Who was Robert Shackleton?
Robert Shackleton is the deceased father of Leslie Shackleton Martel, a seasonal resident of Cape May along with her husband Myles. Thanks to introductions made by former Board President Tom Cutler, the Martels have become avid fans of Cape May Stage, enjoying both the theatre productions as well as the gala fundraisers. Myles Martel contacted Project Encore chairman Jim Moffatt about the family’s idea of naming the building after Mr. Shackleton. The details were worked out in a series of phone conversations. Happily, Cape May City Council, owners of the building, gave their approval in February 2007.
As a young man in the 1930s and early 40s, Mr. Shackleton visited his brother, Jack Shackleton, numerous times in Cape May. Jack’s family owned a house on Beach Ave. – the Griscom House. It is still owned by the family.
Mr. Shackleton was raised in suburban Philadelphia and attended Lansdowne High School and Blair Academy. He graduated from Temple University in 1936, earning varsity letters in wrestling and tennis. After graduation Robert appeared in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with the Savoy Opera Company. He then moved on to the Broadway theatre.
Broadway and London stage credits for Mr. Shackleton included: “Where’s Charlie” with Ray Bolger: “Keep Off the Grass” with Jimmy Durante: “Three After Three” with Simone Simone: “Set to Music” with Noel Coward and Beatrice Lillie. His screen career included lead roles in “Where’s Charlie” with Ray Bolger, and “The Wonder Kid”.
Mr. Shackleton’s theatre career was interrupted by World War II. He entered the Army as a private and attained rank of Major, serving as aide to General Omar Bradley. In 1941 he drew the first number out of a bowl in Washington, DC for the draft in World War II.
Tragically, Mr. Shackleton passed away at the age of 42 in 1956.
Other family members participating in the contribution to Cape May Stage include Robert Shackleton’s widow, Betty Shackleton Thurston, a resident of St. Simons, GA; and, Robert ‘Woody’ and Denise Shackleton, son and daughter-in-law of Robert Shackleton, residents of San Francisco, CA.
A Dedication Ceremony took place on the Playhouse grounds in May 2007.
Thanks to the generosity of the Martel/Shackleton family, The Robert Shackleton Playhouse is the new name of Cape May Stage’s theatre building at Bank and Lafayette Streets in Cape May. This 1853 historic structure is now a state-of-the-art theatre and is known to residents and visitors “as the jewel in the crown of Cape May’s architectural gems”.