign character Care" be introduced in the plot, to wreak havoc with the characters and then be faced down and vanquished by the hero.[6] In these early productions, the Cremation of Care immediately followed, and lasted until midnight.[7] The end of the ceremony was signaled by a lively Jinks Band rendition of There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,[8] and the club members sat down to a late dinner and revelry into the wee hours.[9]

From 1913, the Cremation of Care was disengaged from the Grove Play, and rescheduled for the first night of the summer encampment. The Grove Play was set for the final weekend.[10] A different Sire was appointed for the Cremation, and some concerns were raised in subsequent years that the Cremation of Care was growing into its own secondary Grove Play. Some Sires experimented with a satirical treatment, or topical themes such as a patriotic World War I treatment in 1918 and an unpopular Prohibition script in 1919. "Care" was not killed, let alone cremated, in the 1922 version. In response to member complaints about the unpredictable quality of the opening night fare, Charles K. Field was asked in 1923 to write the script for what became the basis for every subsequent Cremation of Care ceremony.[11]

A 1909 photograph of the dress rehearsal of St. Patrick at Tara, showing the natural forest setting including switchback pathways extending the stage rearward up a hillside

From 1902 to 1923, a central theme of most Grove Plays was the mystique of the ancient Coast Redwood tree grove.[12] Jack London wrote The Acorn Planter: A California Forest Play for the High Jinks but it was never staged; it was described as too difficult to set to music.[13] Beginning around 1920 with the installation of a large Austin pipe organ, the productions became more professional in tone.[14] In 1922, a sophisticated lighting system was installed at the Main Stage, the venue for the Grove Play.[1] During the World War II years 1943–1945, no Grove Plays were staged.

Unusual performances include the 1906 production of The Owl and Care, which is listed in Grove's dictionary as "Not strictly a Grove-Play."[15] The Triumph of Bohemia was already planned, but the 1906 San Francisco earthquake changed the club's priorities in favor of a more elaborate cremation ceremony called The Owl and Care.[15] Two plays have been staged twice for the club members: St. Patrick at Tara in 1909 and 1934, and A Gest of Robin Hood in 1929 and 1954. 1912's The Atonement of Pan was performed once for club members and again two weeks later for members' wives and women friends. In 2008, the treatment of The Count of Monte Cristo was staged even though it had been published four years prior.

The cast for a Grove Play averages 75–100 actors, many appearing as so-called "spear carriers" in crowd scenes.[16] Roles for female characters are played by men,[17] since women are not allowed as members of the Bohemian Club. Including orchestra members, costumers, stage crew and carpenters, some 300 people are involved with the production each year.[18] The cost of each play was reported in the range of $20,000–30,000 in 1975, as much as $140,000 in current value. No salaries are given to club members who take part and no admission is charged the audience.[18] Rehearsals begin a year in advance.[18]

Observers have characterized the Grove Plays as massive, predictable and slow. Author John van der Zee has described the Grove Plays as "lumbering pageants."[19] Commenting on the plot, he said, "We know in advance that the hero will be a king or commander adored by his men, and that he will see his duty and do it."[19] Journalist Philip Weiss, writing in 1989 for Spy magazine, said that the high point of the two-week summer encampment was the "vigorously lowbrow" Low Jinks, a musical comedy staged during the middle weekend, not the "mannered and ponderous Grove Play."[20] Journalism professor Richard Reinhardt argued in 1980 that the showy bombast of Broadway theatre producer David Belasco helped form in the early Grove Plays a taste for majestic and astounding visual effects, and that this aesthetic sense has continued to the present in a form of "institutional inertia."[21]

Year Playwright Title Composer Sire Ref.
Charles K. Field The Man In The Forest, A Legend of the Tribe Joseph D. Redding Richard M. Hotaling [22]
Louis A. Robertson Montezuma Humphrey J. Stewart Louis A. Robertson [23]
Will Irwin The Hamadryads: A Masque of Apollo W. J. McCoy J. Wilson Shiels [24]
Newton J. Tharp The Quest of the Gorgon, A Musical Drama Theodor Vogt Newton J. Tharp [25]
Charles K. Field The Owl and Care, A Spectacle Humphrey J. Stewart Charles K. Field [26]
George Sterling The Triumph of Bohemia: A Forest Play Edward F. Schneider George Sterling [27]
Herman George Scheffauer The Sons of Baldur: A Forest Music-Drama Arthur Weiss Herman George Scheffauer [28]
Harold Morse Stephens St. Patrick at Tara Wallace Arthur Sabin Charles Caldwell Dobie [29]
Charles K. Field The Cave Man, A Play of the Redwoods W. J. McCoy Charles K. Field [29]
Porter Garnett The Green Knight, A Vision Edward G. Stricklen Porter Garnett [29]
Joseph D. Redding The Atonement of Pan, A Music-Drama Henry Hadley Joseph D. Redding [29]
Rufus Steele The Fall of Ug: A Masque of Fear Herman Perlet Rufus Steele [30]
J. Wilson Shiels Nec-Natama (Comradeship): A Forest Play Uda Waldrop J. Wilson Shiels [31]
Frank Pixley Apollo, A Music-Drama Edward F. Schneider Frank Pixley [30]
Frederick S. Myrtle Gold, A Forest Play Humphrey J. Stewart Frederick S. Myrtle [30]
Charles Templeton Crocker The Land of Happiness, A Music-Drama Joseph D. Redding Charles Templeton Crocker [30]
Richard M. Hotaling The Twilight of the Kings Wallace Arthur Sabin Richard M. Hotaling
Harry Leon Wilson Life Domenico Brescia [32]
Charles Caldwell Dobie Ilya of Murom Ulderico Marcelli Charles Caldwell Dobie [33]
Clay Meredith Greene St. John of Nepomuk Humphrey J. Stewart [34]
Charles Gilman Norris The Rout of the Philistines, A Forest Play Nino Marcelli Charles Gilman Norris [35]
Joseph D. Redding Semper Virens Henry Hadley [36]
Roy Neily Rajvara Wheeler Beckett [36]
Joseph S. Thompson Wings George Edwards [36]
George Sterling Truth, A Grove Play Domenico Brescia [36]
Irving Pichel Saint Francis of Assisi Charles Hart [37]
Garnet Holme Nanda Edward F. Schneider [36]
Charles Gilman Norris A Gest of Robin Hood Robert C. Newell [36]
Waldemar Young Birds of Rhiannon Edward C. Harris [38]
W. B. Garthwaite Joan Charles L. Safford [36]
Daniel W. Evans Sorcerer's Drum Charles Hart
Junius Cravens The Legend of Hani Henry Hadley [36]
Harold Morse Stephens St. Patrick at Tara Wallace Arthur Sabin [36]
Wilburt Hall The Quest Roderick White [36]
Charles Gilman Norris Ivanhoe Harry I. Wiel [36]
Kenneth G. Hook Lifkronan Ulderico Marcelli [36]
Dan Totheroh The Piper Eugene Heyes [36]
Waldemar Young The Golden Feather Uda Waldrop [36]
Benjamin Allen Purrington Saul Charles Hart [36]
Charles Caldwell Dobie The Golden Talisman Alec Templeton [39]
Carlton E. Morse
Michael Raffetto
The American Scene Paul Carson [40]
Dan Totheroh Johnny Appleseed Wendell Otey
The Yester-Years (a compilation of past Grove Play scenes)
Kenneth Ferguson Maternus Wendell Otey
C. B. Kelland The Cosmic Jest Frank R. Denke
Howard A. Muckle Tetecan Hugh D. Brown
Dan Totheroh Fools in the Forest Peter Heyes
Alexander T. Case Tandem Triumphans Ulderico Marcelli
Harris Allen A Romany Legend Antonio de Grassi
Charles Gilman Norris A Gest of Robin Hood Robert C. Newell
Alexander T. Case Don Quijote, an Adventure of that Ingenious Gentlemen of La Mancha Ulderico Marcelli [41]
The Beggar Hugh D. Brown
Bauer E. Kramer Diablo Frank R. Denke Kendric B. Morrish
Earle C. Anthony Aloha Oe Ulderico Marcelli Carey Wilson
Howard A. Muckle Cortez Hugh D. Brown
Dan Totheroh Rip Van Winkle Charles Hart Dan Totheroh [42]
Alexander T. Case A Soldier and Mr. Lincoln Ulderico Marcelli Charles F. Bulotti, Jr.
True Tourtillot Agincourt Robert B. England Alexander S. McDill [43]
Richard L. Breen The Green Mountain Boys Raymond W. Hackett
David Bickersteth Magee The Buccaneers: a Grove Play based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island Leon C. Radsliff David Bickersteth Magee
Alexander T. Case Sancho Panza Leigh Harline Thomas J. Tyrrell [44]
Ralph Moody The Valley of the Moon Raymond W. Hackett J. Fenton McKenna [45]
John Brent Mills Will Wendell Otey
Hugh D. Brown Omar Charles G. Dant
Neill Compton Wilson St. John of Bohemia Leigh Harline Neill Compton Wilson [46]
David Bickersteth Magee The Bonny Cravat George Shearing [47]
Francis Xavier Fogarty Red is the Grass Francis Xavier Fogarty
Robert B. England The Centennial Grove Play, (1872–1972) Charles G. Dant
David Bickersteth Magee The Golden Cave George Shearing
John Brent Mills Armada Dale Wood John Brent Mills [48]
Will A. Parker Allegory: An Odyssey in Time and Space Carl J. Eberhard [49]
Robert B. England Noah Frank R. Denke
Louis E. Felder El Dorado Louis F. Bush
Alan Hammond Nichols Siddhartha Earl Zindars
Alexander T. Case The Flying Spear Charles G. Dant
Peter R. Arnott Olympus Carl J. Eberhard
Francis N. Marshall Taj Mahal
Dan Totheroh Saint Francis of Assisi Charles Hart [50]
James L. Benington Ciao Venezia Carl J. Eberhard Bradford W. Young
Donald L. Winks Maximilian! Charles M. Denton
George S. Prugh Solferino Parmer Fuller Robert B. England
Rod McManigal Galileo Carl J. Eberhard William W. Schwarzer [51]
John Brent Mills Talleyrand
Howard Guy Ervin Robert the Bruce William P. Snyder
Rod McManigal Pompeii David A. Bowman John M. Blauer [52]
J. Thomas Rosch The Prophecy William Whitney Pursell
Donald L. Winks Tyburn Fair Richard B. Evans
Nello Pace Cristoforo Columbo Jack Rogers
Sonny Bing Gee Qin Shihuang-Di; The First Emperor Herbert A. Goodrich
Mac McCandless The Leonardo Betrayal Kenneth B. Baggott [53]
Rod McManigal Marco Polo Jack Rogers [54]
John Brent Mills Runnymede Allyn Ferguson
Donald L. Winks Time and Again: A Compendium of Highlights from Grove Plays over the Years Charles M. Denton
Charles L. Morey Alexandre Dumas and His Musketeers E. R. McCandless
Richard C. Dehmel Merlin Herbert A. Goodrich
James C. Crimmins Je suis Lafitte Allyn Ferguson
Kenneth B. Baggott Marius of the Populares
Howard Guy Ervin III Emperor Norton Richard Walsh Edward W. Pliska
Peter O'Malley Fort Ross Peter R. Arnott
Paul Downey Concord Fight Paul Downey
Richard C. Dehmel Bully! Jeffrey Haskell
Will A. Parker Allegory Carl J. Eberhard
Mark W. Cleary Leprechaun Richard B. Evans
Charles L. Morey The Count of Monte Cristo
David Pettus Gaijin Greg Pliska
Kenneth B. Baggott Atlantis Brett Strader
Howard Guy Ervin III Casanova Richard B. Evans [55]
Herbert Goodrich Tchaikovsky's Masque Shinji Eshima Kenneth Baggott
William Bentley Longbow Brett Strader
Kenneth Baggot Rama Brett Strader W. Blake Winchell
Howard Guy Irvin III Kidnapped Richard B. Evans Charles Siebart


  1. ^ a b Ogden, 1990, p. 28.
  2. ^ Garnett, 1908, pp. 19–20.
  3. ^ Garnett, 1908, pp. 20–21.
  4. ^ a b Garnett, 1908, p. 22.
  5. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 23.
  6. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 25.
  7. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 27.
  8. ^ Ogden, 1990, p. 25.
  9. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 30.
  10. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 36.
  11. ^ Garnett, 1908, pp. 37–39.
  12. ^ Ogden, 1990, p. 19.
  13. ^ Taylor, J. Golden. A Literary history of the American West, Western Literature Association, TCU Press, 1987, p. 394. ISBN 0-87565-021-X
  14. ^ Ogden, 1990, p. 30.
  15. ^ a b Pratt, Waldo Selden; George Grove; Charles Newell Boyd; John Alexander Fuller-Maitland. Grove's dictionary of music and musicians, Volume Six, 1920, p. 221.
  16. ^ Newman, David M. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life : Readings, SAGE Publications, 1999, p. 234. ISBN 0-7619-8655-3
  17. ^ Ogden, 1990, p. 35.
  18. ^ a b c Domhoff, 1975, p. 10.
  19. ^ a b, July 18, 2004. Adair Lara, Members only: S.F.'s exclusive clubs carry on traditions of fellowship, culture -- and discrimination. Retrieved on June 29, 2009.
  20. ^ Philip Weiss, Masters of the Universe Go to Camp: Inside the Bohemian Grove. Spy Magazine, November 1989. Retrieved on June 29, 2009.
  21. ^, June/July 1980. Richard Reinhardt, The Bohemian Club Archived 2010-10-19 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on June 29, 2009.
  22. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 46.
  23. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 52.
  24. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 59.
  25. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 67.
  26. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 73.
  27. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 78.
  28. ^ Scheffauer, Herman George; Arthur Weiss; Bohemian Club. The Sons of Baldur, Bohemian Club, 1908.
  29. ^ a b c d Bohemian Club. The grove plays of the Bohemian Club, Volume II. (1918), Retrieved June 27, 2009.
  30. ^ a b c d Bohemian Club. The grove plays of the Bohemian Club (1918), Retrieved June 27, 2009.
  31. ^ Internet Archive. Nec-natama (Comradeship), a forest play (1914) Retrieved on June 27, 2009.
  32. ^ Wilson, Harry Leon; Domenico Brescia; Bohemian Club. Life, Bohemian Club, 1919.
  33. ^ Dobie, Charles Caldwell; Bohemian Club. Ilya of Murom. (1920), Retrieved June 27, 2009.
  34. ^ Greene, Clay Meredith; Humphrey John Stewart; Bohemian Club. St. John of Nepomuk, The Nineteenth Grove Play, July 30, 1921.
  35. ^ Bohemian Club. The Rout of the Philistines, A Forest Play (1922), Retrieved June 27, 2009.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Purrington, Benjamin Allen; Charles Hart; Bohemian Club. Saul, 1940.
  37. ^ Pichel, Irving; Charles Hart; Bohemian Club. Saint Francis of Assisi, 1927
  38. ^ Young, Waldemar; Edward Harris; Bohemian Club. Birds of Rhiannon, A Grove Play, performed Saturday night August 2, 1930.
  39. ^ Dobie, Charles Caldwell; Alec Templeton; Bohemian Club. The Golden Talisman, A Grove Play. 1941.
  40. ^ Buck, Richard P.; Bethards, Jack M. (2005). Music and Musicians in Bohemia: The First One Hundred Years: a Research Document. The Bohemian Club.
  41. ^ Case, Alexander T.; Ulderico Marcelli; Bohemian Club. Don Quijote, an Adventure of that Ingenious Gentlemen of La Mancha, performed July 30, 1955
  42. ^ Totheroh, Dan; Charles Hart; Bohemian Club. Rip Van Winkle, the Fifty-fifth Grove Play, 1960
  43. ^ Tourtillot, True; Robert England; Alexander S. McDill. Agincourt, the Fifty-seventh Grove Play. 1962
  44. ^ Harline, Leigh; Alexander T. Case; Thomas J. Tyrrell; Bohemian Club. Sancho Panza, the Sixtieth Grove Play. 1965
  45. ^ Hackett, Raymond W.; Ralph Moody; Bohemian Club. The Valley of the Moon, the Sixty-first Grove Play. 1966
  46. ^ Harline, Leigh; Neill Compton Wilson; Thomas J. Tyrell (director); Lawrence J. Rehag (illustrations); Bohemian Club. St. John of Bohemia, the sixty-fourth Grove play of the Bohemian Club as performed by its members in the Bohemian Grove, July 26, 1969.
  47. ^ Magee, David Bickersteth; George Shearing; Bohemian Club. The Bonny Cravat, the Sixty-fifth Play of the Bohemian Club Presented at the Grove, July 31, 1970.
  48. ^ Wood, Dale; John Brent Mills; Bohemian Club. Armada, the Sixty-ninth Grove Play of the Bohemian Club, Presented July 26, 1974.
  49. ^ Parker, Will A.; Carl J. Eberhard; Peter R. Arnott; Bohemian Club. Allegory: An Odyssey in Time and Space, the seventieth Grove Play of the Bohemian Club presented to its members in the Bohemian Grove July 25, 1975.
  50. ^ Pichel, Irving; Charles Hart; Andrew Hoyem; Jay M. Jacobus; Bohemian Club. Saint Francis of Assisi, 1982
  51. ^ Regional Oral History Office University of California. William W. Schwarzer, Litigator, federal district judge, director of the Federal Judicial Center, and professor, 1952-1997 : oral history transcript / 1998. Retrieved on July 2, 2009.
  52. ^ Blauer, John M.; David A. Bowman; Rod McManigal; Thomas J Tyrrell; Bohemian Club. Pompeii, the Eighty-fourth Grove Play, presented July 28, 1989.
  53. ^ McCandless, E. R. "Mac" ; Kenneth B. Baggott; Jay M. Jacobus; Bohemian Club. The Leonardo Betrayal, the eighty-ninth Grove Play presented on Friday, July 29, 1994.
  54. ^ McManigal, Rod; Jack Rogers; Thomas J. Tyrrell; Bohemian Club. Marco Polo, The ninetieth Grove Play presented Friday, July 28, 1995.
  55. ^ Evans, Richard B.; Ervin, Howard Guy; Devine, Peter Merle; Stegmiller, Kenneth Lawrence. Casanova, The Bohemian Club, 2011. Volume 106 of Grove Play.