Tent Show
Arthur Names and His "Famous" Players
Western History
6.125 x 9.25, 194 pp.
22 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 09/01/2000
West Texas A&M University Series
  cloth
Price:        $29.95

978-0-89096-954-0

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Tent Show

Arthur Names and His "Famous" Players

By Donald W. Whisenhunt

Before movie screens filled the country and television screens filled our homes, entertainment had to travel to the people. The traveling tent show was a popular form of melodrama and variety entertainment through much of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. One of the last of these shows belonged to Art Names and His “Famous” Players, a show that played to venues in Kansas, western Oklahoma, eastern Colorado, and West Texas from about 1920 to 1945.

Tent Show captures the glamour the shows held for audiences and the hard work and financial jeopardy faced by their performers. Donald W. Whisenhunt, whose father was one of Names's partners, draws on family papers, letters, original documents, and interviews to shed light on this form of entertainment.

Anyone interested in the entertainment business—or curious about life before television and movie theaters—will find Tent Show to be an unaffected look at this fastpaced, often unglamorous business and the people who chose this way of life.

DONALD W. WHISENHUNT is a professor of history at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. He is also the author of The Depression in Texas: The Hoover Years and Poetry of the People: Poems to the President, 1929–1945.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Art Names personified American individualism in his brief career as poet, playwright, and promoter of traveling tent shows in the Midwest during the 1920s until mid-1940s. His tenacity in keeping alive a dying art form demonstrated his self reliance and fulfillment of the Bard’s admonition of being true to one’s self. And Don Whisenhunt’s revisiting his grandfather’s association with Names is but a continuation of the dream. Much can be learned here about show business development from Kenneth Waters’ extended introduction.”--Archie P. McDonald, SFASU

“Art Names personified American individualism in his brief career as poet, playwright, and promoter of traveling tent shows in the Midwest during the 1920s until mid-1940s. His tenacity in keeping alive a dying art form demonstrated his self reliance and fulfillment of the Bard’s admonition of being true to one’s self. And Don Whisenhunt’s revisiting his grandfather’s association with Names is but a continuation of the dream. Much can be learned here about show business development from Kenneth Waters’ extended introduction.” --Archie P. McDonald, SFASU

“The tale is absorbing, even inspiring.” --Journal of Southern History

“Whisenhunt’s account of Art Names and his famous players skillfully reveals both the glamour and hazards associated with mobile tent shows. . . . Whisenhunt provides his reader a valuable glimpse into a form of rural entertainment which time has left behind and scholars have long ignored.” --East Texas Historical Association

“Tent Show does what Arthur Names and his partner, Bill Whisenhunt wanted to do entertain. Get a copy for the person in your family who wants to know about theater and the lives of traveling performers, it is a good read.” --The Mexia Daily News

“Art Names, grew to manhood in the city of McCracken, Kansas. He was a well-respected civic leader, a dashing World War I aviator, a prolific playwright and a sensitive poet. As a teacher he encouraged the youth to see beyond their rural upbringing through acting. He built an Opera House in McCracken, which served as a permanent stage for his players to his leaving with the touring tent show.” --Carolyn Thompson, Author-Historian

“A poignant and studious slice of Americana.” --Bellingham Herald

“Whisenhunt’s account a much needed document about the history f the tent show as well as an engaging reading experience.” --Great Plains Quarterly

“Whisenhunt’s account is useful to the student of popular culture who wonders about rural America before the arrival of motion pictures and television.” --The Chronicles of Oklahoma

“Don has given us a chance to look into the life of one of the little people that also help write the history of America. He was not a Rockefeller nor a Roosevelt, but in his area of America, he was probably more important to the people. He made them laugh and for a brief time forget the troubles of the day. I encourage you to get a copy and go on the road with Art Names and His “Famous” Players. It will be a trip in the past that you don’t often get to take.” --West Texas Historical Association Yearbook, vol 78

“Both lively and informative . . . an interesting read as well as a serious contribution to the history of traveling theater in America.” --Kansas History

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