ARTifacts: DMA Director’s Debut

Did you know that a former Museum director was also an amateur thespian?

Lloyd LaPage Rollins was the director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts from 1934 to 1935. During his brief tenure at the DMFA, he performed the role of Maxwell Davenport in The Late Christopher Bean at the Dallas Little Theater in February 1935.

Lloyd LaPage Rollins, ("Lloyd LePage Rollins, Californian, To Become Director of Dallas Museum," Dallas Morning News, October 13, 1934"

Lloyd LaPage Rollins, “Lloyd LaPage Rollins, Californian, To Become Director of Dallas Museum,” Dallas Morning News, October 13, 1934

The Late Christopher Bean, adapted by Sidney Howard, is a comedy about a family that inherits the paintings of neglected artist Christopher Bean, which are now well respected and valuable, and are visited by three art connoisseurs/dealers. Maxwell Davenport, played by Rollins, is the true art connoisseur, concerned that the works are preserved and given their proper place in art history, while the other two are interested only in their own profit.

It is a fitting role for a museum director. In fact, the play’s director, Charles Meredith, reportedly told Rollins that “he would only have to be himself” to get him to agree to the role. (“Notes on the Passing Show,” Dallas Morning News, January 22, 1935, p. 2)

Unfortunately, it seems he was likely a better art historian than actor. A review of the play by John Rosenfield Jr. gives Rollins’ performance a passable grade, stating, “Mr. Rollins read his lines sensitively and missed a few effects—he will miss fewer as nervousness wears off.” (“Sidney Howard’s Intelligent and Amusing Comedy is Given,” Dallas Morning News, February 12, 1935, p. 2)

Bonus Fact: Rollins thwarted his attempted holdup while walking to rehearsal. As Rollins passed the would-be robber, the robber suddenly produced a pistol and ordered “Stick ‘em up.” Rollins instead punched the robber with a right to the chin, and ran the rest of the way to the theater. (“Fine Arts Director Swings Hard, Saves Purse from Robber,” Dallas Morning News, January 29, 1935, p. 1)

Hillary Bober is the digital archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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