October 29, 2022 | Last updated Nov 30, 2022

Beauty and the Beast

The Red Cloud Opera House on February 4, 1888, was the scene of an amateur theatrical entitled Beauty and the Beast. Small-town opera houses hosted such entertainments frequently, but the unique feature of this particular play was the inclusion of the young Willa Cather among the cast. Donning suit, top hat, and wax mustache, Cather played Beauty’s merchant father to a large and appreciative crowd.

The Red Cloud Chief on February 10, 1888, described the play, given “for the benefit of the indigent poor of this city. . . . The young folks who took part in the comedy were in training for about two weeks, under the management of Mr. W. F. O’Brien and Mrs. Sill, and to say that they merit great praise in the matter would be putting it in a light form. Every thing seemed to be perfect, and the various parts taken by the young ladies were rendered with that ease and perfection that only characterizes the most perfect training at the hands of the instructors and the adaptation of each part best suited to the individual who would be most apt to go through with it without failure.

“For instance Willa Cather took the part of ‘The Merchant’ and carried it through with such grace and ease that she called forth the admiration of the entire audience. It was a difficult part and well rendered.

“Mary Miner as ‘Chimpanze’ a prince transformed into a beast, was an excellent character, and as she appeared upon the stage representing a bear, it was the signal for a general uproar of applause. If she had been ‘old bruin’ himself she could not have acted her part better. Nellie West as ‘Goblin Page’ performed her part of ‘Attendant on Beast’ with perfect composure and good judgment.

“Minnie McAvoy and Trix Mizer as first and second daughters of Merchant, rendered their several parts to the utter satisfaction of the audience, who applauded them frequently. Margaret Miner as third and favorite daughter of Merchant, played her part splendidly and without fault and came in for her share of applause.

“Pearl Skeen as ‘Little Fairy’ acted her part charmingly, and looked a veritable fairy from fairy land as she tripped lightly to sweet strains of the piano in the mazy waltz. Nellie McBride as ‘The Fairy Aunt of Chimpanze’ rendered her part without a fault.”

The Chief noted that In Want of a Servant was afterward presented.


Willa Cather in costume as Peter Paragon in 1892 for a Union Girls’ Dramatic Club production of The Fatal Pin. NSHS RG2639-1-83

This newspaper clipping from the Red Cloud Daily Evening Chief, February 3, 1888, announced the production of Amateur Night at the Red Cloud Opera House, featuring Beauty and the Beast and In Want of a Servant. NSHS 3560-2884



Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Nebraska’s Japanese American History

Nebraska’s Japanese American History

The Blacksmith Shop

The Blacksmith Shop

Marker Monday: Long Pine – A Railroad Town

Marker Monday: Long Pine – A Railroad Town

Fred Astaire’s Omaha Origins

Fred Astaire’s Omaha Origins

How much is a teacher worth? What Nebraska paid teachers in the 1920s

How much is a teacher worth? What Nebraska paid teachers in the 1920s

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.