Showing posts with label theater. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theater. Show all posts

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Plowed Profile comes to corn country

John Barrymore, star of stage, screen and drinking establishments, blew into Omaha in May of 1939 -- still long on talent but, alas, rather short on cash.

"The Great Profile" was bringing his latest stage vehicle,
My Dear Children, to the Tech High auditorium in a triumphal homecoming for one of his co-stars, Dorothy McGuire. Thing is, that homecoming turned out to be more than a little mortifying for the Nebraska ingenue -- being that the great actor turned out to be an even greater drunk, not to mention a supreme offender of polite Omaha society.

And then somebody let him on the radio, an apparently bibulous session with KOIL where he rambled and snorted through listeners' written questions.

UH . . . YEAH. It's pretty evident the poor man was as plowed as the nearby cornfields that first of May. Reportedly, Omahans were offended.

Not half as much as the local theater guild, however. Even
Time magazine took note:
Soon the Barrymores' acting gave strong hints of their home life. With gusto John shouted at Elaine such stage lines as "You damned selfish brat." In the play he spanked her harder, she fanged his wrist more savagely, than was necessary.

Fortnight ago their quarrel burst like a boil: Elaine quit the show in a spuming huff. A few days later, performing before Omaha's highbusted Drama League, John was royally pickled. Up & down traveled his voice, to a bull-like bellow, to a bird-like whisper. Scandalized were Omaha's great ladies when he ad-libbed such lines as "Albert, you look like a pregnant string bean." Afterwards Barrymore's press-agent offered the excuse that he had been "very tired." Concurred the Drama League's lady president: "He must have been very, very, VERY tired."
THE 'ENCHANTING' Dorothy McGuire -- she who had the hot mom -- wouldn't be taking in the spectacle much longer:

"Mr. Barrymore was a great disappointment to Dorothy," reported a November 1941 profile on the young actress in
She toured with him for eight months, and was particularly embarrassed on the occasion of a one-night stand in Omaha, where his classic vocabulary and uninhibited stage presence made a shocking impression of old family friends of hers in the audience. By the fall of 1939 she found the Great Profile's shenanigans so taxing that she abandoned the troupe in Chicago, thus missing the New York opening. "I'd come blissful and starry-eyed from Our Town into this roughhouse," she said later. "I really and truly was shocked."
IN THE biography John Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor, Michael A. Morrison has this account of the Omaha tour stop:
As the tour progressed through the South and Midwest, however, Barrymore soon came to resent the play and his fourth wife. Again there were much-publicized quarrels with Elaine Barrie; Barrymore showed up in an inebriated state and made unprintable comments at a luncheon in Omaha designed to promote the play. He improvised on the script whenever his memory failed or the impulse arose , and on at least one occasion resorted to four-letter words. After further marital tumult, Elaine Barrie agreed to be replaced and left the tour in St. Louis.
I GUESS you could say a lot of things about my "damned town," Omaha. If you're paying attention, though, you'd know one of them wouldn't be "boring."

And you don't have to be well and properly plowed -- or, for that matter, as high as an elephant's eye -- to know "it's one of the most enchanting places" you've ever been in.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Aye, there's the rub!

A lesson for managers everywhere to remember in these tough economic times: If you run off all the people who produce the product you're trying to sell . . . you won't have anything to sell.

This is particularly applicable to the print and broadcast arts, where the temptation is to fire, fire, fire to cut costs in the midst of collapsing advertising revenues. Newspapers (and radio) are fast reaching the point where there's not going to be enough staff to produce enough of a product that their remaining readers (and listeners) might care to bother with.

No audience, really no advertising.

THIS LESSON is being presented in distilled form right now at the Omaha Community Playhouse, the nation's largest community theater. In the name of tight finances and organizational efficiency, the theater's executive director and board decided to pick on "creative."

They asked the theater's artistic director, who also is one of its two principal directors, to resign. That he did.

What they didn't count on was his declining to direct various shows on a freelance basis. And what they also didn't count on was the other principal director turning down a pruned-down version of his job, then quitting in solidarity.

Nor did they count on three-fourths of an upcoming production's cast to take a hike as well.

THAT'S WHAT you call an "epic fail." But wait! There's more! And it's not even intermission yet.

Cue the Omaha World-Herald:
The staff shake-up at the Omaha Community Playhouse could drive a financial stake through the nonprofit theater's heart.

The simultaneous departures of directors Carl Beck and Susan Baer Collins from the playhouse has stirred new concerns — both financial and artistic — for "A Christmas Carol," the theater's biggest revenue producer.

Jerry Longe, the professional actor who has played Scrooge on the playhouse's main stage for the past three years, said Monday that he would leave his role if Beck and Collins leave the playhouse.

Both have said they plan to leave. They hired him for the role in 2005.

"I can't imagine doing that show without Carl directing," Longe said. "I can't imagine that show is even going to go up without Carl and Susie, who know the magic of it.

"But I'm still hoping for a reconciliation of some sort."

The 33-year hit holiday show in which Longe stars, written by former playhouse Executive Director Charles Jones, earns more than one out of every five dollars in the theater's budget. It has generated publicity and millions of dollars since 1976 and is crucial to the playhouse's artistic identity and financial stability.

Longe stepped into the shoes of Dick Boyd, who played 818 performances as Scrooge before retiring from the role at age 83. The crowds have since warmed to Longe. He had the added boost of a show makeover — new sets, costumes and special effects — when he started as Scrooge.

"It would break my heart to not do Scrooge again," Longe said. "But we have to move on."

Playhouse Executive Director Tim Schmad declined to comment on the developments regarding "A Christmas Carol." He said he would wait for an open forum, at 5:30 this evening in the playhouse's main auditorium.
OOPS. You can't sell nothing, guys.

Methinks somebody's going to lose their job over this one. And it's not going to be the directors, who already quit, or the volunteer actors, whom you couldn't fire if they hadn't already walked.

It's got to happen, because the Playhouse now finds itself facing a dilemma worthy of Hamlet.

"To be, or not to be: That is the question."