The Hidden History of Angel Casey
The Play House -- 1953-1956
Angel Casey in the Sun Times Tv Guide

The Play House with Angel Casey, came into being after Angel co-hosted the final season of Chicago station WBKB's Hail the Champ with Howie Roberts in 1952. After this, WBKB offered Angel her own show, The Play House, over which she had considerable creative control.

The Play House showcased music through songs and recordings. Angel also narrated stories and worked on projects for the "Things to Do or Make" portion of the program. And she served as a foil for a voiceless bookworm puppet named Sir Worthington Wiggle, who would whisper into Angel's ear as she related the conversation to viewers - a concept which Angel had herself created, and successfully pitched to the show's producers. Puppeteer Bruce Newton later created another character, Squawky Duck.

"I was on the show every day,", recalls Newton. "I don't think Angel ever missed a day either. We all contributed copy for the show, crafts, visuals, scripts, and guest suggestions. We did this from the debut on December 28, 1953 until the show went off the air on August 31, 1956."

Angel Casey and Bruce Newton on a live remote in a Chicago public school, guiding the kids through a mock election.
Angel and puppeteer Bruce Newton
guiding kids through a mock election

The Play House was contemporary with other children's shows involving puppetry such as Howdy Doody and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. But it only existed for three years, 1953-1956, during a time when local TV was broadcast live, and if taped, was immediately taped over. All we have today are TV Guide listings, press clippings, photographs from promotional shots and live remotes, and the written accounts of people who worked on or watched the show.

We know from a local news article that The Play House was apparently the first show to give children instructions on how to call emergency services - a young boy called the fire department to his house just to see if it would work. In this, in her insistence on the use of classical rather than "children's music", and in other ways, Angel showed in her creative direction that she saw children as having individual agency and the potential to learn things of real consequence.

The existence of The Play House was brief and its impact on later Chicago children's television debatable. Yet I believe its run would not have been so brief, nor would it have been the last major production she headlined, had it not been for the intolerance of her peers and the powers that were. 

Her later career included a TV commercials and the occasional movie bit part, bolstered by a mix of appearances in print and radio advertising, along with personal appearances, and teaching classes on topics such as fashion and nutrition at local "finishing schools" for women such as the Patricia Vance Modeling Agency and Charm School.

Angel Casey was a terrific entertainer. She was diligent and innovative in large measure. Highly educated in Music, Acting, Dance, Children's Psychology, and Makeup. The story of her willing sacrifice of this career stands out historically and morally as did Angel herself.

At the time, it was these skills that gave her the power to make this notable sacrifice and to continue the aspects of her acting career she enjoyed. She was a happy, well rounded person, albeit one with a temper to match her husband's famous one.

Angel lived an actualized life from birth to death, and she never looked back. An oft repeated phrase because it is entirely true, her moral decisions were final and once made were no longer reflected upon by her. She didn't look back, she looked forward, which is perhaps why Angle Casey, through thick and thin, was one of the happiest people on the planet. Therefore it is fitting to close with another of her favorite sayings. May it be ever thus!

Angel Casey in her heaven at home with her family.  In the city but not of it. Chicago Trubune 1958

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Originally written by C.V. Eidson, edited here for syntax -- A version of this article was originally published
by Mitchell D. Hadley on his wonderful site and blog Adventures in Classic Television.
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