The IVAN CANKAR DRAMATIC SOCIETY (Dramsko Drustvo Ivan Cankar) was considered the best-developed Slovenian theater ensemble outside of Europe. It was founded on 6 Feb. 1919 by 36 young immigrants at Birk's Hall on St. Clair Ave. They named their club for the recently deceased Slovenian author and playwright, Ivan Cankar, and purchased scenery, costumes, and scripts from a disbanding ensemble. Frank Cesen served as president, and the bylaws included a guarantee of equal treatment of women members. The amateurs presented 50 different productions in the first 5 seasons. Proceeds were divided between war-relief projects and construction of the SLOVENIAN NATL. HOME. In 1924 the players moved into the new 1,500-seat hall in the Slovenian Natl. Home, and Augusta Danilova, a doyenne of the Natl. Theater in Ljubljana, arrived for a year's residency. She organized drama classes, directed plays, and encouraged the presentation of more challenging works. Membership grew to 75, with 2 plays per month in season. In its 35 active years, it gave 165 performances of Slovenian plays and classics in Slovenian translation. Joseph Skuk, Louis Truger, and Antoinette Simcic were frequent directors, and featured players included Josephine Milavec, Olga Marn, Mary Ivanusch, John Steblaj, and Anton Eppich. Fewer available players reduced the number of presentations during the Depression. Young members were less fluent in the language, and membership declined sharply in nearly all Slovenian cultural groups in the postwar years. The Ivan Cankar Society gave its final performance in 1955 and was formally dissolved in 1962.
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