March is National Women’s History Month. It’s a good time to honor the accomplishments and contributions of women during the month. This post focuses on the world of women in entertainment. There have been many notable females in showbiz – from radio, television, film, and theater. Commemorate Women’s History Month with some activities related to the impact of their careers.
Here are a few suggestions to celebrate the lifelong achievements and talents of some memorable female performers (with a focus on the years 1930 -1970).
- Listen to Ethel Merman’s signature song “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Annie Get Your Gun or the song “Hooray for Hollywood.” Ask participants to name words associated with “showbiz.”
- Define the concept “performing arts.” Ask: Have you ever taken acting, singing, or dancing classes? Have you ever performed in an amateur or professional production? What is the hardest part of being a performer?
- Display pictures of popular radio personality Kate Smith and reminisce about her impact on the American public during World War II (war bond marathons). Enjoy Kate’s rendition of “God Bless America.”
- Judy Garland is considered one of the world’s leading entertainers. Watch the beloved 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, starring the famous child star. Sing the theme song from the film, “Over the Rainbow.”
- Encourage participants to name some female stars who have made contributions to other fields of endeavor or been devoted to a particular cause. Examples: Shirley Temple Black’s role as an Ambassador to Ghana and later Czechoslovakia; Jane Fonda’s political activism in the Vietnam War; Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.
- Display posters of the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Enjoy some of her recordings, including her 1938 hit song “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” Discuss why the “First Lady of Song” is considered a music legend. (Hint: 13 Grammy Awards)
- Lucille Ball is considered one of television’s first great comediennes. Watch some episodes of her popular hit show, I Love Lucy. Ask: Why is Lucille Ball considered a TV icon?
- Highlight Shirley Temple, a popular child star of the 1930s. View a 1930s Shirley Temple movie such as Little Miss Marker, Bright Eyes, or The Little Colonel. Learn some basic tap dance steps. Or listen to some of her radio hits: “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” or “Goodnight My Love.”
- The envelope, please! Challenge your group to name the actress with the most Academy Awards for Best Actress. Answer: Katharine Hepburn, with wins for Morning Glory, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond.
- Relive some of the glitz and glamor of 1950s Hollywood. Roll out the red carpet, display Hollywood posters, hang black and silver balloons, scatter star confetti. Look at glamorous photographs of ’50s stars, e.g., Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Grace Kelly, and Natalie Wood. Share recollections of the fashions, movie costumes, and hairstyles of the day.
- Watch the film version of Oklahoma!, which was choreographed by dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille in the 1940s.
- Reminisce about Broadway stars who had memorable leading roles. Examples: Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, Angela Lansbury as Mame, Mary Martin as Peter Pan, Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, or Ethel Merman as Rose in Gypsy. Ask: If you could play one character or role, who would it be?
- Play Lena Horne’s version of the song “Stormy Weather,” a hit in the 1940s. Read some biographical sketches of the popular 20th century entertainer, whose inspirational life led to a Kennedy Center Honors Award in 1984.
- Read the following list of words to you group: star attraction, box-office draw, bombshell, crowd pleaser, drawing card, big name, headliner. Encourage participants to name their all-time favorite female entertainers.
- Reminisce about the popularity of entertainer Dinah Shore. (Hints: USO tours to Europe with Bob Hope; TV variety show; daytime talk show; hits songs such as “I’ll Walk Alone,” “Dear Hearts and Gentle People,” “Buttons & Bows”; major golf tournament.) Ask participants to sing the jingle she made famous on “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.” (See the USA in Your Chevrolet)
WOMEN ENTERTAINERS QUIZ
There have been many females highly celebrated in the field of entertainment. Challenge your group to recall a few from the 20th century with the following trivia quiz.
- This country music legend sang hits such as “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Patsy Cline
- This Martha was a dancer and choreographer who became a pioneer of American modern dance. Martha Graham
- This TV comedienne’s variety show featured Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman. Carol Burnett
- This famous soprano opera star was nicknamed “Bubbles.” Beverly Sills
- She was the wife and comic partner of George Burns. Gracie Allen
- This 1950s actress starred in romantic comedies, like Pillow Talk, and was called The Girl Next Door. Doris Day
- She was a World War II pinup star known for her shapely legs. Betty Grable
- This great gospel singer’s signature song became “Move On Up a Little Higher.” Mahalia Jackson
- She danced “Cheek to Cheek” with Fred Astaire in the musical Top Hat. Ginger Rogers
- This elegant actress married Prince Rainier of Monaco. Grace Kelly
“WOMEN ENTERTAINERS” written by Sue Hansen. © 2008 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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