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Showing posts with the label 1937

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

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The Federal Theatre Project (FTP) kept on rolling with a New York production of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, which opened at Maxine Elliot’s Theatre on Jan. 8, 1937. It was one of many Welles works in which he cast himself in the lead role. Also starring were Charles Peyton, J. Headley, and Bernard Savage. The rave reviews the play garnered established the (still just twenty-one year-old) Welles as one of the greatest living talents in the world of drama. The Sun judged it to be the FTP’s “principal artistic achievement.” What allows us to insert “startling” before the phrase “artistic achievement” is that during the play’s run, Welles was also recording a radio show twice a week. He’d arrive at the radio studio at 8--in Faustus makeup--buzz through his show, jump, bank robber style , into a waiting car, dash to the theatre, act in the play he was directing, and then go back to the studio to broadcast a show for the West Coast. For his radio shows, it was “hand m

The Second Hurricane

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A brief aside during Welles’s stint working on Federal Theatre Project productions, The Second Hurricane was an operetta by Aaron Copland. The production ran for just three performances, the first on April 21, 1937. It ran at New York’s Henry Street Settlement, with some proceeds going to public schools, and included mainly child performers. One adult included was Welles’s longtime friend and colleague, Joseph Cotten.

Les Miserables

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In 1937, amid his run with the Federal Theatre Project but before Mercury Theatre and Mercury Theatre on the Air, Welles wrote, produced, and directed a seven-episode version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It aired on The Mutual Network. The episodes were The Bishop 7/23/37 Javert 7/30/37 The Trial 8/6/37 Cosette 8/13/37 The Grave 8/20/37 The Barricade 8/27/37 Conclusion 9/3/37

Orson Welles Julius Caesar

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Shakespeare was always a favorite of Welles’. When he was a student at the Todd School in Woodstock, IL, he conceived and produced a Shakespeare festival, directing such plays as Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, and Julius Caesar. He would later make a film version of Macbeth. So it is no surprise that when, along with John Houseman, he founded the Mercury Theatre company, their first production was Julius Caesar. Orson Welles’ Broadway production of Julius Caesar, debuting Nov. 11, 1937, was staged in modern dress and was intended as a polemic against the fascist forces growing dangerously in Europe. Upon the birth of the Mercury Theatre company, Welles and (to what degree is unknown) Houseman drafted and presented a Declaration of Principles, published on the front page of the New York Times drama section. On the company’s political intentions, it declared that aesthetics came first and that it would never choose a play on the basis of political content. Since Welles had