Mask and Wig

The Mask and Wig Club, founded in 1889 by Clayton Fotterall McMichael, is the oldest all-male collegiate musical comedy troupe in the United States. Founded as an alternative to the existing dramatic outlets at the University of Pennsylvania, Mask and Wig has presented comedy, music, and dancing to the University of Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia, and to audiences across the country. The performing Cast puts on several all-original shows each year and is supported by the Club's own Stage Crew, Band, and Business Staff. Many Mask and Wig originals were made famous on the radio by mid 20th century luminaries. The well-known "Route 66" was composed by club member Bobby Troup and launched to the height of popularity by Frank Sinatra. Troup's song "Daddy" was written for a Mark and Wig show. Other Mask and Wig songs, such as "The Gypsy in My Soul," written by Clay Boland and Moe Jaffe, have been performed by the likes of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Ella Fitzgerald. The first electrically recorded album ever released was Mask and Wig's “Joan of Arkansas,” in April 1925. After nearly a century and a quarter at the cutting edge of American musical comedy, the Mask and Wig Club still thrives and remains true to its credo: "Justice to the stage and credit to the University."


The Mask and Wig Club of the University of Pennsylvania was started in 1888 by a small group of Penn undergraduates, led by Clayton Fotterall McMichael, who were interested in the stage. The group saw the theatre program at Penn lacking in many ways. McMichael and his cohorts wanted something the University did not offer: a troupe that would produce original humorous theatrical pieces.

McMichael and his peers envisioned a group that involved dressing up in frocks and performing spoofs and parodies. Because colleges at the time were open only to young gentlemen any production was limited to an all–male cast. These organizations naturally saw burlesque, which was quite popular in that era, as the perfect genre. The overblown characterizations, loose plotting, musical interludes, and parody of high art made the style perfect for a group of young, well–educated, amateur men, especially since the drag tradition came "built–in."

Founder McMichael combed the local bookstores for a story to produce and found it in Henry Byron's The Nymphs of the Lurleyburg. With a little pirating and a bit of imagination, Lurline, the Club's first production, hit the boards at the Chestnut Street Opera House on June 4, 1889, for one night only. From that night onward, the Club, supported by a strong network of alumni now known as the Graduate Club, produced an annual show. The runs were extended and the Club established a fine tradition among Philadelphia's theater–going society.

In 1894 the Club purchased a property at 310 South Quince Street to serve as a gathering place and rehearsal hall. Prominent Philadelphia architect Wilson Eyre was commissioned to convert the building, which had previously served as a church, a dissecting room, and a stable. He hired the young Maxfield Parrish, who would later become one of the greatest illustrators of the twentieth century, to decorate the interior. The Grille Room was decorated with caricatures of members; a tradition that continues today, with the second century of members' caricatures continued upstairs at the entrance to the auditorium.

The Club prospered throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The middle of this century was a heady time for the Club. Mask and Wig songs were the rage of the big band orchestras, radio shows, and solo acts of the day. The likes of Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller,Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Rosemary Clooney, and Les Brown all covered Mask and Wig tunes. The 1961 production, Wry on the Rocks, introduced a satirical revue format in a cabaret atmosphere. Sixteen years ago, with Myth America, Mask and Wig returned the student–written book musical to its stage, a practice which continues this year with West Wing Story: You Can't Scandal The Truth. Important in the show's success are the traditional high standards in the caliber of performers and excellence of the material performed. The Club's primary purpose has always been and continues to be, "Justice to the stage and credit to the University."

Today, Mask and Wig maintains its position as one of the premier extracurricular activities on the Penn campus. Its yearly tour over spring break brings the show to alumni clubs across the nation.


The Mask and Wig Club is made up of four distinct sections: the cast, the band, the crew, and the business staff.

The cast writes and performs all of its own material during the Fall and Spring Shows. The band often functions as a pit orchestra, playing original, self-arranged pieces for the Fall show, and professionally arranged pieces for the Spring production. The band also holds the headliner spot at the University of Pennsylvania's annual Spring Fling festival. The crew builds elaborate, ornate, and completely original sets for both the Fall and Spring Shows. The business staff is responsible for advertising and selling tickets for the club's shows.

Free Show

Free Show is the first Mask and Wig show of the academic year. The show is held during the first week of the academic year and is free of charge to all new freshman. The cast performs classic bits that are tried and true. Free Show serves a few purposes: it introduces the new freshman of the University of Pennsylvania to one of Penn's oldest institutions, and hopes to recruit new members by displaying what membership in the group entails.

Fall Show

The Fall Show is a sketch comedy show with musical interludes, performed in a theatre on the Penn campus. The second act opener traditionally consists of a medley of songs from a famous musician or group, but with parodied lyrics that follow a Penn-centered plot. The senior members handle all aspects of production from acting direction to choreography to musical production.

Spring Show

The Spring Show, historically known as the Annual Production, is the theatrical centerpiece of Mask and Wig. Performed at the Mask and Wig clubhouse, the production is an original show that runs from late January through March. While the format of the Spring Show has evolved over the years, the show currently runs as a full "book" musical comedy, complete with singing and tap dancing.

Unlike the Fall Show, the Annual Production is professionally composed, directed, and choreographed by some of the best talents in the industry. The script, however, is written by the Club's cast.


During spring break the troupe takes their show around the country as they road trip across the United States, usually performing in areas with a high Penn alumni concentration. The trip usually includes about four to six stops. In recent years the tour has taken Wig to cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto.

The tour is yet another one of the group's many traditions. In Mask and Wig's hey day, the group had its own train car that it would use to do a similar tour around the nation.

2008 Clubhouse Renovations

Immediately following the close of the 2007 Spring show, the clubhouse began to undergo a massive renovation. In addition to bringing the building up to modern code, the club also installed an elevator and central air unit. The construction, originally projected to be complete in time for a normal Spring show run, experienced a number of delays and setbacks. On the morning of March 15, 2008, a fire broke out in the attic of the clubhouse, setting back the completion date indefinitely. While nothing of historical significance was critically damaged, there was no way the 2008 Spring show, West Wing Story, could go on in the club's signature theater.

Luckily, the club had a contingency plan in case of such an emergency, and was able to put on their show after all. West Wing Story played for two weekends in April, 2008 at the Prince Music Theater in downtown Philadelphia, marking the first annual production to be performed at a venue other than the clubhouse since 1960. The generosity of Mask and Wig's Graduate Club made it financially possible to perform in a professional theater. The clubhouse is projected to be complete in the Fall of 2008, allowing the club to once again return to their own stage.

2008-2009 Undergraduate Leadership

Chairman: Andrew Reich

Secretary Treasurer: Anthony Maggio

Annual Production Head Writer: Ruben Henriquez

Annual Production Assistant Head Writer: Ian Stringham

Business Manager: Anthony Maggio

Stage Manager: Nick Lopreiato

Band Leader: Andrew Reich

List of Annual Productions

  • 1889 Lurline
  • 1890 Ben Franklin, Jr.
  • 1891 Miss Columbia
  • 1892 Mr. and Mrs. Cleopatra
  • 1893 The Yankee League
  • 1894 King Arthur
  • 1895 Kenilworth
  • 1896 No Gentleman of France
  • 1897 Very Little Red Riding Hood
  • 1898 The House That Jack Built
  • 1899 Captain Kidd, U.S.N.
  • 1900 Mr. Aguinaldo of Manila
  • 1901 Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
  • 1902 Old King Cole
  • 1903 Sir Robinson Crusoe
  • 1904 Alice in Anotherland
  • 1905 Mr. Hamlet of Denmark
  • 1906 Shylock & Co., Bankers
  • 1907 Herr Lohengrin
  • 1908 Uncle Sam’s Ditch
  • 1909 Merely a Monarch
  • 1910 The Desert of Mahomet
  • 1911 Innocents
  • 1912 Miss Helen of Troy
  • 1913 Maid in Germany
  • 1914 The Royal Arms
  • 1915 Paradise Prison
  • 1916 Whoa Phoebe!
  • 1917 Mr. Rip Van Winkle
  • 1918 The Bridal Not
  • 1919 Revue or Revues
  • 1920 Don Quixote, Esq.
  • 1921 Somebody’s Lion
  • 1922 Tell Tales
  • 1923 Here’s Howe
  • 1924 That’s That
  • 1925 Joan of Arkansas
  • 1926 A Sale and A Sailor
  • 1927 Hoot Mon!
  • 1928 Tarantella
  • 1929 This Way Out!
  • 1930 John Faust, Ph.D.
  • 1931 East Lynne Gone West
  • 1932 Ruff Neck
  • 1933 Out of the Blues
  • 1934 Easy Pickens
  • 1935 Drums Fortissimo
  • 1936 Red Rhumba
  • 1936 This Mad Whirl
  • 1937 Fifty – Fifty
  • 1938 All Around the Town
  • 1939 Great Guns
  • 1940 High as a Kite
  • 1941 Out of this World
  • 1942 Paoli Local
  • 1944 Red Points and Blue
  • 1945 Hep to the Beat
  • 1946 Chris Crosses
  • 1946 John Paul Jones
  • 1947 Juleo and Romiet
  • 1948 Alaska Right Away
  • 1949 Adamant Eve
  • 1950 Count Me In!
  • 1951 Doctor, Dear Doctor!
  • 1952 Here’s Howe!
  • 1953 The Golden Fleece
  • 1954 Tempest in a Teapot
  • 1955 Vamp ‘Till Ready
  • 1956 Ring Around Rosie
  • 1957 Free For All?
  • 1958 Off the Top
  • 1959 Wright Side Up
  • 1961 Wry on the Rocks
  • 1962 All at Sea
  • 1963 Where Do We Go From Here?
  • 1964 Sorry, Charlie, Your Time is Up
  • 1965 Listen, They’re Playing Our Song
  • 1966 About Farce
  • 1967 Quick, Before It’s Written
  • 1968 All’s Fair
  • 1969 The Devil to Pay
  • 1970 Wrought Irony
  • 1971 Who’s Whom
  • 1972 Now Listen Hear
  • 1973 Take Ten
  • 1974 Film Flam
  • 1975 Mystery Loves Company
  • 1976 Is It Yesterday Already?
  • 1977 S!R!O!
  • 1978 Pow! Zowie! Zap!
  • 1979 You Bet Your Assets
  • 1980 Daze a Vu
  • 1981 Hire and Higher
  • 1981 Between the Covers
  • 1983 You Gotta Have Art
  • 1984 Urban and Soda
  • 1985 Irreverence of Things Past
  • 1986 Happily Ever Laughter
  • 1987 Eureka!? I Hardly Know Ya!
  • 1988 Lurline, Again!
  • 1989 Pun & Crime–ishment
  • 1990 Healthy, Wealthy, and Wry
  • 1991 Around the World in a Daze
  • 1992 Myth America
  • 1993 Westward Who?
  • 1994 A Sworded Affair
  • 1995 Thugs and Kisses
  • 1996 Hit or Mrs.
  • 1997 Mystery Repeats Itself
  • 1998 Blasphemy? Blasphe-you!
  • 1999 From Here to Maturity
  • 2000 History in the Faking
  • 2001 All’s Fair in Love and Dwarfs
  • 2002 Star-Spangled Banter
  • 2003 Riot on the Set
  • 2004 All's Hell That Ends Well
  • 2005 Birth of a Notion
  • 2006 Not Just Another Divine Comedy
  • 2007 Troy Story
  • 2008 West Wing Story

List of Fall Shows

  • 1984 Shooting Stars: A Hollywood Murder Musical
  • 1985 Eat Wit and Die
  • 1986 What a Drag
  • 1987 Your Mother
  • 1988 Pippin or Hamlet Prince of Denmark
  • 1989 Sex, Lies and Masking Tape
  • 1990 Saddam & Gomorrah
  • 1991 Male Chauvinist Wyg
  • 1992 Debauchery, Debacle and De Candle Stick Maker
  • 1993 Ah Brutis, You Kill Me
  • 1994 Carpe Stouffer: Seize the Tray
  • 1995 Freudian Slip
  • 1996 Something To Do Before You Get Mugged
  • 1997 What Willis Was Talking About
  • 1998 Bidets of Thunder
  • 1999 The End Of The World As We Wrote It
  • 2000 You Are the Wind Beneath My Fingers, Wings and Other Things
  • 2001 Win Ben Stein's Wife and Kids
  • 2002 Less Miserable
  • 2003 Donkey Donuts
  • 2004 Waiting for Gutmann
  • 2005 Hogan's Gyros
  • 2006 Singin' in Bahrain
  • 2007 Phallus in Wonderland


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