Tag Archives: The Theatre Guild

The Kennedy Center

Dear Friends,

Last week, we watched the Kennedy Center Honors and we thought we might share with you a newsletter we wrote several years ago about our connection with the Kennedy Center.

To watch the full broadcast of this year’s Honors, click here to go to CBS https://www.cbs.com/shows/kennedy_center_honors/

Happy New Year!
Philip & Marilyn Langner

 

Dear Friends,

Today we want to tell you about the Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.–a GREAT U.S. theatre!

We have been thinking about the Kennedy Center since we saw President and Mrs. Obama attending a performance there recently.

We were very involved in opening the Kennedy Center because The Theatre Guild was designated as the subscription organization for the Kennedy Center theatre-goers to subscribe to each winter series of plays.

We began in 1971 and had a subscription audience of 15,000 members.  We remained at the Center for 15 years, and during that time we also presented some of our own plays there.

The Eisenhower Theatre is great for plays and musicals, with a seating capacity of 1,161!  It is a lovely theatre and one of the very best places to bring a play.

eisenhower theatre

It’s a wonderful historic theatre that has come into existence in our lifetime.  According to The Kennedy Center’s Archives:

Two months after President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, Congress designated the National Cultural Center (designed by Edward Durell Stone) as a “living memorial” to Kennedy, and authorized $23 million to help build what was now known as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Fundraising continued at a swift pace–with much help coming from the Friends of the Kennedy Center volunteers, who fanned out across the nation to attract private support and nations around the world began donating funds, building materials, and artworks to assist in the project’s completion. In December 1964, President Lyndon Johnson turned the first shovelful of earth at the Center’s construction site, using the same gold-plated spade that had been used in the groundbreaking ceremonies for both the Lincoln Memorial in 1914 and the Jefferson Memorial in 1938.

From its very beginnings, the Kennedy Center has represented a unique public/private partnership. As the nation’s living memorial to President Kennedy, the Center receives federal funding each year to pay for maintenance and operation of the building, a federal facility. However, the Center’s artistic programs and education initiatives are paid for almost entirely through ticket sales and gifts from individuals, corporations, and private foundations.

The Center made its public debut on September 8, 1971, with a gala opening performance featuring the world premiere of a Requiem mass honoring President Kennedy, a work commissioned from the legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. The occasion enabled Washington to begin earning a reputation as a cultural hub as well as a political one; as The New York Times wrote in a front-page article the next morning, “The capital of this nation finally strode into the cultural age tonight with the spectacular opening of the $70 million [Kennedy Center]…a gigantic marble temple to music, dance, and drama on the Potomac’s edge.”

The Center’s presence also enabled Washington to become an international stage, hosting the American debuts of the Bolshoi Opera and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, as well as the first-ever U.S. performances by Italy’s legendary La Scala opera company.

To read and learn more about the Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts, visit their website.

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

 

 

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Actors’ Strike of 1919

Dear Friends,

Today we’d like to tell you about an exciting Theatre Guild happening that took place on Broadway in 1919.

Actors’ Equity Association was formed by Broadway actors in 1913. After they were formed, they started approaching theatrical producers  to arrange contracts for their actors with each of them. The producers and Equity were not able to come to an agreement–with one notable exception–and in 1919 the Broadway actors decided to strike.

Happily The Theatre Guild was that one notable exception who chose to recognize Actors’ Equity and agree to a contract. The result was that The Theatre Guild was the only producer with a play running on Broadway during the strike.

The play was John Ferguson running at the Fulton Theatre on 46th Street, and it became a huge sell-out lasting for six months!

According to my father, Lawrence, “I was looking for a play for us to produce and I picked a book off the shelf—little thinking that I held the future of the new Theatre Guild in my hand! It was just the play we were looking for! My fellow Board members were all as excited about the play as I was and we decided to produce it at once.”

Wasn’t it fortuitous that The Guild had a sensible reaction to actors on Broadway wanting to have a union, and what a happy result!

Best wishes,
Philip & Marilyn Langner

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Playwrights

Dear Friends,

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!

Happy Summer!
Philip & Marilyn

Continue reading

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2019 Centennial Celebration

Dear Friends,

TG Centennial Press Release

Read more about Nicolosi by clicking here www.artistnicolosi.com

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

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Mean Girls

Dear Friends,

Last week we went to see the new Broadway musical, Mean Girls. And what a fun time we had! There was so much laughing, we weren’t sure we were ever going to stop!

Of course, we’d expect nothing less from the remarkable Tina Fey, who has adapted her screenplay into this must-see Broadway musical.

The Washington Post effuses that “at the conclusion of 2½ hours of exuberant Broadway-style pop and hip-hop, the feel-good resolution actually now does make you feel good.”

means girls 2

Photo: Joan Marcus

Of course, we must admit we hold a bit of a soft spot for any production that plays in the August Wilson Theatre, 245 W. 52nd Street, as it was originally the Guild Theatre, constructed by the Theatre Guild in 1925! However, we certainly think this is a must-see for Broadway! To order tickets or learn more, click here.

Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn

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Carousel Has Opened!

Dear Friends,

As you may know, the revival of our musical Carousel opened this week on Broadway to great reviews.

Of course, we are not surprised. We (The Theatre Guild—at the time, Philip’s father, Lawrence and Theresa Helburn) urged and paid Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II to create a musical adaption Ferenc Molnár’s play, Liliom. It took multiple requests from Lawrence and Theresa, but Rodgers and Hammerstein II finally agreed and we opened Carousel on Broadway in 1945, and it has had several revivals since.

This revival has an all-star cast led by Joshua Henry, Renee Fleming, and Jessie Mueller, is directed by Jack O’Brien and is choreographed by Justin Peck.

According to his review in the New York Times, Ben Brantley observes that:

The tragic inevitability of “Carousel” has seldom come across as warmly or as chillingly as it does in this vividly reimagined revival. As directed by Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Justin Peck, with thoughtful and powerful performances by Mr. Henry and Ms. Mueller, the love story at the show’s center has never seemed quite as ill-starred or, at the same time, as sexy.

Carousel broadway

Carousel is playing at the Imperial Theatre (249 W. 45th Street). Call the box office for tickets 212/239-6200 or click here to order online.

Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn

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A Match Made in Music

Dear Friends,

Today we are writing you about Carousel, which is coming back to Broadway with previews starting February 28th.

Carousel has a fascinating history.

In about 1940, the Theatre Guild decided it would like to make a musical from the play it had previously produced, called Green Grow the Lilacs. They invited Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to write the musical which became, as you know, Oklahoma!.
With the glorious success of Oklahoma!, The Guild wanted Richard and Oscar to write another musical. The Guild examined the previous 50-60 plays it had produced on Broadway. Ultimately, a play The Guild presented in 1922, Liliom by famed Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár, was chosen.

The musical, now called Carousel, was acclaimed everywhere and The Guild had another musical hit!

After Carousel, Richard and Oscar wrote one more musical, Allegro, for The Guild, but it was not as well received as Oklahoma! and Carousel. Richard and Oscar were great friends of ours, as were their children. I (Philip) grew up with Mary Rodgers, who was a great long-time friend.

We are so delighted that Carousel, which is being produced by Scott Rudin and Roy Furman, is being presented again next month at the Imperial Theatre. To purchase tickets, click here. It’s a great show!

Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn

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Carousel

Dear Friends,

Hurray!  Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel is coming back to Broadway!

The Theatre Guild originally produced this play on Broadway in 1945–it was the second musical Rodgers & Hammerstein had written for The Theatre Guild.

Carousel was adapted from the play, Liliom, which The Theatre Guild had produced on Broadway in 1921. In some ways we love it even more than Oklahoma! (the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Theatre Guild produced) because the love story in Carousel is so fantastic!
Carousel
We think you will love seeing Carousel (again?) because it has so much to offer!  It will be playing at the Imperial Theatre (249 W. 45th Street). Previews begin February 28, 2018 and it opens April 12, 2018.  To learn more and purchase tickets, click here.

Best regards,
Philip and Marilyn

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Memories On The Small Screen

Dear Friends,

Last Saturday a film we produced played on NBC.  It was Judgement at Nuremberg, starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, and Werner Klemperer.

Judgement at Nuremberg

We enjoyed it so much—it was so filled with the author, Abby Mann’s screenplay.  And, despite being thought of as too “intellectual and thoughtful,” it was one of our greatest successes! We just love the story about how the film came together and decided to re-share our story with you today (we originally posted the story below November 2014).

KATHARINE HEPBURN’S UNKNOWN TRIUMPH! 

In 1960, a teleplay was performed on Playhouse 90. The program was called Judgment at Nuremburg, which was a somber and serious piece.
Philip Langner of The Theatre Guild, Inc. received a script “over the transom”—as they say about unknown scripts. The Guild directors liked the script and “knowing” its virtual impossibility as a film, decided—with the author’s agreement—to have a play written and to produce it on Broadway.

At the time, Katharine Hepburn was playing Antony & Cleopatra at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, CT (created by Lawrence Langner). On a very remote possibility, Philip and the author, Abby Mann, drove to Stratford on a matinee day to see Kate.  After the matinee, they went to her cottage.  She opened the door and Philip said politely “Kate, you have a lovely suntan!”  Kate said with her typical Locust Valley lockjaw accent—“That’s not a suntan, those are spots!” Looking back, Philip always wondered if he should have replied, “well, they do look wonderful on you!”

Kate agreed to look at the t.v. production, which she did at The Theatre Guild building on 53rd Street. She liked the teleplay enormously and decided to work diligently to make it into a film.

She sent the play to Spencer Tracy and she succeeded! Tracy sent it to Hollywood producer, Stanley Kramer, who produced it in 1961 with the most incredible cast for such a serious—and therefore risky—film.  Kramer persuaded all 9 film stars to take modest salaries.  The film was released in 1961.

Kramer was the Producer, Philip Langner the Associate Producer, and Abby Mann was the Screenwriter. The incredible cast included:

  • Spencer Tracy
  • Richard Widmark
  • Burt Lancaster
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Max Schell
  • Montgomery Clift
  • Judy Garland
  • William Shatner
  • Warner Klemperer

Thus, one of the Great War films of all time was created.

And who got it done? Katharine Hepburn.

AND WHO WAS NEVER TOLD ABOUT HER TRIUMPH? The World. 

Judgment at Nuremburg was nominated for 11 Academy awards, winning 2 for Best Actor (Schell) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mann). The film was recently entered into the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Best regards,
Philip and Marilyn

PS—The discussion in this film on the subject of war is so important, and of course, it is wildly pertinent in today’s world with North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Yemen all hoping(?) for some war excitement.

And also: we bought a DVD of Judgement at Nuremberg at Amazon, which is currently for on sale for $12.00.  To order your copy, click here.

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Great Actresses on Broadway

Dear Friends,

Today we are coming back to a subject that we’ve discussed previously—namely the bravura performance of Glenn Close in her Broadway play, Sunset Boulevard.

In years past, great actresses would play on Broadway every year, sometimes in a new play and sometime in an old one.

We are thinking of acting greats, such as Helen Hayes and Lynn Fontanne (who performed for The Theatre Guild in 19 plays over her career!).

Each year we would ask ourselves “which play is Helen Hayes in this year?” and then we would go see that play.  This seems almost directly opposite to modern times when we ask which is the most popular play showing on Broadway this season.

So it is in this spirit of focusing on the great stars that we urge you to see one of our greatest actresses, Glenn Close, in Sunset Boulevard, which is currently running on Broadway only until June 25th.

glenn-close

That is only 12 more weeks!  We are urging you to not miss out on seeing her amazing performance!

Click here for tickets while they last!  Or call the Palace Theatre 212/730-8200.

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