“O Romeo, Romeo…”

Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the Mystery Dancer Readership Survey. Your answers will be helpful as I consider how to improve the blog and create future projects. I was pleased to learn that the majority of respondents are extremely likely to recommend this blog to others. Please do! (There is a “Share” button over to your right, hint, hint.)

Ursula at age 1, with Mama Clara

Mama and 1-year-old Ursula

In the survey, readers also indicated that the aspects of the blog they enjoy most are history of period and place, antique photos and Ursula’s personal story. With other (paying) work demanding more of my time over the past month or so, I unfortunately have not been able to continue that story until now. Without further ado, here is a new, albeit short, post:

Over the next few years after her father’s death, Ursula excelled at her drama studies. In May 1916, the Los Angeles Times reported that 13-year-old Ursula performed in the banishment scene from “As You Like It” and as Juliet in the famous balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet” at a special program presented by prominent Shakespearean drama teacher Florence A. Dobinson to the women’s Travel Club. Can’t you just imagine Ursula in her pretty ringlets, wondering aloud: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?…”

The balcony scene from film director Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"

The balcony scene from film director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”

"Los Angeles Times," June 25, 1916

“Los Angeles Times,” June 25, 1916

In addition to her studies, the teenaged Ursula found time for fun with friends, as we learn from another LA Times article published the following month. Now 14, Ursula was among about “fifty or more of the younger set” who were invited to a surprise dance party for her friend Elizabeth Everhardy. I wish I’d found a picture of the party, but we’ll have to be content with the following description from the Times. It sounds like it was quite a shindig!

“…The lawn was strung with gay Japanese lanterns and a myriad of incandescents, and Navajo rugs and comfortable seats offered a charming retreat for rests. Refreshments were served from a rose arbor and beneath bamboo, and punch was dispensed from a side pergola off the library. Balloons, horns, serpentine paper and confetti lent a carnival spirit, the party being masked the first part of the evening…”

Did Ursula giggle with the girls and flirt with the fellows? Or was she shy and demure? Did she dance with Raymond or Wallace or Cecil? Or was she sweet on Jack Hammer? (Yes, there really was a boy at the party named Jack Hammer!) We’ll never know, but it’s fun to imagine her in such an elegant setting on a warm summer’s evening, drinking punch with her friends and dancing under the Japanese lanterns.