Since it’s summer and lately it feels too hot to think, we thought we’d share with you one of our first posts about some of the amazing playwrights we have worked with in the last century!
Philip & Marilyn
With the end of summer looming and a new school year and theatre season on the horizon, we thought we’d take a bit of a break and head down the coast to spend a bit of time with our daughter and granddaughters.
We started this Newsletter just over a few years ago and we have been very fortunate in our ever-increasing number of subscribers. But we also realize that many of you haven’t had time to go back and read all of our articles, and so we thought we’d share a few with you while we’re lounging away on the beach, watching our granddaughters play!
In this post, we revisit some of the great and phenomenal playwrights The Theatre Guild has worked with over the years…enjoy!
One of the fascinating aspects of The Theatre Guild is all of the wonderful playwrights we have worked with in our 95 years, such as:
George Bernard Shaw—possibly the greatest playwright of the century—had 14 plays produced by The Theatre Guild.
The Theatre Guild produced 9 of Eugene O’Neill’s plays.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine starred in 25 plays on Broadway for The Guild over a 30 year period from 1925 to 1956.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote Oklahoma! at the suggestion of The Theatre Guild and collaborated with The Theatre Guild to create Carousel and Allegro.
Of course, we can never forget Dore Schary—who wrote Sunrise At Campobello, which we produced and then later adapted to our current running play FDR, starring Ed Asner, which will be performing in Laguna Beach, CA in November, and Chicago in April 2015.
These playwrights were so talented…
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We are writing to you today to urge you to go see Lunt and Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway.
It is playing at The New York International Fringe Festival 64E4 Mainstage: Venue #11 (64 East 4th Street, between 2nd Avenue & Bowery) for four more performances this month: Wednesday 8/17 at 7pm, Saturday 8/20 at 7pm, Tuesday 8/23 at 2:15pm, and Saturday 8/27 at 4:45pm.
In LUNT AND FONTANNE: THE CELESTIALS OF BROADWAY, Mark E. Lang’s new stage play about the Lunts, today’s audiences get a chance to meet Alfred and Lynn, explore their life on and off the stage, see them perform scenes from their favorite plays– including Shakespeare’s TAMING OF THE SHREW and Molnar’s THE GUARDSMAN; interact with famous friends such as Noel Coward and Laurence Olivier; and share their experiences on Broadway, in London during World War II and on tour.
Alfred and Lynn were very dear to us here at The Guild—they performed in our productions from 1920-1960, with 25 consecutive seasons from 1929-1949! We are excited that real-life married couple Mark E. Lang and Alison Murphy are portraying these beloved theatre stars and throwing them back into the limelight where they belong.
Click here to purchase tickets or learn more about the play.
Philip & Marilyn
Today an incredible thing has happened to us.
We have been sent a preliminary copy of a wonderful book—a biography of John C. Wilson, who was our partner in the Westport Country Playhouse for 15 years. In that time, we came to know him very well. His house was in Fairfield, near The Playhouse.
This book tells all about the Golden Age of the Theatre. Jack Wilson was the great friend of ALL the most famous legends of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s—Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Noel Coward, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Cole Porter, Philip Barry, Lorette Taylor, Binkie Beaumont, Lilian Gish, Bea Lillie, Tallulah Bankhead, Gertrude Lawrence, Gypsy Rose Lee, and more! He directed many famous plays on Broadway—including some for The Theatre Guild.
We have been asked to review the book and make suggestions about it, which we are doing now.
A description of the book is below. We think it is one of the best books on the American Theatre. It is scheduled for an October release –we will let you know when it is available!
Noel, Tallulah, Cole, and Me
A Memoir of Broadway’s Golden Age
JOHN C. WILSON – WITH THOMAS S. HISCHAK AND JACK MACAULEY
An important figure during the golden age of Broadway, John C. Wilson staged such famous productions as Kiss Me Kate and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. He also worked with many of the greatest actors, playwrights, producers, and other artists from the 1920s through the 1950s, including Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Carol Channing, and Tennessee Williams. In his twenties, Wilson met Noel Coward and became both his lover and manager. Despite Wilson’s marriage to Russian princess Natalie Paley in 1937, he remained close friends with Coward until John’s death in 1961.
In Noel, Tallulah, Cole, and Me: A Memoir of Broadway’s Golden Age, producer-director Wilson provides an eye witness account of a never-to-be-seen-again period in American theatre and culture. The narrative covers Wilson’s youth, his education at Yale, his experience working in silent films, and details of his professional and personal relationship with Coward. Wilson also recounts his theatrical career on Broadway and in London, his marriage to Paley, and life within international high society. The people Wilson befriended—Tallulah Bankhead, Cecil Beaton, Claudette Colbert, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers, among others—are described with affection, candor, and colorful panache. Wilson also shares behind-the-scenes stories about such landmark theatre productions asPrivate Lives, Blithe Spirit, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Kiss Me, Kate.
Completed in 1958, just three years before his death, Wilson’s autobiography sat idle for decades. Wilson’s great nephew Jack Macauley and theatre historian Thomas Hischak have edited the original manuscript and added commentary to help guide the reader through the myriad names and productions that are mentioned. From his long-term relationship with Coward to his enduring marriage to Paley, Wilson’s life was as charmed as it was celebrated. Featuring nearly forty photos,Noel, Tallulah, Cole, and Me is an engaging account of one of the most important periods in Broadway’s history, as well as a fascinating look into the lives of the glamorous men and women of the era.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 288 • Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-5572-2 • Hardback • October 2015 • $65.00 • (£44.95)
978-1-4422-5573-9 • eBook • October 2015 • $64.99 • (£44.95) (coming soon)
Subjects: Performing Arts / Theater / Direction & Production, Biography & Autobiography / Entertainment & Performing Arts, Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs, Performing Arts / Theater/ Biography
I came across a fascinating aspect of theatre in the earlier days in New York (when the Theatre Guild first began).
I was reading about the different great theatrical people who worked with the Theatre Guild from 1920-1960. An amazing finding was that Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne—undoubtedly the two greatest stage stars we’ve had in America—actually played every single season for the Theatre Guild for a quarter of a century. So the situation perhaps became “what play should we get for the Lunts to do this year?” and, as such, from 1924 to 1949 they would perform a new play each and every season: 25 in all!
Of course, their acting in these plays guaranteed that these plays would succeed artistically and financially—the plays always ran long enough to pay back their production costs—usually within one season! As Ring Lardner once said: “if you want to pack ‘em out front, hire Fontanne and Lunt!”
Theatre today is such a different matter. Because of the continually rising costs of production, plays now try to run as long as they can and certainly some of the most successful have seen decades on Broadway. Our own play, FDR, is currently in its 5th season of touring the U.S. with hopefully years to continue. This difference makes it harder and harder to hold on to actors, who want to move to the next step in their career.
A very interesting change in theatre today!