Broadway Play “The Front Page” to Be Performed at Centennial/Dedication Celebration

Columbia, Mo. (March 6, 2008) — Journalists attending the Sept. 10-12 centennial/dedication can scoop the competition during a jail break – well, sort of.

The Maplewood Barn Community Theatre, mid-Missouri’s historic outdoor theatre company, will host a performance of “The Front Page,” the award-winning Broadway comedic play about journalists, for those attending the celebration Sept. 11.

The Missouri School of Journalism will celebrate its centennial with the dedication of the new Reynolds Journalism Institute, the advanced studies center for 21st-century journalism. The Sept. 10-12 event will feature a variety of social, professional and academic activities.

The Front Page
Written in 1928 by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, “The Front Page” was a Broadway hit. Graphic provided courtesy of The Maplewood Community Barn Theatre.

The original play takes place inside the press room of Chicago City Hall, where a man named Earl Williams is about to be executed for murder. As the reporters in the press room brag about who will sell the most newspapers, the killer makes an escape and Hildy Johnson, the local ace reporter, hides Williams in a rolltop desk to get the exclusive scoop. Before the story breaks, Johnson ponders leaving the business altogether, in order to get married and find a new career in advertising. But managing editor Walter Burns wants none of that. All the while, the Mayor of Chicago tries to set his own agenda with the media.

Modern-day journalists may recognize something of themselves in the scoop-chasing, deadline habits of Hildy, Walter and their competitors – and laugh out loud, said Byron Scott and Lee Wilkins, the two journalism professors who are producing and directing the play.

Written in 1928 by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, “The Front Page” was a Broadway hit. Before writing the play, the authors had worked as reporters themselves; Hecht worked for the now defunct Chicago Daily News while MacArthur worked for the City News Bureau of Chicago, also known as City Press, a cooperative news agency that went out of business in December 2005.

Scott, professor emeritus of magazine journalism, is directing the play with the assistance of Wilkins, professor of radio-television journalism and the play’s producer. Community theater has played a significant role in both professors’ lives. Scott, who taught at the School for 21 years, has 20 years of experience with The Maplewood Barn Community Theatre in acting and directing. “The Front Page” will be the eighth show he has directed there. Wilkins was inspired to join community theater 10 years ago because of him.

Scott said it was natural for him to choose “The Front Page” to coincide with the School’s centennial/dedication as the play, which is set in the 1920s, holds true to similar ethical and professional problems journalists still face today. Wilkins will host a discussion about the ethical problems involved in the play during the Sept. 11 centennial/dedication programming. A scene from the play will be performed at the discussion.

“It’s a bit of a different offering from the other centennial fare, which will be more serious and even academic. It’s a chance to support the arts,” she said.

The Sept. 11 performance of “The Front Page” for event registrants will be held in the afternoon at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, Columbia’s cultural arts venue on Ninth Street. The cost will be included in the centennial/dedication registration fee; registration opens in late April. Additional evening performances for the community will be held Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 11-13. Times of the performances will be announced at a future date.

While both professors have entertained the idea of encouraging the School’s journalism students and professors to audition for the play, Scott said auditions are open to anyone in Mid-Missouri.

Additional information about casting dates is available from The Maplewood Barn Theatre. Part of the proceeds from “The Front Page” will benefit the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts and The Maplewood Barn Community Theatre. Current sponsors of the performance include the Missouri Press AssociationCumulus Broadcasting through station KFRU and Newzgroup.

Updated: April 27, 2020

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