Introducing Wright Players

Stage and Screen Stars Among Us

A brief history of William H. Wright’s; Broadway Players/Wright Players 5-year engagement in Grand Rapids, Michigan, most of the time they called Powers Theatre home. 1923–28, 1932–33.

other possible
Marion LYPPS
Wright Players Grand Rapids Circa 1927

William H. Wright’s Wright Players, Grand Rapids Oct 1926

Pictured from left to right; Bertha Creighton, Baker Moore, Barbara King, Earl D. Dwire, Helen Gould Peck, Alexis “Lex” B. Luce, Margaret Fitch, George Westlake, Susan Freeman, David Munro, Allen H Moore, John Lyon.

The photo appeared in The Grand Rapids Herald, Sunday 24 October 1926, taken at the back entrance of The Morton Hotel on Ionia Avenue N.W., Grand Rapids, Michigan. William H. Wright’s Stock Company returned for the Fall/Winter 1926–27 season at Powers’ Theatre, introduced under the new name; Wright Players.

Over the 5 years billed as “Grand Rapids Own Stock Company” some of the actors included the following;

The Men
Spencer TracyDean JaggerWalter Vaughn, William Laveau, Halliam BosworthAlex B. LuceGeorge WestlakeEarl Dwire, Allen H Moore, Baker MooreFrank E. Jamison, John Lyon, David Munro, Porter Hall.

In 1923 Earl Dwire (38) (1883–1940) married to Beth (Elizabeth Alice) Maddeaux (24)

The man far left is Baker Moore who often played lead. Alex B. Luce, in center, was leading man while with the Wright Players at Powers Theatre.


A young Gerald “Walter” Vaughn in front of Baxter Laundry on a photoshoot for “Know Your City” Contest in January 1927.

Walter Vaughn will join Wright Players late in the 1926–27 season and went on to Broadway but is best remembered for his voice on radio broadcasts. He is the father of Robert Vaughn; The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and actor in his own right.

Dean Jagger, a young 24 year old joins the group later in the 1926–27 season for a two year run with the Wright Players. Dean recounts in his early years it was difficult to play a believable 20-something because of his premature balding. He was often laughed off the stage. When he first appears on the movie scene in the early–1930s Hollywood right away makes him wear a toupé to cover up the bald and make him look years younger. There have even been scenes left in film where his toupé falls off and is adjusted.  It has been written that Dean was to replace Spencer Tracy who left for Broadway in 1926, when Spencer returns to Wright Players he joins the stock company in Ohio.

The Women
Maude FealyMargaret FealySelena RoyleBetty Hanna, Marion Lypps, Susan Freeman, Bertha Creighton, Beth (Elizabeth Alice) Maddeaux, Margaret Fitch, Helen Gould Peck, Barbara King

The mother-daughter team of Margaret and Maude Fealy were acting coaches for The Fealy School of Dramatic Expression in Grand Rapids, Michigan 1926–1928. They operated out of their home as well as rented facilities located downtown.

The Children
Lucille Cunningham, Barbara Lee, John Coffee Jr., John Stoutjesdyke, Louella Stoutjesdyke

It has been said that Lucille Cunningham was invited to join Spencer Tracy on a film project in Hollywood in late 1920s. Even more likely would be an invitation by Margaret and Maude Fealy, Lucille’s acting coaches who had moved to Hollywood in 1928. Lucille and Barbara Lee would be lifelong friends.

John Coffee Jr. hails from a pioneer family from early Grand Rapids. He was also a student at The Fealy School of Dramatic Expression and performed in a number of plays at Buchanan Elementary School under the direction of of both Maude and Margaret Fealy. It has been said that he and little Lucille Cunningham were “two clever children” while performing in Alias Jimmy Valentine.

Wright Players Photo; Grand Rapids History & Special Collections, Archives, GRPL Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI. Morris Photo Collection; 43-2-2 #416 ©1926

2 thoughts on “Introducing Wright Players

  1. Would love to know if there is (if you have) more information about Beth Maddeaux. She was my great-aunt. My grandfather’s sister. She was married to Earl Dean Dwire (pictured above). She was very close with my grandfather after their mother passed in 1922. But essentially ‘vanished’ after marrying Dwire in 1923 – he was 38, she was 24. This page is the first thing I have ever been able to find about her outside of the very limited information our family has, in years. She was born in England, but lived most of her youth in Toronto, Canada. So imagine my surprise at stumbling across something about her in Grand Rapids. And the irony that I now live in Michigan after myself being born and raised in Canada. All I’ve ever been able to locate is: their marriage certificate, and their address in Los Angeles. Dwire passed away in 1940. After that, nothing. We have no further information about her. Quite the family mystery.

    • Steve, I’m just seeing this now. I’ll make a note to find more about your great-aunt, Beth Maddeaux. I’m trying to recall where I saw her name come up. Most likely from a newspaper clipping. Might you have a photo of her?

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