Little article about my Moss Hart and George Kaufman show I’m directing for Village Players in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.
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.
My play, Curtain Call, about two actors who are quitting a show because their performance isn’t up to their high standards (ok, it’s really about the Lunts) will be part of the North Street Playhouse production on Nov 5 & 6, in VA. http://northstreetplayhouse.org #theater #Broadway
The Playhouse is located in Virginia, 34 Market Street, Onancock, VA 23417. I wish I could be there.
Look at some of my earlier posts nearby to read about Curtain Call. It’s very witty. It’s really about Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne and Noel Coward.
Tomorrow and Monday (10/17 at 2 pm ET, 10/18 at 7 pm ET), auditions are being held for You Can’t Take It With You by Moss Hart and George Kaufman at the Village Players in Ft. Thomas, KY. I’m directing the show.
I’ve been saying since we announced the show that this play is an actor’s dream. It is filled with characters that actors should want to play. Each character is unique to the situation bringing their own substance to the play that becomes the Vanderhof family. I want to highlight some of the characters in the show and why you should be thinking about auditioning.
It’s easy to single out Martin Vanderhof, the Grandpa in the play, as the central character. Every member of the family is guided by his own philosophy. He lives as he pleases, free and doing anything that makes him happy. His family has taken up that message, as have others who come into their lives, and the result is a warm, loving family, full of support to one another. Martin is not an overbearing character but leads by quiet example.
The whole play revolves around Alice, Martin’s granddaughter, who has a job outside the home and has a sense of the reality of the real world. Is she confused? Yes. She loves her family but wants to present them to her fiancé’s family as normal. Does she succeed? No. But her conflict over what her family really is and what she wants them to be is the heart of the show. Alice is more than just the normal character in a play of odd characters. She is complex and has depth.
The Russians are coming. Boris Kolenkhov had escaped Russia just before Stalin’s Great Purge, during which many artists were being arrested and killed. He is happy to be in America, where he can pursue his own vision of happiness, which includes being Essie’s dance instructor, and a friend to Martin, with whom he can discuss political ideology. He’s big, demonstrative and passionate.
The other Russian in the play is the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina, who also escaped Russia and is now working at a restaurant. The family fawns over her and she immediately fits right in. Her part is wonderful and can really stand out among the cast.
For more information about auditions, the play and the characters, visit https://www.villageplayers.org/auditions.
It’s a big time of year for me, theatrically speaking. I have three events coming up soon, and, if you’re an actor, you want to follow along. Also, if you’re a patron of the theater, skip down to event number two. If theater stuff isn’t your thing, just scroll on by.
I’m going in date order and talk just a little bit about each event.
- Auditions for You Can’t Take It With You by Moss Hart and George Kaufman will be held Sunday, October 17, at 2:00 pm ET, and Monday, October 18 at 7:00 pm ET at the Village Player in Ft. Thomas, KY. I’m directing this show and if you know me at all, you know that I’m a big Kaufman and Hart fan. I wanted to be Kaufman when I was younger, writing plays and directing them. Now, I get to do just that. I know there are many (so many) plays that are, in fact, holding auditions for plays from all over the city, but, if you’re an actor, please consider auditioning for this show. Each part is an actor’s dream, giving you the opportunity to build a memorable character in a classic show. Performance dates are February 25-27 and March 3-5, 2022. Details on the audition are at https://www.villageplayers.org/auditions.
- Oh, I write plays, did I mention? My play, Curtain Call, will be performed live, via Zoom, on Friday, October 22 at 7:30 pm ET, and Saturday, October 23 at 8:30 pm ET. This will be part of an evening of plays about the theater, so my play, a comedy about perfectionist actors, fits right in. Tickets are $10 or pay what you can and available in advance at Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/playzoomers-four-plays-about-theatre-live-online-oct-22-23-2021-tickets-168043172653. I’ll be online at the show for each night and available for a little talkback, if you want to say hi.
- Auditions for The Drama Workshop’s Home Brew festival will be Sunday, October 24, at 4:00 pm ET, and Monday, October 25 at 4:00 pm ET. Auditions will be held live, or you may submit a video audition. Home Brew features ten short plays by local authors and I’m directing The Surprise Engagement by Christine Charlson, a comedy. Performances are January 14-16. Please read the details at https://thedramaworkshop.org/news/1767/home-brew-theatre-v-auditions.
I think that wraps it up for now. Thank you for your support.
(My play, Curtain Call, a comedy about famous actors worrying about their performances, will be part of PlayZoomers evening of live, online theater, Friday, October 22 at 7:30 p.m., ET, and Saturday, October 23, at 9:30 p.m., ET. Tickets are on Eventbrite. Visit www.playzoomers.org for more info. I hope to “see” you there.)
Thoughts on “Curtain Call”
I posted on Facebook the fact that a play I have written called “Curtain Call” is being performed later in October. I mentioned that the play is about actors who are worried that their performances weren’t up to their usual standards.
That resulted in a friend of mine commenting that “Are people really interested in what actors think?”
Fair question. I never really thought of it that way. “Curtain Call” is what we call a “backstage” comedy, revealing the behind-the-scenes action. It’s a device that gives us the true motives of the actors performing in a play that are often far different than what they present on stage. Plenty of playwrights have used this backstage contrivance to advance their play, such as “The Royal Family” by Kaufman and Ferber, “Present Laughter” by Noel Coward, “Noises Off” by Michael Frayen, “A Chorus Line” by Hamlisch, Kleban, Kirkwood and Dante, “Kiss Me Kate” by the Spewacks and Cole Porter. Now perhaps I shouldn’t compare my play to those above, but the principle is the same. Audiences will care what actors think as long as it’s entertaining them.
Providing the entertainment in “Curtain Call” are three actors, two of them who are based on the true antics of perhaps the greatest acting team in American theater, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and the other is based on Noel Coward. They were perfectionists, constantly talking about their roles, day and night, and how to improve their characterizations. On the day before one of their long-running shows was about to close, Lynn mentioned to Alfred that she was going to change an inflection on how she delivered one of her lines to get a bigger laugh.
In “Curtain Call,” my character, Lydia Francis, ever the perfectionist, tells her husband, Allen Hart and the playwright, Neil Collins, just how Allen threw off her performance.
It started in Act One.
The lunch scene.
Yes. Allen placed the glass on wrong side of the serving tray.
I don’t know what got into me. A total lack of concentration, I suppose.
That concerned me.
Oh, it concerned you, did it?
Yes. I saw it right away. Of course, I looked at Allen and saw the terror in his eyes. That threw me. I panicked as well and before I knew it, my head was moving back and forth as I delivered the lines.
Back and forth?
Ever so slightly.
But it threw me off. I nearly forgot to serve the finger sandwiches at the proper time.
I don’t know how you ever recovered.
I didn’t. I was thinking about it for the rest of the play.
Hopefully, that answers the question “are we interested in what actors think”. We need to look at them as not just actors, but as characters about which we care and take an interest and laugh at their hard-driven perfectionism.
I hope many of you will “stop by” to see the play. I think you’ll enjoy it.
My play, The Sequel to Citizen Kane, will be performed, via Zoom, on Monday, November 9, at 7:00 p.m. EST, by the New City Players Lab, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Registration is required to get the Zoom link, but it is free to all. Here’s the link to registration: https://www.newcityplayers.org/lab
I hope you’ll make plans to attend.
The Sequel to Citizen Kane is a comedy about two Hollywood knuckleheads who think they have the sequel rights to the greatest movie ever made. It’s one of my favorite plays and I think you’ll like it.
In 2020, who knew what would happen? In January, Lily Blossoms, or Modern Subdivision Zoning in the Present Day was given a staged reading through the Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative. Also, a monologue from Lily Blossoms was performed by Darkhorse Dramatists in Syracuse, New York.
The Sequel to Citizen Kane was given a reading in March 2020 by Miami (of Ohio) University’s Miami Writes program. And then everything shut down. As a director, I had six shows canceled, hopefully to be rescheduled. One play I was going to direct, Let’s Murder Marsha, has been rescheduled for 2022.
In October 2020, The Janus Circle was performed via Zoom by the Philadelphia Screenwriters performance group.
The Sequel to Citizen is scheduled for November 2020, performed via Zoom by New City Players in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
I woke up with this sketch in my head for some reason. It’s That’s A Myth, a sketch I wrote for The Act, which was my comedy duo with Scott Levy. I don’t have too many sketches posted on my YouTube page because, frankly, they’re not so hot. We were one of the first to use public access equipment and we rushed the shows. As I was looking at the shows recently, they just didn’t seem to hold up very well. I do have a couple that I could post, but for the most part, I think we’ll pass.
This one, though, is pretty good and represents something we were attempting. It’s a fast paced sketch and still holds up. I’m the guy on the left. The other guy is Bill Balfour, who helped us in the studio with directing and acting occasionally.
Here’s That’s A Myth:
My play, The Sequel to Citizen Kane, has been selected to take part in the Miami Writes Festival. It will be given a reading on Friday, March 6, at Miami University Hamilton Campus, Studio 307 (307 Phelps Hall), 1601 University Hall, Hamilton, Ohio 45011 at 7:30 PM. Admission is free.
Miami Writes is part of the Miami University Regionals Theater season. There will be about ten 10-minute plays read that evening. Here’s their website: https://miamioh.edu/regionals/academics/departments/hca/student-work/theatre/index.html?fbclid=IwAR2VGiEiL3v43ffFJESHW3ip2gsh_4tJIm1bPQWpxb4TodtlwpXhzER8Qtg
The Sequel to Citizen Kane is a comedy about two Hollywood knuckleheads thinking they have the sequel rights to the greatest film ever made.
I’m excited because it gives me a chance to hear a different voice to my play and it’s the first time this play has been performed. If you can make it, I’d love for you to hear this play performed.