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Fostoria.org

The Republican-Courier, Findlay, OH Monday, September 20, 1971

Veteran Kinsey Komedy Trouper Still Believes World Needs 'Make Believe' By Margaret Dennis

STILL IN MAKE-BELIEVE WORLD -- Kathryn Kinsey Travis, who trouped with the Kinsey Komedy Kompany nearly a half century still lives in a world of "Let's Pretend" as she designs and fashions costumes in her little Theatre Shoppe, 826 1/2 N. Main St.

"Take an actor out of show business and what do you have? Nothing!"

Those are the words of a real trouper, Kathryn Kinsey Travis, who spent nearly half a century in the make-believe world of show business and now lives in a happy clutter of "let's pretend." For Kathryn, who made people laugh at her stage antics as the comedienne of the Kinsey Komedy Kompany, is now helping people laugh by providing them with costumes for gala events from her Little Theatre Shoppe, 826 1/2 N. Main St.

The Kinsey Komedy Kompany was a high type tent show which, from 1888 to 1948 toured through the United States with concentration in Ohio, presenting popular plays under a big tent.

It was a family show in the true sense of the word. Founded by M.L. Kinsey, three generations of the Kinsey family "trod the boards" to present plays.

It was also a family show from the standpoint of the productions. "There was no sex, no nudity, nor were any four letter words ever spoken on our shows," Mrs. Travis said. 'Mom and Dad could bring the family to any of our shows without fear of embarrassment. If, in those years, plays would have been given the alphabetical rating movies are given now our entire repertoire would have been given a 'G' (General Audience) rating," she said.

Longtime residents of Findlay may recall the two weeks or more in the summer when the Kinsey Komedy Kompany would pitch its huge tents on the Pogue lots in south Findlay in its early years and later on the Turley lots east of Main St., and not far from the south bank of the Blanchard River.

"There was a period when there were 350 tent shows performing in Ohio but Kinsey was the best," Kathryn said, not boastfully, but with conviction, for she has numerous comments from newspapers to back up her statement.

Often the troupe would have bookings in theaters during the winter season. Kathryn remembers playing the old Marvin Opera House. "We played to overflow audiences at the Grand Theater in Canton, too," she recalled.

Few will remember the founder of the company, Morris L. Kinsey, who was the youngest son of Lewis Kinsey, a judge of the Supreme Court in Iowa but who, unlike his three brothers did not enter the legal profession. Instead he was lured to the footlights.

Morris L. Kinsey was Kathryn's father. He entered the theatrical profession at an early age and in 1888 founded his own company. He died in 1907 and his wife, Beth, whom he tutored to become a leading lady, took over the managerial duties of the show. She later married Frank D. Miller who had joined the company in 1900 as a comedian and specialty actor.

Findlay audiences will remember Madge Kinsey who made her stage debut in her father's arms and grew up to be dubbed "Ohio's Crossroads Queen" by a drama critic on the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

They will remember, too, that 10 years after Madge made her debut, Kathryn, only a few weeks old, launched her dramatic career.

"I had no lines. Nor did I have a walk-on part, but occasionally, and usually unexpectedly, I was heard!" said Kathryn, her eyes twinkling.

Many still recall with nostalgia the little girl roles Kathryn played even after she had grown to womanhood. Black bloomers showing beneath a too short dress, she clunked around the stage in highbutton shoes several sizes too big for her and on the wrong feet. "I loved those shoes so much I had them half soled until the soles would no longer hold onto the tops!" she said.

Kathryn played many roles over the years but she can remember only a fraction of them. "I played Tess in 'Tess of the Storm country' and Topsy in 'Uncle Toms Cabin.' Oh yes, I played the the [sic] title role in 'Pollyanna' and I detested it! No one can be sweet and glad all the time like she was."

Those who know Kathryn would realize it must have taken considerable acting for her to play that role. For the diminutive Kathryn has mind of her own, plenty of spunk, bubbling enthusiasm and, unlike the Glad Girl, Kathryn has always known that life has its "ups and downs."

Friends and fellow actors would say that Kathryn is very much like her mother was. She describes her mother as "a ball of fire. Her word was law."

It was her mother who impressed her with the need to prepare herself for something more than acting. "She plunked me down at the piano one day and told me I had to learn to play," Mrs. Travis recalled. "I did and so, when my acting days were over, I spent a number of years as a piano accompanist for musical revues and as a pianist for the Kathleen Concannon Dance Studio."

The former actress does not regret her years on the stage. "I had more enjoyment in any 10-year period of my stage career than most woman have in a life time." she commented.

"I knew it wouldn't last. After the Kinsey Komedy Kompany disbanded in 1948 I went with Madge. She had left the show and formed the Madge Kinsey Players. In 1953, we were playing Mansfield. It was our banner town. Findlay was one of our best, too. We always drew big audiences here. We expected to stay six weeks in Mansfield that summer. We always had. But we found out the first week that we were finished. We were playing to almost empty houses. Our former fans were staying home and watching television or sitting parked at outdoor theaters which had become very poplar.

"Harry, Madge's husband said those fatal words, 'We are finished. We might as well give up.'

"Yes, we thought the fantasy would go on forever," Kathryn added a bit sadly. "We found out the hard way that it wouldn't."

So, in 1953 the summers of trouping, starting out about the first of May and folding for the season when the chill of autumn set in, were finished for the Kinseys and for the other actors and actresses who had worked with them.

Madge and her husband of 50 years now live in Del Ray, Fla. where they operate a costume shop similar to her sister's here.

Kathryn's first returned to Fostoria which she had called her home town through the years, and where her daughter, Pat, has lived since she quit the Kinsey Komedy Kompany to marry Jim Beeson. Pat, like her mother, made her stage debut as a babe in arms but unlike her mother, she left it willingly when she was married. Kathryn, in a real life drama, married her leading man and was content to continue living out of a trunk with him instead of settling for a rose covered cottage. Her husband died after they had been married 11 years.

In 1960 Kathryn purchased the Little Theatre Shop and there she designs, cuts out and sews (a vocation she taught herself) fashioning all types of costumes for a make-believe world.

If you are tiny enough you can be a bee girl, with antennae coming from your head.

If you are six-feet tall you can be a sunflower. Or would you prefer the role of the Cowardly Lion -- or prance around as the Calico Horse?

Her newest creation from the animal world is a zebra which reminds her that perhaps the Kinsey Komedy Company's biggest extravaganza was "The Gorilla." "We paid $400 for the stage rights and the suit cost us $500. Then we had quite a hard time finding a man large enough to fit the suit and play the part of the gorilla," she laughed.

Looking down the row of racks from which hang all types of fun costumes and up at the walls where she sees the headdress and veil for a harem girl or the crown of an Egyptian princess it is not difficult for her thoughts to travel back through the years to a small dressing room with its make up box and is [sic] costumes ready for her to be transformed into Topsy, or one of the other roles she loved to play.

Most of the time those days seem long ago and far away but, when she is fitting a costume on a pretty young girl posing before a mirror, those times seem like yesterday for that girl in the mirror surely is Kathryn Kinsey, comedienne of the biggest and best tent show in the country.