Attention all theater goers in the Greater Cincinnati area: Tickets are now on sale for the play, “You Can’t Take It With You” by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, presented by Village Players of Ft. Thomas (Kentucky) and directed by me. The show runs February 25-27 and March 3-5. All information regarding the show, cast, safety protocols and other information can be found at villageplayers.org.
I wanted to do this play because I have great admiration for Hart and Kaufman. They both directly influenced my life as a young man and led me down the path of theater, writing and taking comedy seriously.
Moss Hart and George Kaufman wrote eight plays together from 1930 to 1940. They were so popular on Broadway that Hart, who was born in poverty, was able to buy a mansion in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and planted full grown trees on each side of the driveway leading up to the main house. Kaufman took one look at it and said, “That’s what God would have done, if he’d had the money.”
Two of those plays are still being widely produced today: You Can’t Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner. You Can’t Take It With You won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1936, was turned into a Frank Capra film in 1938 and won the Oscar for Best Picture. The film of The Man Who Came to Dinner is now something of a Christmas staple. (And the story from Merrily We Roll Along is used in the Sondheim musical.)
I first became aware of Kaufman and Hart through Harpo Marx’s autobiography, Harpo Speaks, at an early age. I devoured it, cover to cover, and discovered a world of Broadway, literary wits, writers, artists, actors and musicians that still inspire me to this day. I was entranced by the world of Alexander Woollcott (the subject of The Man Who Came To Dinner), Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Harold Ross and the New Yorker, Frankin P. Adams, Neysa McMein, Marc Connelly and of course, George Kaufman.
Kaufman, with his many collaborators, set me on a path to wanting to emulate him, writing plays, being witty and hanging out with people that were just like that.
It took longer to really discover Moss Hart. I found his 1959 autobiography, Act One, in a used book store in the 1970’s, read it and loved it. Hart is as star struck as anyone meeting Kaufman and has to work hard to convince him to stay with their first collaboration, Once in a Lifetime, after Kaufman tells Hart that he has done all he can on the play. Hart figures out what’s wrong with the play, returns to Kaufman with the revisions and Kaufman agrees to give it another shot. They are successful and the play is a hit. Then the book ends.
Research material for me in the early 70’s was limited. I had the library, but information on Hart was scarce, especially after he and Kaufman split up. But what a career he had. He wrote (and directed) the groundbreaking musical Lady in the Dark (with Gertrude Lawrence), wrote the 1954 version of A Star is Born, wrote the multi Academy Award winning Gentlemen’s Agreement (Hart was nominated), and directed the original productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot.
I hope you’ll come to see this show. It’s very entertaining and the cast is great. I think you’ll like it. Go to villageplayers.org for all the info you need.