Madge Kinsey Players

The Kinsey Players spanned multiple generations but had long roots in Ashland County.

LOUDONVILLE -- Loudonville was once the home to one of America's most beloved comedy acts, the Madge Kinsey Players.

In 1888 M.L. Kinsey, a veteran actor, opened his own comedy troupe in Iowa and headed east, towards New York. Along the way the troupe stopped and did shows in every town, making money and gaining experience before trying to make a name for themselves in the Big Apple.

It was about this time that M.L. and his wife, Beth, married. Soon after, their daughter, Madge Kinsey, was born.

In 1901, they stopped in Shreve, Ohio and M.L. Kinsey decided he liked the area. Madge, barely 2 years old, was already on stage pantomiming with her father. She was billed as "Baby Madge, Phenomenal Child Artist" and the troupe became the "Kinsey Komedy Kompany." The troupe still traveled the country, first by train and later by automobile, doing tent shows in the summer and renting opera houses in the winter months.

In 1907, M.L. passed away, his wife Beth ran the show until handing the reigns over to Madge. Madge married Loudonville drugstore clerk Harry Graf. They moved the troupe to Loudonville and the show went on, with Harry and Madge at the helm.

Their two daughters, Bette and Jeanne, quickly learned the ropes and also joined the show. Once they married their husbands were pulled, just as Harry did.

By now the act was known as the "Madge Kinsey Players" and had become a staple of American entertainment, entertaining generation after generation. In 1941, 15 cents (plus a dime if you wanted a reserved seat) could get you into the big tent to see one of the last great Vaudeville troupes to travel the country.

Towards the end, Madge had started wintering the troupe in Fostoria, rather than Loudonville ... but they still kicked off every summer tour in town, and often ended it at the Loudonville Street Fair. By Madge and Harry's account, when they came to town one year for the fair they were greeted by a throng of fans so large that they shook hands and greeted the crowd from 4 a.m. all the way to 4 p.m.

With the age of television, however, people could enjoy comedy acts from the comfort of their couch. In 1951, the troupe closed up shop. Madge and Harry retired to Florida, where they opened a theatre and costume shop.

Almost as a hobby, however, they spent the summer working with the John. B. Rogers Company, where they helped with "The Edge of Paradise" spectacle performed for the 1964 Loudonville Bicentennial, a fitting end to their stage careers.

Harry passed away in 1972, followed in 1975 by his wife Madge. Both are buried in Loudonville in the Graf family plot.

More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.

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