Beatrice Herford (1868–1952) was an American actress and vaudeville performer born in England. The daughter of a minister, Herford spent her youth moving between England and the United States, following her father's changing jobs. In her twenties, she participated avidly in private theatricals, writing her own monologues. In 1895, she made her public debut at the Sallé Erard inLondon, receiving favorable reviews.
Two years later, she married Sidney Hayward, of Wayland, Massachusetts. She continued to deliver monologues both in public and private. Her monologues, generally comic in nature, lampooned popular figures and types. Herford's monologues were well received on the New York and London stages, and she numbered among her friends the royalty of English-speaking theater. Herford died in 1952.
About the Theatre:
In 1904, Herford and her friends built a small theater on her husband's property in Wayland, Massachusetts. She named it Beatrice Herford's Vokes Theatre, after English actress Rosina Vokes. For over 30 years, her tiny theatre was open only to her friends, leading lights of the New York and London stages, including Ellen Terry, George Arliss, Florence Arliss, Katharine Cornell; the house archives show that other guests included diva Geraldine Farrar, and actors Ethel Barrymore, John Drew, Norah Bayes, and others, some of whom (as well as others) inscribed their signatures on the inside of the box office door. In 1937, she gave use of the theater to a group of actors organized as the Vokes Players. The group refurbished the theater and continue to perform in it. Her theatre is a Massachusetts historical site and houses a notable collection of theater memorabilia and photographs, in addition to remaining in vibrant and active use as the home of the Vokes Players.
About the Players:
In June of 1937, a small group, organized as the Vokes Players, received the gracious and delighted permission of Beatrice Herford to use her precious theatre. Since 1937, the Vokes Players have evolved into one of the premier community theatre companies in New England, drawing many artists who work professionally in theatre elsewhere. The theatre is currently known as one of the region's preeminent local theatres. The group is made up entirely of volunteers, including the Board of Directors who are responsible for running the Players and the Theatre. Vokes Players membership is by invitation, and currently numbers more than 150. Vokes presents four major productions a year, generally including one musical, as well as various member and subscriber performances throughout the year.