Balenti Played John Alden, Dietz Did Make Up

While trying to identify the unnamed Carlisle Indian School football player who posed for a photograph in St. Louis’s Union Station while waiting for the train to Lincoln, Nebraska, I stumbled across something I’d seen numerous times before. The program for “The Captain of Plymouth,” a comic opera in three acts was something I hadn’t paid attention to before because my primary interest was in football at the school, not the music program. This time, I gave it a look because included photos of students, some of whom were also football players.

Mike Balenti, who is in the middle of the Union Station photo, stands prominently in the back row third from the right in pilgrim garb on the Principal Cast photo. However, the program doesn’t list him as a member of the principal cast. It does relegate him to the First Tenors of the Sailors’ Chorus. Since it doesn’t make sense for someone included in the Principal Cast to just be in the Sailors’ Chorus, I explored further. The school newspaper covered the production but didn’t include photographs or mention Mike Balenti.

The school’s literary journal, The Indian Craftsman, included several photos and coverage of the production of the opera during Commencement Week. Mike Balenti got a good review for his performance:

“Michael Balenti, the famous goal kicker, was the John Alden. Michael, like all great athletes is modest, and his natural diffidence made him a perfect Alden. His wooing of the comely Priscilla might have suggested that he felt a real affection for the handsome Indian maiden who so convincingly simulated the Puritan beauty.”

I wasn’t able to find the mystery man in the opera photos but I don’t have a good eye for that. Perhaps someone else will spot him.

The program wasn’t a total loss. It credited Lone Star Dietz with doing the make up for the production. This adds yet another skill to the Dietz’s sizeable bag of tricks.

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