Sun Time

The third in my Roaring Twenties series takes place in vaudeville’s Sun Time Circuit, so I’ve been eager to learn as much as possible about this little-known business. It hasn’t been easy–there is practically nothing available about Sun Time. It was a lesser circuit, below Keith or Orpheum which were known as Big Time. Sun Time was a Small Time circuit, the low end of vaudeville. The acts that played Sun Time moved from theater to theater in small towns or in low-end theaters in larger cities, always second-rate properties. The best you could say about Sun Time, according to one experienced vaudeville player, was that it was a proving ground for many acts. The good ones left as soon as they could, moving up to Big Time. The bad ones, well, they played for a few weeks or a few months and gave up.  

Joe Laurie, Jr., a vaudeville performer who wrote his memoirs in the 1950s, said that, oddly enough, many Sun Time players saved more money than Big Time players. Many worked for a while and saved enough to buy a farm or a store or business. Gus Sun, the owner of the Sun Time circuit of low-end theaters, didn’t pay well, but the “jumps” were small–a short train ride to the next town rather than riding from, say, Chicago to Detroit. Many were “just ten cent electric car rides to the next town,” he recalled. And the “living was cheap (usually with some private family)” instead of at a boarding house or hotel. Costumes didn’t need to be expensive because small-town audiences were unsophisticated and didn’t have the high expectations that big city audiences had. Home-made costumes, made by the wife, would do. “And there were few places to spend any money” in small towns. So, he says, many on Sun Time “grew fat by the end of the season.” 

 

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Published in: on November 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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