Scampers: An Institution
What was Scampers? The passage of time and differences in recollections have made it difficult to describe. It seems to have started in 1928, as a fundraiser to pay for the production of the yearbook, which had gone over budget. After that, proceeds went to an Oracle Honor Society scholarship fund to help juniors and seniors in need. Years later it seems to have morphed into full-length theatrical productions.
Though there are still many unanswered questions about Scampers, what’s clear is that this entirely student-run musical and theatrical revue ran for four decades and was an institution.
“In our day (’49–’52), Scampers was the glue that held all five departments together in a unified activity,” wrote the late Joe Kahn ’52.
Scampers was an annual tradition, with productions written, directed, and performed by Ithaca College students from all different majors.
“It was like producing an original Broadway-bound show!” said Gail (Goldsman) Golden ’70.
Those involved in Scampers productions speak glowingly of their experiences, whether their involvement provided them with a head start in their careers, brought them closer to classmates from different departments, or were just plain fun. The following are some memories shared by alumni who were part of the Scampers legacy:
From West Virginia to New York City:
PAGE JOHNSON ’47
Dear Scampers enthusiasts, in 1942 a starry-eyed kid from a mining town in West Virginia wrote and choreographed Forever Free. He was thrilled to be doing his first show. We all worked so hard to create a sensation. Now at 93, I look back with sparkling memories. I painted myself golden and sat cross-legged like a statue in The Myth of Manaquotia. Beauty awakens the god and is consumed in a daring duet.
I was responsible for the name Forever Free and helped write the song titled “Pull a Blitzkrieg on Me, Baby.” The next year Bernie Smith ’43 wrote a stunning score for me called “The Gods Laughed.” I did a long solo in a cape, but I couldn’t even count music. But at 18, who cares? Everyone working together was splendid.
Years later I did eight Broadway shows: Equus with Richard Burton, Romeo and Juliet with Olivia de Havilland, movies with [Elia] Kazan and Paul Newman, and tons of regional and off-Broadway shows. And I have Ithaca College to thank for what success I have had. Even though I was a small fish in a big tank, I could make waves.
NICK DEMARCO ’52
I remember Scampers in the 1950s when the IC campus was downtown and South Hill was just a dream. Dr. and Mrs. Tallcott were Scampers advisors. Everything from scripts, music, and casting to direction and crew were all strictly IC students. Opening night was attended by critics from the Ithaca Journal and the Cornell Sun. As I recall, most performances were sold out. I attribute in no small way that Scampers played an important part in my successful career in professional TV production.
The finale of the 1948 Scampers production, Oh I See
Songbird of Scampers:
JEAN (NEVIN) MARTIRANO ’52
I performed in my first Scampers in 1948. Scampers was not a play then, but more of a revue, with music and skits, etc., with a huge cast. I was an Eve Arden–type wise-cracking secretary in my skit. I also sang an original song composed by one of the music students, Pete Delucca ’50, called “It’s So Funny It’s Sad.”
There was no gorgeous campus that you have now. The town was our campus, with some classes held in second-floor rooms over stores on State Street, and all shows were in the Little Theatre on the park on Cayuga Street. I was the vocalist with a dance band of all senior music students that year, till they all graduated and I met John Martirano ’51, an IC business student and piano player who later became my husband, and I sang with his combo all over town and at Cornell frat houses.
I was active in excellent community theater productions for over 50 years in every capacity. I began in the chorus, and then set design and décor, and went on to stage manage for many years. All of these things got started with my first Scampers.
Getting a Head Start:
JACK COE ’58
I was a music student at IC and had the privilege of playing trombone in the Scampers orchestra and, in my final two years at Ithaca, conducting the orchestra, composing some incidental music, and writing many of the orchestrations for the orchestra.
I believe that the first full-length production was written by Dick DeBenedictis ’58 in 1957 called Dead End Street. Dick wrote the book and many of the songs; I conducted the orchestra and wrote most of the orchestrations. It remains today in my memory as one of the most influential and rewarding activities of my wonderful years at IC.
Over the years I have met a number of my classmates, two of whom worked in advertising agencies. They credited their experience in Scampers with their success. In addition I conducted the Cornell University Octagon show and the University of Indiana school performance of How to Succeed in Business. In both cases I was ahead of the curve because of my experience with Scampers.
A Team Effort:
LARRY HOLDRIDGE ’61
I had written (most of) the music for the 1958 (Social Event of the Season) and 1960 (Two Tickets to Heaven) productions. For some unknown but very much appreciated reason, friend Jim Gregory ’63 (now actor Jay Gregory) thought I’d be a good candidate to be composer for a Scampers production that Jared Brown ’60 and Charlie Moss ’61 were creating.
There were so many people involved on the musical end including the able orchestra, chorus, conductor Jim Leopardi, as well as orchestrations. It wouldn’t be surprising if the number [of people] related—in one way or another—to the production had included at least a quarter of the student body at the time. Scampers was a wonderful learning experience, I’m sure, for everyone who took part in these annual productions. It certainly was for me.
Scampers of 1965, titled On Our Own
GAIL (GOLDSMAN) GOLDEN ’70
Scampers was a great IC tradition—a totally student written, directed, and produced full-length musical on the main stage! I was in several Scampers, and my favorite was Scampers 1968, which starred Don Croll ’69 and was directed by Gilbert “Gibby” Brand ’68. I played a rich old lady, Mrs. Tewksberry. I based the character on Marion Lorne as Aunt Clara on Bewitched. The script was funny, the process was creative, and we all had a wonderful time!
The Scampers Legacy:
VICTOR CAPECCE ’72
I have information about what I believe to be the last Scampers production at IC in 1970. I was the scenic designer. We worked our tails off during winter break, and the production was huge, with cast and orchestra. The content was reflective of the social turmoil of the time. I personally learned so much from the Scampers experience (totally student produced) that I have become an avid supporter of student-driven, student-produced experiential learning at the university where I am now.