Category Archives: Books

JULIE ANDREWS AND EMMA WALTON HAMILTON TALK ABOUT TAKING THEIR CHILDREN’S BOOK EMPIRE TO THE STAGE ·

(Harry Haun’s article appeared in the Observer, 8/22; via Pam Green.)

‘The Great American Mousical’ — one of the 31 children’s books written by the mother and daughter team — takes it first steps toward a 2023 run in Los Angeles.

Sometime after Victor/Victoria opened on Broadway in 1995, a small, solitary mouse made its way up from the bowels of the Marriott Marquis Theater and into the theater’s wardrobe room. Julie Andrews, then inhabiting both title roles, got the word from her hairdresser, who told her traps were set.

The actress reacted to this news with a combination of horror and compassion that one could expect from somebody who owes her Mary Poppins Oscar to the guy who created Mickey Mouse: “Oh, could you please make sure they put down humane traps? If you catch the little mouse, don’t kill it. Take it out somewhere far away so it can have a life in the country.”

Andrews sheepishly confesses to this response: “The hairdresser looked at me as if I were mad, then said, ‘Julie, the theaters on Broadway are riddled with mice in the basement. There are probably hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of mice under here. This one probably just came up to look at all the stars.’ And that made us laugh. Then, I suddenly had a lightbulb about that notion and started thinking, ‘Oh, my God! A troupe of mice in the basement of a great theater! Wonder if they are putting on their own shows downstairs for their own audiences.’”

She took this idea to her usual collaborator—her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, who is as theater-savvy as her mother. With husband Stephen Hamilton and producer Sybil Christopher, Hamilton founded the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, 31 years ago and has been running it ever since—all this, while simultaneously writing 31 children’s books with Andrews.

 “The more we talked about it, the more excited we became,” Hamilton admits. “What a way to bring the magic of theater down to a kind of manageable scale for young readers! Within this troupe of mice could be all the classic characters of any theater, whether human or mouse: the director, the difficult leading lady, the intern, the weary producer, the hysterical hairdresser. 

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CHILDREN’S BOOKS—AWARD FOR ‘THE LONG SHADOW’ BY PHYLLIS WHEELER ·

(via Phylliswheeler.com

Phyllis Wheeler’s novel The Long Shadow (Elk Lake Publishing), represented by Marit Literary Agency, has won a Purple Dragonfly Award!

These awards are judged by Story Monsters Ink Magazine, focused on children’s literature. Wheeler’s award is in the historical category. This is significant in the indie publishing world.

Rejoice!

The Long Shadow is a time-travel adventure for upper middle grade, 13 and up. Click and see the new cover, too! Find out more.

THE LONG SHADOW 

by Phyllis Wheeler

View on Amazon

Winner of a Purple Dragonfly Award

Winner of a 2021 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award

Anti-prejudice, anti-racist middle grade Christian fiction: The Long Shadow by Phyllis Wheeler (ranked #1 new release Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issue Fiction (6/8/21 ranked #1 new release Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issue Fiction; #3 on Amazon, regarding Children’s books about Prejudice and Racism; #18 in Children’s Self-Esteem and Self-Respect books; #1  (6/4/2021)

Aunt Trudy never wanted kids. Now that she’s Richie’s guardian, she makes his life miserable. Richie just wants to escape, so he seeks refuge in the deep Missouri woods he loves so much.

Suddenly it’s not summer, but late fall. How did that happen? Did the trucker who just gave him a ride somehow whisk him back fifty years in time?

The woods aren’t for Richie the haven they used to be. After a freak storm, he finds himself at the mercy of Morris, a mysterious black man who also calls the woods home. Is Morris a savior? Or someone to fear?

“Five stars! A young teen finds himself propelled through time . . . –Susan K. Marlow, author of Andi Carter books

“Searching for a new favorite book? Look no further than The Long Shadow by Phyllis Wheeler. This is a great book for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird but with a time-travel twist. Richie grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the very end.”—Elsie G, age 13. 

“Sometimes we need to escape our own time and place to walk a few miles in someone else’s shoes. Phyllis Wheeler’s The Long Shadow will open your eyes, rend your heart, and take you on an invaluable journey.” —Wayne Thomas Batson, bestselling author of The Door Within Trilogy.

“Heartwarming and heartbreaking, Richie’s story is a shining example of how taking a chance on unlikely friendships is the best way to break down the barriers we build.” —Jill Williamson, award-winning author of the Blood of Kings trilogy.

“A powerful message wrapped in a page-turner.” — Cherie Postill, author, speaker, and mentor for teens at the St. Louis Writers Guild. 

“I’ve read this book and enjoyed the characters in the story. I like the friendship that blossomed in the story and how the story came full circle in the end. It was a good history lesson without being offensive to anyone.”—LaShaunda Hoffman, sensitivity reader and author. 

“Part survival story, part exploration of racial justice in America, part journey of self-discovery, and wholly engaging and memorable.  A well done and powerful story.  It is certainly stuck in my head.”—Joe Corbett, school librarian, St. Louis.

REBECCA HUMPHRIES ON LIFE AFTER THAT STRICTLY DEBACLE: ‘I FELT AS IF I HAD A VOICE AGAIN. MAYBE ONE THAT MATTERED’ ·

(Michael Hogan’s article appeared in the Observer, 7/10; via Pam Green.)

The actor’s breakup with comedian Seann Walsh went viral after he cheated on her with his dance partner and she responded with a tweet. Now she’s written an unflinching, very funny memoir

Rebecca Humphries’s 32nd birthday was one to remember, but for all the wrong reasons. On 3 October 2018, the actor was waiting at home alone, wearing a red silk dress and keeping a celebratory dinner for two warm. Meanwhile her boyfriend, the comedian Seann Walsh, was at the pub, kissing Katya Jones, his married professional partner on Strictly Come Dancing. When paparazzi photographs of their embrace were splashed across tabloid front pages, a scandal erupted. Humphries’ relationship, and her whole world, publicly collapsed.

The next day, she tweeted a statement which began: “My name is Rebecca Humphries and I am not a victim.” It described how, during their five-year relationship, Walsh called her “mental” and “psycho” whenever she questioned inappropriate or hurtful behaviour. His multiple other infidelities would emerge later. In the meantime, her tweet went viral, gaining her 20,000 new followers overnight. Now it was Humphries’s turn to monopolise front pages. One gleeful headline read: “You’re cha-cha-chucked!” Another hailed her as “the real winner of Strictly”.

Humphries – currently appearing in Ten Percent (Amazon Prime), the UK version of the hit French TV series Call My Agent! – was deluged with invitations to appear on television and radio and to write newspaper columns about toxic relationships and emotional abuse. On behalf of the organisers of the Women’s March London, she spoke in the House of Commons about gaslighting and the media. “I became an accidental figurehead,” she says.

Now she has written an extraordinary memoir, Why Did You Stay?. Described as “dazzling” by Marian Keyes and “fierce”, “gamechanging” and “brilliant” by Emma Thompson, the book is neither a kiss’n’tell, nor a revenge tragedy. Alternating between episodes from her relationship with Walsh and the aftermath of the Strictly debacle, it becomes a chilling study of insidious control and male-female power games. Unflinching and often very funny, it’s also a diary of self-discovery, an account of finding one’s self-worth, a celebration of resilience and a hymn to the value of friendship.

Tell us about the book’s title, Why Did You Stay?
It’s the question that those of us who’ve had difficult relationships get asked more than anything else. It’s victim-shaming, but it’s also the question that stays with us and has the potential to eat us up. So I’m reclaiming it.

You write that what happened was your worst nightmare come true. Really?
I’d catastrophised that exact scenario. Two months earlier, a friend asked me: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I said: “He has an affair with his dance partner and it’s splashed all over the tabloids for my friends and family to see.” I blurted that straight out. At that point, the relationship was my everything. I was watering a dead plant for a long time. It was all I had left. But when it broke up, that’s when my life started.

How did it feel when your tweet went viral?
Before I met Seann in 2013, I was somebody who people listened to. I was forthright and always had opinions. But those five years were a slow process of eroding my personality, feeling as if I had no voice and my opinion didn’t matter. When I decided to tweet a statement, I told my friends: “It doesn’t matter if anyone else believes it. This is for me. And maybe it’ll get like, 50 likes.” When the numbers started totting up, I felt as if I had a voice again. Maybe one that mattered.

Are you still getting supportive replies?
It never stops. Mostly from people that it resonates with, which says something about how common this is. Thousands came forward who’d been through the same. They understood what I was trying to say, which was: I was a smart, sexy, confident, clever woman and I can’t believe this happened to me. Victims of this behaviour don’t all look like submissive mice. It’s insidious when you see abuse victims in pop culture, because they’re often portrayed like that.

Do you feel like you had to write this book?
I did, I felt a strong sense of responsibility. When I tweeted, I felt a similar sense of responsibility for the many who’ve had these experiences but don’t have a platform. And when you voice your shame, it disappears. I want to encourage more people to do the same. So much of the book is about ending victimhood. Nora Ephron said in Heartburn that she didn’t want to be the victim of her story, she wanted to be the heroine. That’s exactly how I felt.

Can you watch Strictly now?
I still watch it. Strictly’s great. None of this is Strictly’s fault.

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REAGAN REMEMBERS D-DAY—PART OF THE BOOK ‘REAGAN’S COWBOYS’ BY JOHN B. ROBERTS II ·

Reagan’s Cowboys is something of a memoir of Roberts’s career with the 40th president, and as such, it’s a time machine back to the days of typewriters, hard-line telephones, and Marlboro cigarettes. .. Be grateful to Roberts for giving us history as it actually happened, uncensored and un-politically corrected. … [He] gives us glimpses of a huge cast of characters in Reaganworld.”―James P. Pinkerton, Breitbart  

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REVEALED: NOËL COWARD’S UNSEEN PLAYS AIMED TO DEAL WITH HOMOSEXUALITY ·

(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/8; Photo:  Noël Coward in 1953. Photograph: Haywood Magee/Getty Images.)

Playwright planned scenes on same-sex relationship at a time when it was illegal and British theatres faced strict censorship

Noël Coward worked on two plays that openly featured same-sex relationships at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in England, and strict censorship laws governed theatres, new research reveals.

The master playwright was planning to write about a homosexual triangle in one play and to confront homophobic prejudice in another, according to an unpublished letter of 1960 and an unknown scene for an unfinished 1967 drama.

The discoveries have been made by Russell Jackson, emeritus professor of drama at the University of Birmingham, who told the Observer: “I was surprised to find this evidence that Coward wanted to deal more frankly with homosexuality than he had ever been able to before in a play.”

It was not until 1967 that the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised private homosexual acts between men in England and Wales aged 21 and over, and 1968 when the Theatres Act repealed a law that had enabled the Lord Chamberlain’s Office to censor or ban any play.

Under the Licensing Act of 1737 and the Theatres Act of 1843, it had been a legal requirement for all plays intended for public performance to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for licensing. Plays deemed indecent or offensive could be rejected or censored, although by the end of the 1950s, playwrights sensed new freedoms.

Jackson said: “As a gay man, Coward exercised discretion in his public persona. And as a playwright, until the last decade of his career, he was constrained by the theatrical censorship of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office from directly addressing homosexuality.”

He continued: “A number of Coward’s published and performed plays had included identifiably – if not explicitly – gay or lesbian characters. The emphasis in A Song at Twilight in 1966 would not be on the central character’s homosexuality in itself, but the subterfuges by which he had managed to pass as heterosexual.”

Coward, a playwright, actor and composer, died in 1973, aged 73. He was the son of an unsuccessful piano salesman and was raised as a working-class boy in the south-west London suburb of Teddington.

Making his name in 1924 with a serious play, The Vortex, about a drug-addicted son and dissolute mother, he became one of the foremost playwrights of the 20th century, best-known for classic comedies including Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit and Private Lives and as the co-writer of David Lean’s classic 1945 film, Brief Encounter.

The 1960 letter was written by his much-loved assistant Lorn Loraine, who had worked for him since the 1930s and whose opinions he greatly valued. It reveals that Coward had created a love triangle between three men – called Owen, Trevor and John – one of whom appears to be married.

“Darling master,” Loraine wrote, “I have thought a lot about this play outline and I feel strongly that [it] must be treated entirely psychologically and with restraint and no sign of melodrama.

“I have been wondering whether it would be a good idea for Trevor to have had an affair with Owen Fletcher but to be really, all the time, deeply and jealously in love with John – a love which John has never returned and which has therefore turned sour.”

Jackson said that in 1967 Coward started writing a play called Age Cannot Wither, some of which has been published: “But there’s a part of it that’s not – the second scene.”

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U.K. EXAM BOARD ADDS NEW PLAYS BY WRITERS OF COLOUR TO DRAMA GCSE AND A-LEVEL ·

(Sally Weale’s article appeared in the UK Guardian, 4/27; The Empress by Tanika Gupta is one of four new plays added to AQA’s GCSE drama curriculum. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

The Empress by Tanika Gupta among new additions in attempt to diversify AQA’s offering for drama students in England

Drama students will have the opportunity to study a more diverse curriculum at GCSE and A-level with the addition of four new plays by writers of colour.

AQA, the biggest examination board in England, says the texts are part of a range of measures to update and revise its qualifications to ensure they better reflect the diversity of students and their teachers.

The new plays at GCSE level will include a thriller by Francis Turnly which is based on the true story of Japanese citizens who were abducted by the North Korean regime in the 1970s and 80s.

The Empress by Tanika Gupta, which tells the story of Queen Victoria’s relationship with her servant Abdul Karim and an Indian nanny called Rani Das, will also be added to the GCSE curriculum.

The new A-level texts include a reworking of Chekhov’s Three sisters by Inua Ellams, located in 1960s Nigeria, and Danai Gurira’s The Convert, which tells the story of a young Shona girl who flees an arranged marriage by converting to Christianity.

The exam board’s GCSE drama qualification already includes the well-known stage adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, which reverses traditional racial stereotypes and shows racial prejudice from a different perspective.

The texts will be available to study from September, with examinations taking place two years later. AQA is scheduling free online training events to give teachers a practical toolkit to prepare for and teach the new texts.

The exam board will also provide information about the social and historical backgrounds of each text, and cover topics such as stereotypes, accents and casting. It will also look at how to teach texts currently on the curriculum, with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion.

Sandra Allan, AQA’s head of curriculum for creative arts, said: “We’ve chosen these plays because of the rich opportunities they’ll offer our teachers and students to explore a diverse range of themes including race and social issues.

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NEW EVIDENCE SUGGESTS SHAKESPEARE MAY HAVE STOLEN THE PLOT OF CYMBELINE ·

(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Observer, 4/24; PhotoTom Hiddleston as Posthumus and Jodie McNee as Innogen in Cymbeline at the Barbican in 2007. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

Notes from a 1533 book put Sir Thomas North in the frame for one of the bard’s later plays

A rare 16th-century book offers “compelling evidence” that William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline was inspired by a now-lost play by Sir Thomas North, an Elizabethan courtier and writer, new research claims.

A 1533 edition of Fabyan’s Chronicle, a compendium of British and French history from Roman times to Henry VII, bears notes in the margin in North’s hand that have been linked to the plot and other details of Shakespeare’s tragicomedy, set in Roman Britain.

Michael Blanding, who unearthed the book in Harvard University’s Houghton Library, said the marginalia could not have been based on Shakespeare’s play because North died about six years before the conventionally accepted date of its first performance, 1609-10.

“It is a revolutionary discovery that is hard to interpret in any other way than that North used the book to write notes for his own play, which Shakespeare later adapted,” he said.

The marginalia have been analysed by an independent researcher, Dennis McCarthy, who since 2005 has used plagiarism software to reveal links between Hamlet, among other plays, and North’s writings. His research inspired Blanding’s book North by Shakespeare, published by Hachette last year and to be released shortly as a paperback, retitled In Shakespeare’s Shadow.

Since then, Blanding has tracked down dozens of 16th-century books once owned by the North family. Several bear North’s marginalia.

Blanding said that, while North is known as the translator of Plutarch’s Lives, a recognised source for Shakespeare’s Roman plays, the marginalia in Fabyan’s Chronicle “often provides a point-by-point correspondence with the historical plot of Cymbeline”.

“For example, both the marginalia and the play refer to Julius Caesar’s repeated attempts to invade Britain, and display an obsessive focus on the theme of tributes being paid to Rome by British kings,” Blanding said. “In addition, both focus on Cymbeline’s sons, Guiderius and Arviragus, include a strategy of a character disguising himself to kill an enemy, and incorporate a battle by a ‘wall of turfs’, historically fought in Scotland.”

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PUSSY RIOT’S NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA: ‘YOU CANNOT PLAY NICE WITH PUTIN. HE IS INSANE. HE MIGHT OPEN FIRE ON HIS OWN PEOPLE’ ·

(Zoe Williams’s article appeared in the U.K. Guardian, 3/8; Photo: ‘I’m in a panic, I’m crying every day’ … Nadya Tolokonnikova at a concert in Tennessee earlier this month. Photograph: Paul A Hebert/LiveMusicToday/REX/Shutterstock.)

 The Russian artist – who spent two years in a Siberian jail for singing an anti-Putin ‘punk prayer’ – is using NFTs to fight the dictator, raising $7m in five days. At a time like this, she says, only activism will keep you sane

Nadya Tolokonnikova is in a geographically undisclosed location, speaking to me on Zoom, in a Pussy Riot T-shirt, looking purposeful, driven and singleminded. Her feminist protest art has been deadly serious since its inception, when she founded Pussy Riot in 2011. The watching world may have been entertained by its playful notes, the guerrilla gigs in unauthorised places, culminating in the event for which she was prosecuted, in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, when she sang Punk Prayer: Mother of God, Drive Putin Away.

But the consequences have always been seismic and severe. Tolokonnikova, along with two other members of Pussy Riot, were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism in 2012, separated from their very young children, went on hunger strike, endured unimaginably harsh conditions and were named prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Tolokonnikova is “nomadic by nature”, she says. “This planet is my home. I’ve always been an anarchist. I’m not really a big fan of borders or nation states.” But beneath those abstracts there are concrete dangers. She was declared a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin in December, as was the independent news outlet she founded upon her release from prison, Mediazone.

 “Putin just signed a law that said you’re going to get 15 years in jail for even discussing the war in Ukraine,” she says matter-of-factly. “You cannot even call it a war, you have to call it a special military operation.” The jeopardy of being a known Russian dissident is greater now than it has been in decades, and nobody understands that more keenly than Tolokonnikova, who was born in 1989, too young to remember Perestroika.

Yet her focus is anything but self-protective. When Putin invaded Ukraine on 24 February, she and various collaborators from the world of cryptocurrency launched the Ukraine DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation). It was a 1/1 non-fungible token (NFT) of the Ukrainian flag, and the group invited people to bid for collective ownership of the image, raising $7.1m in five days.

“We felt, me and my friends in crypto, that we had to react somehow. I’m personally convinced that in situations like this, activism is the only thing that can keep you sane. Just looking at disasters and tragedies and not doing anything about it is really detrimental for the world, but also it slowly destroys you and makes you feel helpless.” The money has already been distributed to the organisation Come Back Alive, which has been mobilising support for the Ukrainian army since 2014 with medical care, ammunition, training and defence analytics.If you fight with a dictator like Putin, you have to show them that you are ready to die – and I was

Tolokonnikova is devastated by the invasion of Ukraine. “I’m in a panic, I’m crying every day. I don’t think it was in any sense necessary, I don’t think it was in any sense logical. It wasn’t something that had to happen, it’s a disaster that will end thousands of people’s lives. I’m freaking out.” Yet she never had the luxury of complacency about what Putin was capable of. “The global community was extremely complacent, and I see two reasons: hypocrisy, based on greed. People would make statements that they did not support Putin’s politics, and his oppression of the political opposition, and the wars that he started – this isn’t the first war by any means. But at the same time they would continue doing business with him.” Nobody was interested in following the money; asking how the oligarchs coming out of Russia, fetching up in Europe and Miami, had come upon their vast wealth.

“Stupidity,” she continues, bluntly. “This is the second reason. People underestimate how dangerous dictators are. In 2014, we spoke to the UK parliament, we spoke at the Senate in the US, we were asked by a lot of people how they should talk to Putin, how they should frame the conversation, and I always advised that they should be as strict as they could. You cannot play nice with Putin.” This wisdom was won, not so much by her arrest for offending the thin-skinned leader but during her time in prison. “Dictators act a lot like prison wardens. They treat kindness as weakness.”

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DIAGHILEV AND ME: DISCOVERY REVEALS BALLETS RUSSES MAESTRO WAS ALSO A MONSTER ·

(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/20; Photo:  Nijinska, right, and her brother Nijinsky in L’Apres-midi d’un Faune, 1912. Photograph: Baron de Meyer. Eakins Press Foundation.)

The dance impresario ‘cruelly’ sabotaged the careers of others in a bid to keep all the glory to himself, according to a new biography

He was the Russian genius who founded the celebrated Ballets Russes in Paris in the early 20th century and whose revolutionary influence on the world of dance and theatre design is still felt today. But, despite his extraordinary talents, Sergei Diaghilev resorted to underhand and even vicious tactics to ensure that the spotlight remained firmly focused on him, according to new research.

Professor Lynn Garafola, an American dance historian, discovered a previously unpublished text in which Bronislava Nijinska, the dancer and one of the most innovative choreographers of the 20th century, wrote of Diaghilev’s attempts to claim credit for the work of fellow artists – even blocking their employment elsewhere.

Nijinska, whose brother was the celebrated dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, had joined the Ballets Russes in 1909. She wrote: “[Diaghilev] victimised the ballet artists when they left his company and tried by all means possible to prevent their employment by other companies… he hindered their receiving an entry visa to England.”

She added: “Everything had to originate with Diaghilev. He considered himself the creator and the ruler of the Russian Ballet, and all had to submit to him.

“To create one’s own and to destroy somebody else’s – this was his principle. But such a principle seemed to me not only dangerous but also unworthy of a great man.”

Diaghilev considered himself the creator and the ruler of the Russian Ballet, and all had to submit to him.–Bronislava Nijinska

She continued: “Diaghilev was beside himself when the new company of Ida Rubinstein was organised. [He] conceived a hatred for us and vowed to destroy us … This great man regarded as a mortal enemy anyone who … encroached on ‘his’ art: I personally was subjected to cruel reprisal: Diaghilev criticised me maliciously and impeded my work in every way.”

Nijinska, who died in 1972 aged 81, had trained at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg and joined the Mariinsky Theatre company in 1908. She danced with the Ballets Russes, like her brother, and choreographed several ballets for the company, including Les Noces, which was described by the writer HG Wells as “the soul itself of the Russian people in sound and vision”.

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WHY MARLON BRANDO’S STREETCAR CO-STARS COULDN’T STAND HIM ·

(Isaac Butler’s work appeared in Slate, 2/1. Excerpted from The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act. Used with the permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury. Copyright © 2022 by Isaac Butler Photo: Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy in A Streetcar Named DesireJohn Springer Collection/Corbis via Getty Images. Via Pam Green.)

“An impossible, psychopathic bastard,” fumed one.

Marlon Brando was cast in Streetcar almost against his will, and he was not the first choice for the role of Stanley Kowalski. Originally, producer Irene Selznick had wanted John Garfield for the part, but negotiations broke down over Garfield’s demand to be cast in any future film of the play and his refusal to commit to a long stage run. Bill Liebling, an agent whose wife, Audrey Wood, represented Tennessee Williams, thought Brando was perfect for the part of Stanley but couldn’t reach him to tell him to audition. By the summer of 1947, Brando had drifted away from acting after being fired from a Tallulah Bankhead vehicle. He didn’t have a phone or an easy way to be reached.

Liebling had to put the word out on the street, telling everyone he knew that if they happened to run into Brando, they should tell him to call the office. On Aug. 20, Brando finally auditioned for Elia Kazan, who immediately knew he was right for the role. Irene Selznick, however, was still hopeful they could get Garfield or, failing him, someone else famous. Williams’ last play, The Glass Menagerie, had been a hit, but Streetcar was still a risk. A name star would make the show a surer thing. Besides, wasn’t this kid too young for the part? Kazan persisted. Selznick agreed to cast Brando, but only if they could get him to audition for Williams at the playwright’s house in Provincetown. Brando told Kazan he had no money to make the trip. Kazan gave the young actor bus fare and told Williams to expect him.

Brando was always irresponsible, but his irresponsibility reached spectacular heights when he was ambivalent and conflicted, as he was about both acting and the role of Stanley Kowalski. He’d been mistreated by Tallulah Bankhead, mistreated by acting teacher and director Erwin Piscator, who had demanded an obedience from Brando that he was incapable of giving when he was a student, and mistreated by his father, whom Stanley resembled in more ways than one. Did he want to do this? Did the ever-restless Brando want to commit to doing the same thing eight times a week for the foreseeable future? While he tried to figure that out, he spent Kazan’s bus fare on supplies for a party at the apartment of his friend Maureen Stapleton.

When a week went by and Kazan hadn’t heard anything, he phoned Williams, only to learn that Brando had never shown up. At that moment, Marlon was hitchhiking to Provincetown. There, he met up with Ellen Adler—daughter of his acting mentor Stella Adler, and his former lover— and trudged over to Williams’ house. When he arrived, Williams and his friends were sitting in the dark, occasionally getting up to pee in the woods. A fuse had blown, the toilet was broken, and the house was full of artists who had no idea how to fix either. Marlon quickly repaired both toilet and fuse, wowing the assembled guests. “He was just about the best-looking young man I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. That night, Marlon read the role for Tennessee, who could see, moments after Brando started talking, that they had found their Stanley.

Soon all of America would see what Williams saw in Marlon Brando, and would embrace both him and the strange new kind of acting he embodied. This new way of performing was remarkably suited to a style of playwriting that emerged alongside it. As Brooks Atkinson described it, “There had been a latent feeling after World War I that something could be done to solve the problems of human existence rationally.” In the interwar years, dramatists like Clifford Odets, Thornton Wilder, and Robert Sherwood had channeled this optimism into their work, only to watch, aghast, as the problems of the ’30s were “concluded … by the desperate organization of the nation into a war machine to produce goods and armies to kill human beings.”

A new darkness entered American drama in response. During World War I, plays about the military had been, in Atkinson’s formulation, “fond propaganda.” During World War II, however, Americans wrote plays like Arthur Laurents’ Home of the Brave, a difficult drama about a Jewish soldier’s survival guilt, or John Patrick’s The Hasty Heart, about wounded servicemen in Burma. Even John Van Druten’s smash romantic comedy The Voice of the Turtle, about a jilted actress who begins a romance with a soldier on leave, is shot through with melancholy.

There was lighter fare to be found—Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, Mary Chase’s Harvey, and Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday joined revivals of The Front Page and Lady Windermere’s Fan—but serious American drama had only gotten more pessimistic. It also turned inward, the same direction in which American acting increasingly pointed. The end of World War II did nothing to abate this pirouette toward darker, more introspective territories. Anxiety over what the war had done to the human soul found its way both into film noir and into Arthur Miller’s searing Ibsenian drama All My Sons, which portrayed the ideal small-town American family as a mirage hiding war profiteering and corruption. The 1946–47 season in which All My Sons premiered on Broadway also included Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, a play whose characters fritter their lives away in an alcoholic haze, prisoners of empty lies and pointless dreams.

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