This San Jacinto man became a Broadway director in the early 1900s – Press Enterprise
Ira A. Hards was one of the most sought-after directors in American theater from 1909 until his retirement from the big stage in 1936. Hards cultivated his stage dreams as a young man living in San Jacinto. If San Jacinto has a Hall of Fame, Hards should definitely be included.
According to census records, Hards was born in 1869 in Geneva, Illinois, a village of about 2,000 people west of the Chicago suburbs. Her parents were John T. and Minerva, and the family included an older brother, JF “Fred”, and a younger sister, Gertrude.
Around 1888, Ira Hards and his family moved to San Jacinto. His father opened a haberdashery there. He named it “JT Hards and Sons” because Ira and Fred helped run the store and also had a stake. The only mentions of Ira Hards in the newspapers at the time were about a young man’s normal activities, such as visiting Riverside with a friend or going for bike rides.
Although there was no local mention, according to UC Berkeley’s 1893 yearbook, Hards was a “special student” of literature on campus that year. He then went to New York around December 1893 to study what the Riverside newspapers reported to be the American Dramatic Art Society. Around this time, he sold his share of the family dry goods business, although he still had several plots of land in San Jacinto that he sold over the next decade.
Ira Hards returned to San Jacinto in May 1894, and it was then that he truly left a dramatic mark on the community. He appears to have appeared in several shows and plays while at home that summer. In July, he directed the production of a well attended comedy play by the Literary Society of San Jacinto. Hards gave a dramatic read in a program set up in August 1894. At a world fair carnival, held in early September, he brought down the house with his acting and singing skills. Everything he did that summer received good, if not good, reviews in the local papers.
Right after the carnival, Hards left to return to New York and his theater studies. In May 1895 it was reported that he had graduated from drama college and that “Ira has all the promises of a bright and successful future”. He was almost 26 at the time.
From around 1895 to 1909, Hards was associated with a prominent theater group that presented plays across the country, including in San Francisco and Riverside. Ira received rave reviews for playing the title role in “The Little Minister” in San Francisco in 1901. Much to the disappointment of the citizens of San Jacinto, when this play arrived in Riverside, she did not play the role of their hometown boy.
Around 1909, Ira Hards seems to have given up acting and turned to directing. From that year until 1936 he directed at least 41 productions on and off Broadway. Some of her Broadway highlights include directing Mae West in her self-written show “Diamond Lil” in 1928-29 and directing the original “Dracula” production, which starred Bela Lugosi playing the title role. for the first time.
In his later years, Hards staged in Hollywood and was involved in regional theater. In 1931, Hards attended a reunion of the people of old San Jacinto held in Idyllwild, where people were very happy to welcome him after so many years.
On a personal level, Hards married another actor, Ina Hammer, and they had a daughter. He died at his Connecticut home in 1938 at the age of 69.
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