The Norman Transcript

April 4, 2013

Norman’s Sooner Theatre brings memories

By Mike McDanel
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Great article in norman etc. about the Sooner Theatre and its wonderful successes under the guidance of Jennifer Baker.

In the 1950s my friends and I, on Saturday morning, gravitated to the University Theatre, two blocks east of the Sooner. The charge was 10 cents for a double feature, 10 cents for popcorn and 5 cents for a Coke.  Ate up the weekly allowance, and we walked or biked to the theater. 

The Oklahoma Theatre was an option.  When “La Dolce Vita” played there, my size, at age 11, allowed me to pass for an adult. Or maybe they just didn’t care. But, the Sooner always asked me to prove I was 12 or under, to gather that extra 30 cents. I had to carry a birth certificate on the rare occasion a movie at the Sooner was worth 30 cents to get in, 15 cents for popcorn and 10 cents for a Coke ... Not often. Over 12 was 60 cents for admittance.

In about 1987, after 12 or 15 years of performing in the Red Stocking Follies, to help out Norman Municipal Hospital, some of my fellow thespians, singers, hoofers and roadies were yearning for a talent release. I was mid-40s and I was a youngster. Time was running out. Enter Mark Fuller, Pam Talley and many other folks who wanted to help Sooner Theatre, which needed some help. 

At the first auditions for the 1987 show, Mark and Pam cornered me, and a Transcript reporter by the name of Steve Linam. We were asked to emcee a show called “Norman Can-Do Follies.” Times were tough all over. The subtitle was “Land Run to Bank Run.” The deal was for Steve and me to provide 2-3 minutes of entertainment between seven or eight scenes. 

“We’ll do it,” we replied. “Just get us the scripts.”

Well, that was the rub. We had to do our own scripts, costumes, etc. After 30 seconds of consideration, we agreed. The show was a hoot and a financial boon for the theater.

Every couple of years, until perhaps 1998 or so, those old thespians, singers, hoofers and roadies spent four or five weeks of their lives for the theater. Each performance saw the ranks thin some, unfortunately, as someone passed away. A couple of years ago, Morrie Goldbeck, an early ’70s original, died, and 30 or 40 of us gathered at Coaches, in honor of Morrie and as a sort of reunion.

I would be remiss not to note that over the years, other younger folks from OU and elsewhere were involved in the production. All of my sons spent multiple years doing lighting, curtains, and stage crew work.

I have no idea how much money was raised over the years. Many thousands of dollars, both for the hospital and the theater. I suggest a plaque be placed at the Sooner Theatre noting the names of the shows done for the “Sooner Theatre Follies” and thanking a rapidly dwindling group of old performers for the memories.

Mike McDanel, a retired thespian, hoofer, lawyer and singer, lives in Norman.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.