Tag Archives: Theatre Guild

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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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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The Lift of a Lifetime!

The events at the Theatre Guild leading up to the arrival of Oklahoma! on Broadway are quite interesting, and as always with the theatre: precarious!

While Oklahoma!  was in the creation mode, Broadway theatre was in huge difficulty as a result of the Great Depression.  Needless to say, no matter how much people wanted to go to the theatre, in the 1930s they didn’t have the money to do it.  And in the 1940s the war came along and made theatre-going feel like a frivolous thing to do when so much destruction was occurring around the world.

The mid 1930s brought a series of mistaken choices in the plays the Theatre Guild produced.  Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who had done 20 plays with the Theatre Guild, decided to part ways and join Noel Cowart in a partnership.  The Guild was in serious debt, but fortunately was rescued by producing Philip Barry’s play, The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn in the lead.

It helped the Guild through the end of the 30s.  However, with the war the mood at the Guild fell into a low ebb and only received “a lift of a lifetime” when they produced Oklahoma! in March 1943.

Oklahoma-Playbill-03-43

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Oh Othello!

This Throwback Thursday features a great photo of Paul Robeson in his garb as the well-known character of Othello, which The Theatre Guild produced on Broadway in 1943-1944.

Robeson’s portrayal of Othello was so masterful and well-performed that John Dover Wilson—one of the premier Shakespeare critics at the time—commented that Robeson’s Othello was the best performance of the century!

When I was about 10 years old, I used to spend wonderful times wrestling and playing with Paul’s son, Paul Jr.!

Paul broke through so many barriers coming from the son of a former slave, and knowing him and his family was such an honor!

old pic 2

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Happy New Year!

Dear Friends,

We are sending you our thanks and good wishes for 2015!

This is the year we began our theatrical website, The Theatre Guild, and we are very excited to have shared this adventure with you.  It gives us great pleasure to study the theatrical (and world!) news and share it with you every week.

Please tell your friends about us—as we would love for them to join us on our adventures as well.

Let us pray 2015 is fun and theatrical!

Very best regards,

Philip & Marilyn Langner                    Sherry Sagebiel

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Oklahoma!

After we sent out the letter from the Dramatist Guild urging you to contact the U.S. Postal Service regarding a commemorative stamp, we started reminiscing and looking through our collections of first issue stamps that we just love—and of course, why we think it’s so important for these stamps to be created!

ok stamp

Of course, this is one of our favorites.  It’s kind of hard to pick A favorite, but this would be close—given our history with Oklahoma! and Rodgers & Hammerstein.  We (and by we, I mean The Theatre Guild, which at that time was under direction of Lawrence and Armina Langner and Theresa Helburn) opened Oklahoma! on Broadway March 31, 1943 at the St. James Theatre.  It ran for 5 years with over 2,212 performances—by far the most successful play of its time!

We have always loved this play—and movie!  You can watch it instantly on Amazon or to purchase it and watch it anytime, you can find it on our Amazon store!

 

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Holiday Shopping Made Easy!

I’m not sure about you, but we just can’t believe that Christmas is right around the corner! And with every passing moment, the season gets busier and busier.

If you’re finding yourself running low on time and energy to face all the shopping crowds, let Amazon do all the work for you! And if you’re looking for unique gifts for the theatre lover in your life (and even better if it’s you!), check out our Amazon store!

http://astore.amazon.com/thethegui0b-20

The greatest Christmas present we think is the Gene Kelly movie 4 pack—four great Gene Kelly movies—On The Town/For Me & My Gal/Summer Stock/Invitation to The Dance—and it’s currently on sale for $11.39!!

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=thethegui0b-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B008RO6PIM&asins=B008RO6PIM&linkId=SLQMIRVLRYHNGLUM&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Happy holidays from our house to yours!

Philip & Marilyn

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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 Magic Curtain

The Magic Curtain is the autobiography of my father, Lawrence Langner, founder of The Theatre Guild. It is filled with great stories about the theatre, his life, the world as he saw it, and of course, there are tons of pictures!

We found it recently on Amazon (of course—you can find everything there!) and I thought I’d pass along the link (click on the book below), if you were interested!

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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. 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 Locus 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.

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