Ye Olde “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

In honor of the new Scarlett Johansson/Benjamin Walker Cat on a Hot Tin Roof now on Broadway, here’s a blast from the Tennessee past: scans from the original, 1955 Cat Playbill.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof original Playbill

Already nostalgic for the now-demolished Morosco Theatre, where this Cat prowled? Don’t be—the Marriott Hotel now in its stead is a far more important architectural, artistic, and cultural space than any classic, Broadway house. Definitely.

But enough of that. Turn a few pages and you stumble onto a hilarious diatribe about “real” stars and “parochial” stars—click the image for a better (but not great—sorry!) view. (Mr. Burr thinks that narrow-minded Broadway is rife with the latter kind.)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof original Playbill

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof original Playbill

After that little treat comes a reminder of the usefulness of Google, the “What’s What” section.

Scan Cat on a Hot Tin Roof original Playbill

The title page is similar to today’s equivalent…

Scan 13033Cat on a Hot Tin Roof original Playbill0006

… but cast bios were, without question, more arful and well-crafted. Can we PLEASE lose the laundry-list style now in vogue and return to these entertaining write-ups?

Scan 130330007

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof original Playbill

On the back cover, of course, is a cigarette ad. Wasn’t it nice back in the days when smoking was good for you?

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof original Playbill

Those were the days…

— The Ghost of Salesman — classic designs by Jo Mielziner
Arcadia and the Grid


Rising to New Hyt[ner]s

Anglophiles rejoice: British theater’s resident badass, The National’s Nicholas Hytner, gets the John Lahr treatment in this week’s New Yorker. The piece—unsurprisingly fun and dishy—is a thrill, but it also confirms the worst second-fiddle insecurities of stage-loving Americans, i.e., that the Brits really do have this whole “theatre” thing figured out. (C’mon—any country that manufactures an institution as endlessly brilliant as The National, not to mention the rest of the London scene, is pretty much unimpeachable.)

Read the full piece to get your theatrical salivary glands going, but here are a few takeaway quotes I took a shine to, as Sir Hytner would say.

Hytner is all about scale. Lahr writes, “To this day, Hytner does not like to stage plays about family situations, he has never directed Pinter or Chekhov and has mostly stayed away from twentieth-century realism. ‘I don’t respond to, and certainly would not like to direct, plays which involve an interior journey only,’ he told me.”

Theater is an alternative to the real family drama Hytner faced as a child: ” ‘What I do now, in part,’ he told me, ‘is to help create (if only temporarily) stable families, which can play happily with the most outlandish forms of emotional anarchy, all the too-hot-to-handle stuff. In the rehearsal room and in the theatre, there is nothing but relish for every kind of craziness, every grief, every danger, every cruelty, every joy. ‘ ”

Queen Elizabeth is a War Horse fanatic: After meeting “Joey,” the puppet-star of the show, at a Royal Horse Artillery event, QE2 requested his “company for a private screening of Steven Spielberg’s film version of War Horse at Windsor Palace … The invitation was later rescinded when the event was changed, but the offer itself was news, a victory for the power of the dramatic imagination.”

photo credit: The Guardian

Extra! Extra! Extra!

The Interwebs might be fun, but for a writer, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned print edition––hence my excitement at the January’s American Theatre magazine, which ran a feature article I wrote on assisting in the theatre. The story is excerpted below, but you can download a full PDF HERE, or read a (sadly picture-free) web version HERE.

Or you could, you know, read the print edition. But why be all 1999 about it?

I Get a Sidekick Out of You

It’s 10:30 on a wet October morning in New York City, and the south rehearsal room at Playwrights Horizons is starting to hum. Trickling into the windowless hall are actors, designers and administrators who shake off the rain, graze at the festive snack table—it’s almost Halloween—and exchange familiar “hellos.” Today is the first rehearsal of Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine, initially seen at last year’s Humana Festival and now making its New York premiere under the direction of the prolific Anne Kauffman (Stunning, This Wide Night, God’s Ear).

By the time Ilana Becker rolls in, the room’s almost full. Goofy, quick to laugh, alternately focused and irreverent, Becker is Kauffman’s petite, brown-haired assistant. Becker has already attended some prep meetings for Maple and Vine, but as she notes her spot at the rehearsal table—close to Kauffman, naturally—it’s impossible not to sense her first-day excitement.

As an assistant, 28-year-old Becker belongs to a breed of unknown yet well-connected young directors, adjuncts to some of the theatre’s most important figures. An assistant director’s work can be mundane (buying salads) or creatively significant (suggesting cuts), but it always involves some interpersonal sixth sense, a faculty for knowing what directors need or don’t need, preferably before they do. Ideally, assisting is a chance to observe and help a master at work. Practically, it’s the clearest way for a young director to get her foot in the door….

Finish the article HERE (PDF) or HERE (web).

Posts for American Theatre Mag’s “The Circle”

Yes, theater-words has been depressingly barren for the past two months, but this dearth is not without good reason: I’ve been cutting my teeth in loads of fun, smaller pieces over at the wonderful American Theatre Magazine. Grab the print edition for those stories (it’s found “in fine bookstores everywhere”), or check out these links to pieces I’ve wrote for the Magazine’s blog, TCG Circle:

The Canadian Club
– dance-theatre is gettin’ out of town!

Somewhere That’s Green – art meets sustainability meets programming

A Real Turkey – Arena Stage invites the military to Thanksgiving

Why is the Sequel Never the Equal? – of plays and sequels

“Artistic Ruins”?

John Stezaker, 2005, Cinema 1 II (Collage)

Jerry Saltz writes an accurate indictment of the visual art world in this week’s New York Magazine. His argument—contemporary art “contains safe rehashing of received ideas about received ideas”—just might apply to the theater: are we muddled in “a melancholic romance with artistic ruins, homesick for a bygone era”?

The full article can be found here; read on to check out excerpts…

[Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: