Meet ELTC's Will Rogers at After-Show Q&A

Meet ELTC's Will Rogers at After-Show Q&A

For those who didn't have the opportunity to meet Tom Byrn, the actor portraying the title role in East Lynne Theater Company's "Will Rogers' U.S.A." at the after-show party at The Washington Inn, another chance is to be had on Friday, June 23 at an after-show Q&A. It's a wonderful opportunity for patrons to ask the actor and the director such questions as how characters are created, what goes into selecting a season of plays, and where they have previously worked.

Director Gayle Sahlhuth saw James Whitmore perform "Will Rogers' U.S.A." back in the early 1970's, and last August thought she'd order the script from Samuel French, or Dramatists' Play Service, or some other play publishing house. Much to her surprise, the play has never been published. Thus began a three-month search to find out how to find the script and who has the rights. This led to her getting to know Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry, Will Rogers' great-granddaughter, who is the founder and CEO of her own almond company called "My Husband's Nuts," in Bakersfield, CA. She's been involved in the Rogers family business since 1991 and travels throughout the year to promote his legacy, including riding in the Rose Parade with "Sons and Daughters of the Reel West." She is a founding director of the Will Rogers Ranch Foundation; a member of Friends of Will Rogers in Claremore, OK; is an advisory board member for the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation; and is a long-time member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Rogers-Etcheverry is hoping to come to Cape May in July to see the show.

Meanwhile, realizing that Will Rogers' humor is extremely timely today, theater directors in Montana and Texas are contacting Stahlhuth to find out where to find the script and who has the rights.

It was Will Rogers'' ability to do rope tricks that led to his career in Vaudeville and becoming a star in the Ziegfeld Follies by 1917, but it was his sly humor that led to his career as a journalist, radio personality, and performer on stage and screen. In 1934, he played the role of Nat Miller in The Road Company of "Ah, Wilderness!" Declining to do the role in the film version, he ended up flying with Wiley Post to Alaska. Their plane crashed near Point Barrow, killing both men.

Tom Byrn portrayed the title role in ELTC's "Mr. Lincoln," which was so well received and reviewed in 2015, that the show returned in 2016 before going to Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in PA, where Byrn was met with more standing ovations. He's acted at various theaters in the Philadelphia area, including, People's Light & Theatre, Interact, Lantern, and Act II Playhouse, and at various theaters in PA, NY, and OH. Byrn is co-editor of the trade paperback "Letters to the Editor" (Simon & Schuster), a member of the Lincoln Center Director's Lab, and a graduate of Vassar College. He resides in the Susquehanna River Valley of central PA.

"Will Rogers' U.S.A." runs four nights a week, Wednesdays through Saturdays, at 8:30 p.m. at the historic First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes St., Cape May, from June 14 - July 22.

Tickets are $32; $27 for seniors; $17 for students and those in the military, retired or a veteran. Age 12 and under are free. For more information and to make a reservation, call 609-884-5898 or go online to

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