Tag Archives: History of Theatre

The Show Must Go On!

Dear Friends,

While we are on vacation, we thought we’d share with you some of our favorite posts over the years.  This was our very first post, which we thought we’d share for some of our newer members.

Of course, it reminds us of plays of Ancient Greece that are still circulating today!

We hope that you are well and enjoying these last few weeks of summer!

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

 

The theatre is such a wonderful happening!

We had an unbelievable evening a few weeks ago when we saw Beautiful: The Carol King Musical.  It lifted us so—from our ordinary daily lives we were brought to an evening of heaven.

And it led us to an exciting idea: staring this website to share with you the theatre that we know and love so well.  The events, the history—all of the past, present, and future!

We (my talented wife, Marilyn Clark, and I) have lived our lives in the theatre: Marilyn from the time she was an actress at 15.  And my parents were writers and producers, so I literally grew up in theatre.  Now as we reminisce a lot about all the trials and tribulations and success and stars, we decided to start this website—a place where theatre lovers everywhere can come together and find both information about the American Theatre, and personalization of the theatre as well.

So to start off: perhaps you knew that theatre as we know it began 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece. BUT! Did you know that there are still 11 plays currently circulating that were written at that time by Aristophanes?  And it’s fascinating that three of them (in bold!) were about women’s rights.  They are:

  1. The Archarnians (425 BCE) about the formation of a peace treaty.
  2. The Knights (424 BCE) an attack on Cleon, an Athenian statesmen and general.
  3. The Clouds (423 BCE) criticising Socrates for corruption and sophistry.
  4. The Wasps (422 BCE) poking fun at the Athenian jury system and the Athenians’ preoccupation with litigation.
  5. Peace (421 BCE) on the peace with Sparta.
  6. The Birds (414 BCE) where birds construct a new city in the sky and better the gods.
  7. Lysistrata (411 BCE) where women across Greece go on a sex strike to compel their men to make peace.
  8. The Poet & The Women or Thesmophoriazusae (411 BCE) where women debate the elimination of Euripides
  9. The Frogs (405 BCE) where Dionysos visits Hades and judges a poetry competition between Aeschylus and Euripedes.
  10. The Ecclesiazusae (c. 392 BCE) where women take over Athens and make all property communal.
  11. Plutus or Wealth (388 BCE) where the god of wealth regains his sight and no longer distributes riches at random.

[from http://www.ancient.eu.com/Aristophanes/ ]

Theatre then went on to Rome, then France, England, and finally to America.  Now we have it ON BROADWAY and beyond—to every state in the country and every country in the world.

Of course, just like the theatre, our Theatre Guild website is a work in progress!  But here are some of the things that we want to focus on:

  •  Recommendations for plays—what is fun and enjoyable and hot right now!
  • Suggestions on getting the best seats and the best bargains for great theatre.
  • New plays that are coming to the theatre or revivals making a comeback (HINT: it is NOT Cats!)
  • Theatres worth checking out all over the country
  • History of American Theatre—we’ve lived it and want to share it with you!
  • And of course, the actors!  We’ll be looking at some of the greats, those who will be sorely missed, and those to keep our eyes on—so we can say that we knew them when they were just starting out!

What would we like from you?  Participation!  We want to know what interests you about the theatre—be it a play, or actor/actress, or theatres or history.  What ideas and things would you like to see?  We have a lot of information to share and we’d love ideas of things that you’re interested in!

And now, but of course the show must go on, we pull back the curtain and invite you in to our world of theatre!

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A Woman’s Place

Dear Friends,

As we alluded to in our last post—and that you undoubtedly know—there were no women actors during Shakespeare’s time, their parts usually played by young boys.  We did a bit of digging to find out exactly why, but there doesn’t seem to be anything exact about it!

We found a great article from Stage Beauty about it: http://stagebeauty.net/th-women.html

The most widely accepted theory was the Church during this time vilified the traveling acting troupe, even blaming the Great Plague on them!  As such, it was thought to be too “unseemly” for a woman to be allowed on stage.

Of course, not everyone thought this way—on mainland Europe things were changing more rapidly than in England.  In fact, during Elizabeth I’s reign, women were established in Italian theatre with France quickly following suit.

It wasn’t until the reign of Charles I (1625-1649) where women in England were allowed to take the stage.  That is to say, not English women—oh no! The very first was a Frenchwoman named Henrietta Maria who came to England with a French company.  However, apparently the novelty of having a woman on stage was still too radical for England and the French troupe soon went back to France having been booed off many stages.

Then all of theatre took a huge backslide, when Oliver Cromwell rose to power during the English Civil War.  Without the protection of the crown, the Puritans were allowed to dictate and not only were women banned from the stage, but the entire performance was banned and “theatre found itself cast into another dark age.”

With the downfall of Cromwell, theatre found itself back in favor with Charles II with a mixed reaction to women on the stage.  It finally happened on December 8, 1660—the first Englishwoman took the stage.  Margaret Hughes played Desdemona in The Moor of Venice, which was thought to be a success.

From that point, the gates opened and slowly women were welcomed to the stage until we finally arrived at the point where the idea of theatre without a woman playing in a woman’s role seemed implausible.

You can read the whole article here: http://stagebeauty.net/th-women.html

And to think now we are at the point (as we told you about in an earlier post) where the Donmar Warehouse produced a version of Henry IV with an all-female cast!

We find this so interesting—that theatre shows this ascent of women from the “dark days” of Shakespeare’s time to now when we are enthusiastically enjoying the glorious tide today.

Best,

Philip Langner and Marilyn Clark Langner

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John C. Wilson

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!

john c wilson

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

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Straight From The Archives!

Now that we’re starting to get into the swing of things here—we decided to go back to our roots, as it seems that the posts everyone seems to love most are the ones with the history in them. As such, we’re going to bring you a weekly story from The Theatre Guild archives—something perhaps taken from this:

program 2

And look: it was only 50 cents! My have times changed since the 1920s!

program 1

Stay tuned for more!

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The Show Must Go On!

The theatre is such a wonderful happening!

We had an unbelievable evening a few weeks ago when we saw Beautiful: The Carol King Musical.  It lifted us so—from our ordinary daily lives we were brought to an evening of heaven.

And it led us to an exciting idea: staring this website to share with you the theatre that we know and love so well.  The events, the history—all of the past, present, and future!

We (my talented wife, Marilyn Clark, and I) have lived our lives in the theatre: Marilyn from the time she was an actress at 15.  And my parents were writers and producers, so I literally grew up in theatre.  Now as we reminisce a lot about all the trials and tribulations and success and stars, we decided to start this website—a place where theatre lovers everywhere can come together and find both information about the American Theatre, and personalization of the theatre as well.

So to start off: perhaps you knew that theatre as we know it began 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece. BUT! Did you know that there are still 11 plays currently circulating that were written at that time by Aristophanes?  And it’s fascinating that three of them (in bold!) were about women’s rights.  They are:

  1. The Archarnians (425 BCE) about the formation of a peace treaty.
  2. The Knights (424 BCE) an attack on Cleon, an Athenian statesmen and general.
  3. The Clouds (423 BCE) criticising Socrates for corruption and sophistry.
  4. The Wasps (422 BCE) poking fun at the Athenian jury system and the Athenians’ preoccupation with litigation.
  5. Peace (421 BCE) on the peace with Sparta.
  6. The Birds (414 BCE) where birds construct a new city in the sky and better the gods.
  7. Lysistrata (411 BCE) where women across Greece go on a sex strike to compel their men to make peace.
  8. The Poet & The Women or Thesmophoriazusae (411 BCE) where women debate the elimination of Euripides
  9. The Frogs (405 BCE) where Dionysos visits Hades and judges a poetry competition between Aeschylus and Euripedes.
  10. The Ecclesiazusae (c. 392 BCE) where women take over Athens and make all property communal.
  11. Plutus or Wealth (388 BCE) where the god of wealth regains his sight and no longer distributes riches at random.

[from http://www.ancient.eu.com/Aristophanes/ ]

Theatre then went on to Rome, then France, England, and finally to America.  Now we have it ON BROADWAY and beyond—to every state in the country and every country in the world.

Of course, just like the theatre, our Theatre Guild website is a work in progress!  But here are some of the things that we want to focus on:

  •  Recommendations for plays—what is fun and enjoyable and hot right now!
  • Suggestions on getting the best seats and the best bargains for great theatre.
  • New plays that are coming to the theatre or revivals making a comeback (HINT: it is NOT Cats!)
  • Theatres worth checking out all over the country
  • History of American Theatre—we’ve lived it and want to share it with you!
  • And of course, the actors!  We’ll be looking at some of the greats, those who will be sorely missed, and those to keep our eyes on—so we can say that we knew them when they were just starting out!

What would we like from you?  Participation!  We want to know what interests you about the theatre—be it a play, or actor/actress, or theatres or history.  What ideas and things would you like to see?  We have a lot of information to share and we’d love ideas of things that you’re interested in!

And now, but of course the show must go on, we pull back the curtain and invite you in to our world of theatre!

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