the fallen pageant star

by Henry Wellington Wack

Image courtesy of the Newark Public Library via radius-magazine
Image courtesy of the Newark Public Library via radius-magazine

Time: 1 A.M.
Temperature: Just Freezing.
Wind Velocity: Rooseveltian.

Oh, if ‘twould only thaw upon this stage,
And cold raw winds would even once abate
Upon our Pageant shanks and unprotected skins—
Then would our love remain—unturned to rage
At May’s mad blasts—while Poet Tom, unagitate,
Gently megaphones at our dramatic sins
        And begs us never mind the Arctic gusts
        That pneumonize our necessary busts!

Never again shall our ambitious rôles include
The part of Herald to this gay old Town,
Until fair Newark’s thirty-first of May
Shall be so balmy as to singe the nude
In art—from sombre Puritan to clown—
Or tog us up in buskins lined with hay.
        And yet, that Civic Germ we would sustain—
        May lure us out—to do our worst again.

Written and directed by Thomas Wood Stevens, the Pageant of Newark was an elaborate piece of historical theater and allegory enacted in Weequahic Park from May 30 to June 2, 1916. The production engaged thousands of Newarkers as performers, costumers and set builders. It played, by one estimate, to a quarter of a million spectators.

Henry Wellington Wack was the chief publicist of the city’s 250th anniversary observances; in the Pageant he was appropriately cast as the Herald of Newark. The above vignette of his experience was printed in The Newarker of June 1916.

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