“My Witch” Captures the Heart of Actress Margaret Hamilton

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New York City Actress Jean Tafler Puts on Her Best Witch Face for “My Witch,” in the Upcoming Production over Halloween Weekend 2021 at  Meetinghouse Arts, Freeport, by Snowlion Repertory Co.  For More Information on this Premier, please Visit Post Herein dated October 21, 2021.

Cape Island Purchased by Actress Margaret Hamilton is Now Owned by  Her Three Grandchildren; Scott, Chris and Margaret.

The late actress Margaret Hamilton was the third choice to play the Witch in the classic 1939 movie  – “Wizard of Oz” – it was an audition to which Hamilton wore a tablecloth according to New York City actress Jean Tafler who beautifully portrayed her in “My Witch.” 
Numerous other insights into the personal and professional life of the beloved Witch were revealed in a one night performance of a new play, “My Witch” in Portland last Friday evening.
The performance was a fundraiser held at the Portland Ballet Studio on Forest Avenue hosted by Snowlion Repertory Co.  Mostly they were funny one-liners new to the audience because nothing of  substance, like a book,  has been written about her.  Importantly, Hamilton’s son, Ham, and daughter-in-law, Helen, were the sole sources for this insightful play.

Ms. Hamilton was born in Cleveland, Ohio – 116 years ago today – December 9, 1902. “The Victorian age ended before I was born, but no one told Cleveland,” she quipped.  She loved children and it was always her intention to teach school and she did that.  “I love children and wanted to be a teacher, but I scared them to death,” she once said.  She became interested in acting, but her father discouraged her from it.   Her father once encouraged  her to have her overlarge nose fixed.  “There are no skeletons in my closet.  I’d get a nose job.  That wouldn’t bother me, because I’m behind it,” she joked.

But, contrary to her father’s wishes, she did start performing for the Cleveland Theatre.   In three years there, she performed in twenty-five plays.  She married the handsome Paul Meserve, but it didn’t last.  Before it ended, the couple had one son, Hamilton Meserve.  “Ham” and his wife Helen, were in the audience last Friday and this blogger had the pleasure of sitting next to them.

Ms.  Hamilton decided to go to Hollywood with her young son and this was done, finally,  with her father’s approval.  Divorced and  with young Ham to support, she needed money.  She won parts in around 100 movies before she became the Witch in “Oz.”  And you know the rest….!

Back in 1961, Ms.  Hamilton was in Maine – Southport Island – to be specific. Years before she had developed a passion for Maine when she appeared in summer theater in the state.  Able to return, on Thanksgiving Day of 1961 an offer of $18,000 was all that was needed for her and her now married son to purchase a small island off the coast with a summer cottage on it – with a $10,000 mortgage Ham told mhn.

The Helen and Ham Meserve had three children; Scott, Chris and Margaret.  They would visit Hamilton at the summer cottage whenever they could.  Ms. Hamilton was “grandmargie” to them.  She was not a famous actress to them as she was to so many other children.  And grandmargie could never understand why her grandchildren did not revere her in the same way that her other young fans did according to Helen Meserve during a break in the reading.  She wanted to have more children than she did because she really loved them.  She was a good mother – one who got very involved in her son’s life when Ham  got a little older Helen said.  During some  of this time, Ham’s career took them overseas working in the banking industry.

A recent junior college graduate, this blogger worked at the nearby summer resort, Newagen Inn in 1962.    Somehow our paths crossed.  It was the end of the summer and approaching Labor Day.  Ms. Hamilton told this blogger that she did not want to return to New York City yet. There was a lot of nice weather left in Maine.  But she did not want to stay at her summer retreat by herself. I had recently graduated from junior colegege and any way I could prolong a Maine summer worked for me.  Ms. Hamilton offered me the opportunity to stay with her until the weather turned too cold to stay at this unheated and unelectrified cottage.  I accepted her job offer  ($20.00 a week plus room and board) and spent one of the most delightful months of my life on Cape Island on Southport Island, near Boothbay Harbor with The Witch. The only condition of my employment by her was that I be with her at night. That’s when  she spun her own web of intrigue for her enthralled solo audience! 

Not part of the staged reading, but many readers will recall Ms. Hamilton in the television commercials for Maxwell House Coffee years ago.  Ham said:  “Those commercials paid a lot of bills!”

Following the l l/2 hour staged reading, Ham asked the New York City actress  Jean Tafler – what’s next?  She responded that she’s been in communication with several  theaters in  New York State.  Discussions are on-going about producing “My Witch” either on Long Island or in upstate New York.

Fast forward to October 21, 2021 for the latest information on an enhanced production of the same play to be produced at Meetinghouse Arts, Freeport, over the Halloween Weekend by Snowlion Repertory Co.   There are a total of three performances; one each on Friday and Saturday nights and a Sunday, October 31 Matinee at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $23.00 and pandemic restrictions are enforced!

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