Horse Eats Hat

Along with poet Edwin Denby, Orson adapted Eugene Labiche’s “The Italian Straw Hat” into a comic farce called “Horse Eats Hat.” At its core is a story of misunderstanding, a silly blunder. A horse eats the hat of Agatha, a married twenty-something. She is amidst an extra-marital affair and is afraid her husband will find out if she returns home without her hat. She cajoles her friend Freddy to look for a replacement. The hitch? Freddy is about to get hitched--married. He keeps his bride-to-be waiting while running around on the trivial errand for his friend.

The play, in the hands of Welles, however, grew into an exploration of what is real and what is staged, with intermissions punctuated with staged kerfuffles in aisles, etc.

It was the second of Welles’ FTP productions. While he was able to cast Joseph Cotten as Freddy, Paula Laurence as Agatha, and his wife Virginia as Freddy’s fiance, “Wonder Boy Welles” was finding the pickings to be a bit slim in terms of talent.

Other FTP actors and crew members had been assigned to other productions, leaving Welles with has-beens and other lesser-knowns whom he perceived to have been “beaten by life.”

With his motley crew and wacky, wildly-adapted script, Welles opened the show on Sept. 26, 1936.

The New York Times gives a good description of the spectacle, reporting, “[i]t was as though Gertrude Stein had dreamed a dream after eating a late supper of pickles and ice cream, the ensuing revelations being crisply acted by giants and midgets, caricatures, lunatics, and a prop nag.”


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