Theater club announces its first female president Head of Paint and Powder also runs funeral home

August 15, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

For the first time, a woman has been elected president of the Paint and Powder Club, a venerable Baltimore social institution that for more than a century did not even allow females to be members.

Meta Joy "Kandi" Slade, 58, is also president of another Baltimore institution -- Henry W. Jenkins and Sons Co., advertised as the country's oldest funeral home. The home, in the 4900 block of York Road in North Baltimore, was founded in 1799.

As head of the Paint and Powder Club, Slade replaces the outgoing president, Douglas Chambers, a business machine company owner.

"For years, we worked alongside the men," said Slade, who took office several days ago. "We did costumes. I was in the kick line as a dancer, Baltimore's own version of the Rockettes. And then we said, 'It's time, why can't we be members?' "

"The change was long overdue," said Charles W. Slagle, a Paint and Powder past president. "Kandi had come up through the ranks, and she was an excellent choice."

The volunteer charity club, founded in 1893, was once one of the largest producers of amateur theatricals in Baltimore. In the years immediately after its founding, the club's shows filled the old Ford's Theatre on Fayette Street, with women's roles performed by costumed, made-up men. In the 1930s, women were allowed roles onstage and behind the scenes, but full membership in the organization did not come until 1994. There is always a drag number in a Paint and Powder show, and it is generally the biggest laugh-getter of the night.

"You don't go to a Paint and Powder performance to see a Broadway-level show. You go to see the people you know and to have a good time. It's about entertainment," said Slade, who began appearing in club shows more than 30 years ago. Her late husband, John Slade, who died in 1993, was also a member.

"What better way to laugh than to see the local funeral director up there making a fool of herself?" Slade asked.

She said the club has a steady membership of 100 and begins rehearsals in the spring each year for its annual production. Rehearsals are held at an auditorium at the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Roland Park.

Slade said she has her work cut out for her as the club's president.

"We're always looking for the talent who can do the big shows," she said, adding that she also needs charities willing to lend their name and constituencies to sell tickets, act as volunteers and help fill out the audience.

Pub Date: 8/15/98

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