Hazel Dopheide's Journey From Chautauqua to Radio

Photo of the cover of the November 16, 1935, issue of Stand By magazine. A head shot of the radio actor Hazel Dopheide is featured. She's looking over her shoulder and smiling.
Hazel Dopheide on the cover of Stand By magazine in 1935

Both the training school and the practical school of experience made Hazel Dopheide the finished actress whom radio listeners know. After graduating from the dramatics department of McKendree College and the School of Speech at Northwestern University, Hazel entered Chautauqua and lyceum work. This was shortly before the rise of radio and Chautauqua was in its heyday.

At 18, Dopheide was billed as the youngest dramatic reader of plays on the lyceum platform. She read the parts of all characters -- men, women and children. Her repertoire included such plays as The World and His Wife, The Money Makers, Mary Magdalene and Friendly Enemies. The last named play Dopheide memorized by attending seven consecutive performances in Chicago.

Dopheide has plenty of memories of long sleeper jumps between towns, of leaky tents -- playing her part while the stage manager held an umbrella over her head -- blazing heat and shivering nights. She knows how it feels to go on when too ill to be safely out of bed, how it feels to lose her voice in the middle of a performance. And she loved every minute of her experience, really.

There were many compensating factors -- travel to strange towns, interesting countryside, amusing incidents of the show and the companionship and friendship of her fellow artists. One night Hazel was playing the piano accompaniment for a tenor solo. A bass singer stood beside her, turned the music, and with a palmetto fan, shooed the mosquitos away from her. Finally one skeeter that Dopheide says must have been the size of a hummingbird landed on her neck. The bass singer couldn't resist. He slapped her neck with a loud resounding crack. He got the mosquito, all right, but he broke up the tenor's solo.

Another time when Dopheide was in the tensest part of a dramatic reading, a half-grown kitten ambled onto the stage. Almost immediately a small dog in the rear of the tent -- "he was waiting for his cue," she says -- rushed happily down the aisle and with loud, ecstatic barks chased the cat from the stage. She had paused for this disturbance, then she picked up her lines and went on.

She enjoyed her association with such stars as Strickland Gillilan, Edmund Vance Cooke, the Rev. S. Parkes Cadman, Madame Schumann-Heink and many others.

Dopheide started in radio at KMOX St. Louis, playing the leads in scores of dramatic productions. One of her most successful was Memories, which ran for two and a half years. At KMOX she also was featured in short stories and plays in which she took all the parts. When she came to Chicago, her first regular work was on WLS in Cradle Dramas. In these she played mother roles and as a result was soon in demand, especially for mother parts. However, she does a wide variety of other parts from ingenues to character.

Her favorite role at present is the feminine lead of Ma and Pa Smithers, even if she does have to "hector" Pa frequently. She conceived and built the idea of House By the Side of the Road in which she and Tony Wons starred on NBC last year. Other shows in which she has appeared include Homemakers' plays, Station E-Z-R-A, Ma Perkins, Little Orphan Annie, Judy and Jane, Romance of Helen Trent, Just Plain Bill, Painted Dreams, Backstage Wife and others.

Dopheide was born in Palmyra, Illinois, on May 12. She's a tall girl, with gray eyes, brown hair and one of the grandest smiles you're apt to encounter.

From Stand By, November 16, 1935

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