Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ada Dyas, Comedienne

Ada Dyas, comedienne, must have taken the train from Norwalk, Connecticut to reach her stage work in New York. This ad in the Byrnes’ Dramatic Times from the 1880s is ambiguous for its very simplicity. Was she looking for work? Was she merely announcing she had arrived? Maybe both.

Ada Dyas, born in 1843, was an Irish actress who played in “Henry IV” in London in 1861, and would later become famous for her featured or starring roles in comedies. One of these most famous plays was Dion Boucicault’s “The Shaugraun.” We mentioned in this previous post that playwright/actor Mr. Boucicault played at Boston’s Hollis Theater in the late 1880s.

Here is link to a photo of Ada Dyas in “The Shaugraun.” We have another portrait of her as described by novelist Edith Wharton in “The Age of Innocence” (D. Appleton & Co., NY, 1920). In the book, the character Newland Archer is captivated by the scene in the play where Dyas and the hero part in romantic silence.

“The actress, who was standing near the mantlepiece and looking down into the fire, wore a gray cashmere dress, without fashionable loopings or trimmings, moulded to her tall figure and flowing in long lines down her back….” Wharton goes on to describe the famous scene where the actor in silent parting kisses one of the ribbons.

Edith Wharton, less romantically, remarks, “Miss Dyas was a tall red-haired woman of monumental build,” with a “pale and pleasantly ugly face…”

Her ungainly appearance, even more than her talent for it, would have consigned Miss Dyas to the comedienne’s roles. But, in her obituary in the New York Times, March 13, 1908, Ada Dyas is recalled in more dignified terms.

“She belonged to a school of actresses taught to pronounce the English language with marked accuracy.” Truly, a product of a bygone era was Miss Dyas of London, New York, and Norwalk, Connecticut.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thomas Mitchell Tours in "Death of a Salesman"

“Death of Salesman” by Arthur Miller was a Broadway hit of 1949. Two years later in November 1950 its Broadway run ended. A few months later in January of 1951, Thomas Mitchell starred as Willy Loman at the Court Square Theater in Springfield, Mass. as the road show toured New England.

Mr. Mitchell, one Hollywood’s greatest character actors who had performed in some of Hollywood’s greatest films, was making the transition in 1951 from films to television roles. The better part of the 1950s he played on TV, but before this transition he had made an earlier one from stage to movies.

Thomas Mitchell had first appeared on Broadway in 1916, and through the 20s had been a stage actor until Hollywood gave him a new career. He was actually the first actor ever to win the three awards: the Tony, the Emmy, and the Oscar.

But from January 8th through the 10th, 1951, he was Willy Loman in Springfield.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One-year blog anniversary.

This blog was started a year ago tomorrow. Thank you for the pleasure of your company.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Upcoming plays for January 2010

Upcoming plays in New England for January 2010:

At Boston’s Colonial Theatre:
“Strega Nona” is the musical tale of a friendly magical witch- with a funny name- who strives to cure the ills of her tiny Italian town of Calabria. The baker has bunions ("As big as an onion"), his daughter wishes for witchery, and the local single ladies are always unlucky in love. The town faces real problems when a local lug named Big Anthony sneaks a peek at Strega Nona's magic book and uses Strega Nona’s magical ways for selfish means. When Anthony fools with the magic pasta pot, and can't figure out how to turn it off, pasta threatens to engulf the whole town -- unless Strega Nona can save the day. With an energetic and tuneful score by composer Aron Accurso, this fantastical tale teaches that witches can be good, and that and you can’t judge a pot by its pasta!

At the Hartford Stage:
“Gee's Bend” By Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder runs from January 14th through February 11th.
Directed by Hana Sharif, “Meet the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, who sing hauntingly beautiful gospel melodies as they create magnificent handmade quilts. The story of the women of Gee’s Bend, who quilted their way to economic freedom, already has touched millions of people who witnessed their stunning quilt work through a national exhibition tour, and features in Newsweek, House and Garden and Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine.”

At the Majestic Theater of West Springfield, Massachusetts: “Almost Maine” by John Cariani runs January 7th to February 14th. “The story takes place under the Northern Lights on a cold and clear night in the mythical town of Almost. It got its name because it’s, “not an actual town” as one of the locals explains, “since we only almost got around to gettin’ organized.” But the residents there do fall in and out of love in unexpected and hilarious ways. Knees get bruised. Hearts get broken. But the bruises heal, and the hearts mend in this magical play. “ALMOST, MAINE” aims for the heart by way of the
funny bone – and hits ‘em both!”

At the Merrimack Repertory Theater in Lowell, Mass
“Fabuloso” by John Kolvenbach runs January 7th through the 31st.

“Do you have a friend who is the life of the party? But what if that friend never left and the party never stopped? Teddy and Kate are living a quiet existence in their one-bedroom apartment, until Teddy’s long lost friend, Arthur, appears out of the blue, with his fiancĂ©e in tow. A screwball comedy of living life to the fullest. (Contains Adult Situations and Adult Language).”

At Maine’s The Portland Stage:
“The Mystery of Irma Vep” by Charles Ludlam runs January 26th through February 21st.
“A hilariously exaggerated spoof of Gothic horror and Victorian melodrama in which an unsuspecting woman marries a mysterious Lord, only to discover that the presence of his first wife still haunts the manor house. Complete with vengeful vampires and damsels in distress, Irma Vep is filled with witty literary allusions, subversive political jabs and one of the funniest “penny dreadful” plots ever to take the stage!"

At the American Repertory Theatre, Boston, from January 7th through February 7th:

“One morning in the low-rent office of a mysterious small business, an employee finds a copy of The Great Gatsby in the clutter of his desk. He starts to read it out loud, and doesn’t stop. At first his coworkers hardly notice. But after a series of strange coincidences, it’s no longer clear whether he’s reading the book or the book is doing something to him.”

“An audacious theatrical tour de force, Gatz is not a stage adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel, but a reading of the entire book – brilliantly brought to life by one of New York’s most exciting and acclaimed theater companies, Elevator Repair Service.

A fully staged theatrical production in which every word of the novel is spoken, verbatim, by the cast of 13 actors, who speak the dialogue of the characters. The actor who plays Nick Carraway speaks all of the narration.”

At The Bushnell, Hartford, Connecticut:

“In The Heights” runs from January 5th through the 10th.
“In The Heights, winner of four 2008 Tony Awards® including BEST MUSICAL, is a sensational new show about chasing your dreams and finding your true home.
In The Heights is an exhilarating journey into a vibrant Manhattan community – a place where the coffee is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.”

And at Boston’s The Huntington:

The American classic “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller runs January 8th through February 27th. Directed by David Esbjornson at the B.U. Theatre – Mainstage.