Saturday, June 25, 2011

You Wonder How These Things Begin

Lorenzo "Lore" (pronounced Lorry) Noto saw The Fantasticks in its one-act version and quickly offered to produce it off Broadway. Now charged with re-expanding the show into a full-length musical, Schmidt and Jones went back to work. Schmidt created an overture to accompany Jones’ new idea of starting the show with the hustle and bustle of a commedia troupe arriving and preparing to present a play, an idea Jones got from a production he had seen of The Servant of Two Masters by the Italian company Piccolo Teatro di Milano. They cut a few songs – "Have You Ever Been to China?", "I Have Been a Fool" – and began writing new songs, including "It Depends on What You Pay" and all of Act II. The two "actors," Henry and Mortimer, returned in Act II as Lodevigo and Socrates, loosely based on the amoral cat and fox in Disney’s Pinocchio.

Schmidt and Jones dubbed the romantic Act One "In the Moonlight" and they went to work on Act Two, "In the Sun," exploring what happens to the two families and the new marriage in the cold, hard light of day. As El Gallo says:

Their moon was cardboard, fragile.

It was very apt to fray,

And what was last night scenic

May seem cynic by today.

The play’s not done.

Oh no – not quite,

For life never ends in the moonlit night;

And despite what pretty poets say,

The night is only half the day.

So we would like to finish

What was foolishly begun.

For the story is not ended

And the play is never done

Until we’ve all of us been burned a bit

And burnished by the sun!

Notice that El Gallo (and Jones) consciously distances himself from the "pretty poets," the traditional, flowery romantics. Notice, too, that in order to learn what we must learn, we must be "burned" – hurt, destroyed consumed – but also "burnished" – polished, smoothed, brightened. And let’s not forget that burning does more than destroy; it also provides light and heat, both necessary to life. This lesson these kids will learn will destroy them and it is necessary to their lives.

Act Two was the Beat’s answer to the traditional romantic Broadway musical, a kind of gentler companion piece to much darker Nervous Set, also commenting (though more urbanely) on the increasingly unhealthy isolationism and insularity of suburban America during the Eisenhower years. In Act One of The Fantasticks, Matt and Luisa find a traditional Broadway musical Happily Ever After. But it’s tainted – predicated on a deception – like much of mainstream American life at the time (and still today). And like Kerouac, Matt believes he can only find answers Out There in the World; but though Kerouac only crossed America, Matt goes literally around the world.

One could argue that Act One was in form like the old-fashioned musical comedies of yesteryear that portrayed shallow, cardboard love, and that Act Two was more like the concept musicals to come in the 60s and 70s. In Act Two, the disillusionment sinks in and the young lovers find that love cannot be built on false romanticism. The Happily Ever After they have been promised all their lives runs smack up against the reality of Life. As many young people did in post-war America, they find that Marriage is Hard. All the lovely lies of the American establishment, the Happily Ever After that the end of World War II had promised, that mythical American Dream that only a few Americans actually get to enjoy, is revealed to be a fake. Like the musicals that would be written in the years to come, Act Two of The Fantasticks tells us that life is complicated, difficult, confusing, but that it is possible for clear-eyed realists to navigate this decidedly un-musical-comedy terrain. This was a show at least a decade ahead of its time.

The Fantasticks was the beginning of the end of the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution, and it paved the way for unconventional shows like Anyone Can Whistle, Cabaret, Company, Celebration, Promises, Promises, and others.

From Scott Millers Inside the Fantasticks

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Funny Pain of Growing Up?

But even though the story was no longer set in Texas, the narrator/bandit was still called El Gallo (which is Spanish for The Cock), named for a famous gypsy bullfighter. Some of the Latin musical influences from the Dead Horse score remained in the new songs, particularly in the flamenco rhythms of "It Depends on What You Pay" and the tango of "Never Say No." Henry Fenwick, a Medicine Show con man in Dead Horse, was refashioned into a charming, fading Shakespearean actor for the new show, based quite explicitly on B. Iden Payne, Jones’ college theatre professor. The villain of Dead Horse, a half-breed Apache, became the much gentler, more benign cockney Mortimer, The Man Who Dies (and whose name comes from the Latin word for death, of course), now based loosely on Ronald Coleman in the 1947 film A Double Life. Several of the unnamed extras in Dead Horse were consolidated into The Mute, now more consciously based on Japanese theatre devices.

The one-act version of The Fantasticks – essentially what we know today as Act One – opened in August 1959 at Barnard College’s Minor Latham Theatre. It was billed as a story of "the funny pain of growing up." Baker said of the creative team’s fondness for artistic rebellion, "There was a certain affinity and belief in a theatre that was considered heresy: open stage, direct to the audience." (The now iconic, minimalist set design was actually a design Schmidt had done for another show they had never gotten produced.) This was a radical approach for a musical, a kind of musical theatre as Greenwich Village coffeehouse poetry reading, small, intimate, personal.

But the show didn’t entirely work. Baker later said, "It was, quote unquote, darling. . . it almost made you puke. Lots of things were changed. It was our trial run. We made all our mistakes at Barnard."

From Inside the Fantasticks by Scott Miller

Monday, June 13, 2011

Jack and Matt On the Road

The show’s rhyming, intellectual, Beat-style dialogue and Schmidt’s dissonant, polytonal jazz vocabulary came to the forefront, especially with their new orchestration, scored for just piano and harp. They took their new title from Fleming’s translation of Les Romanesques, called The Fantasticks, complete with quirky spelling. The original French title had implied not just people who were romantic, but more than that, adventurous, a hallmark of the Beats most famously described in Jack Kerouac’s bohemian odyssey, the genre-busting 1957 novel On the Road, which would eventually serve (comically) as a model for Matt’s adventure around the world in Act II of The Fantasticks. There was no direct English translation of that idea of romantic adventurousness, but Fleming’s consciously whimsical misspelling of an approximate English equivalent seemed to convey exactly that sense of rebelliousness the musical’s authors were looking for, a hint of outrageousness, subversiveness. And as a successful graphic artist, Schmidt also thought the title looked better that way.

From Inside The Fantasticks by Scott Miller

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Man Who Plants a Garden

Like Shakespeare often did, Jones found two overriding images he wanted to use to tell his story in its newest form – vegetation and the changing of the seasons – and these images would inform everything in the show, giving it a sense of unity and, in following Shakespeare’s lead, also a kind of ancient timelessness. Also like Shakespeare, Jones used rhymed verse and blank verse, the occasional use of prose, and plenty of soliloquies. El Gallo became in part like Shakespeare’s Chorus, directly addressing the audience, offering us not just important information, but also commentary, philosophy, and foreshadowing. But El Gallo also became the descendant of the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s iconic American play Our Town. The ubiquitous images of moon and sun, now as conflicting metaphors for romantic fantasy and cold reality, came from a production of The Winter’s Tale Jones had seen. And going even further into Bard-land, there are striking parallels between The Fantasticks and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including a God-like controlling figure (El Gallo and Oberon), his handyman and assistant (The Mute and Puck), foolish lovers, and their escape from the "normal" world into a world of adventure where the lovers can learn about themselves and each other, and then return older, wiser, and ready for marriage.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Putting it Together

In June 1959, actress Mildred Dunnock offered director Word Baker the opportunity to present an evening of three one-act plays at the Minor Latham Theatre, way uptown in Manhattan, with a combined budget of one hundred dollars. Baker called Schmidt and Jones and told them if they’d condense Joy Comes to Dead Horse into a one-act, he’d include it in his show. They’d have to do the show very minimalistically and they’d have to have the new version done in four weeks. The budget dictated the physical style, and it forced the authors to focus on the essence of the story, minus all the trappings of a "usual" Broadway musical, in the process "celebrating the restrictions of the theatre rather than trying to disguise it in any way," as Jones later put it. They discarded all the Rodgers and Hammerstein baggage and the show’s Texas setting, and allowed into the piece their joint sense of Beat poetry and intellectual whimsy, which had been struggling to get into the show all along. Like the Beats, they now rejected mindless conformity (the ubiquitous Rodgers and Hammerstein model), they rejected convention for convention’s sake (like the "fourth wall" and realistic sets), and they broke through to something more pure, more primal, more truthful.

(By Scott Miller in Inside The Fantasticks)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A distant thunder

Challenge #5

Once again, Henry...

"Why doth the drum come thither?"

What does the drum signify?
What show?
The context?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Famous Last Words

Challenge #4, yes that means a prize is attached.
Be sure to answer all parts of the challenge. Seriously, answering part I is just too easy.

OK..maybe not all last words! Henry, the old actor, a great stealer of lines and bumbler of the King's English may not be able to put two of the Bard's lines together consecutively but he he's able to pull them out here and there.

Can you identify the play, speaker and context of the following lines?

"A touch, a touch, I do confess"
"Once more, dear friends, into the breach."
"God for Harry, England, and Saint George"
"Good night, sweet Prince."
"And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"I am Dying Egypt"

"I am dying, Egypt, dying."

Antony and Cleopatra (IV, xv, 41)

Mark Antony speaks these words to Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, as he lies dying in her arms in this historic-tragedy that sweeps across the world from Rome to the East. Antony has fought against his own Rome on the side of Egypt, and has lost, following Cleopatra into retreat. Cleopatra has learned that Antony believes she has betrayed him and intends to kill her, and so she sends false word to him that she has taken her own life. Antony is grief-stricken and asks his knave, Eros, to kill him. Eros chooses to kill himself instead, and so Antony falls upon his own sword. He does not die immediately, however, and is brought to Cleopatra's monument where he utters these words, and dies in her arms. Antony's failure to die immediately from his own sword, in good Roman style, reflects the mark of the East upon him; and yet his beauty of character is viewed clearly in this uncomfortable death-scene. He is finally able to combine the Roman and the Eastern halves of his nature, with which he struggled throughout the course of the play.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"I Am No Pantaloon"

Generally defined as an absurd old man, the butt of the clown's tricks.

In commedia dell'arte, a lecherous old merchant dressed in pantaloons.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Next Stop, Greenwhich Village

As Jones. Schmidt, and Baker were finding their way to 'The City," New York in the 1950's was the center of the universe. The most important city in the most important country. It still had that Damon Runyan feel about it.

The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world, in 1957 the NY Yankees had won their 3rd of 6 consecutive World Series, Irish, Jews, and Italians were the largest ethnic groups in the city.

Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams dominated the theatre world. Rogers and Hammerstein were kings of Broadway along with Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, and Frank Loesser.

The Russian acting teacher Stanislavsky was introducing "The Method" which became something of a "religion" amongst students of the theatre. Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio was in full bloom.

The Beat Generation had made Greenwhich Village their headquarters. BEBOP sounds wafted from clubs. You could go uptown to the Three Deuces or the Open Door and hear Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis.

The Village again became important to the bohemian scene during the 1950s, when the Beat Generation focused their energies there. Fleeing from what they saw as oppressive social conformity, a loose collection of writers, poets, artists, and students (later known as the Beats) and the Beatniks, moved to Greenwich Village. Jack Kerouc was holed up in the Village writing On The Road. the Beat poets were in full swing.The Village (and surrounding New York City) would later play central roles in the writings of, among others, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Marianne Moore, Maya Angelou, Rod McKuen, and Dylan Thomas, who collapsed while drinking at the White Horse Tavern on November 5, 1953.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Go ahead Mortimer. Die for the Man."

Mortimer specialized in death scenes. He's been dying for the past 40 years. On stage at least. But what about real deaths on stage?

Long part of the canon of contemporary lore is the tale of an unfortunate actor who expires on stage, his adoring audience unaware of his sudden demise because they think his collapse part of the show - while they clap and cheer at the brilliance of his death scene performance, unknown to them he is gasping his last.

So who were some of these people who met the Grim Reaper while treading the boards”

Moliere (died Feb 21 16730) Collapsed during his fourth performance of his newly penned The Hypochondriac. Overwhelmed with a coughing fit, he was carried home where he died.

Tyrone Power (died Nov 15 1958) suffered a heart attack during the filming of a fencing scene in Solomon and Sheba in Madrid Spain. He died only minutes after being loaded into an ambulance.

Nelson Eddy (died March 6 1967) This famous actor and singer (Little Mary sunshine) suffered a fatal stroke while performing onstage at the Doral Country Club in Miami at age 65.

David Burns (died March 12 1971) the 70 year old actor died onstage of a heart attack during a performance of 70 Girls 70.

Irene Ryan (died April 26 1973) Best known as “Granny” on TV’s Beverly Hillbillies, this spritely 71 year old suffered a stroke while performing in the Broadway musical Pippin and died six weeks later.

Cyril Ritchard (died December 19 1977) This 83 year old actor suffered a heart attack during a November 25 performance in Chicago of the musical Side by Side by Sondheim causing him to slip into a comma from which he never recovered.Redd

Redd Foxx (died October 11 1991) Actor comedian Redd Foxx had a heart attack on the set of The Royal Family.

Add to this list dozens more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fantastic challenge #2

Based upon Luisa's proclamation, in what month was she born? Justify your answer.

Email me at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"I am Lodevigo"

"I am Lodevigo. Just like yourself - a young man looking for the pleasant pinch of adventure."

Matt is put through his paces by a pair of scoundrels who happen to be Henry and Mortimer in disguise (renamed Lodevigo and Socrates).

Jones said he based the two characters on the cat and fox in Disneys film Pinocchio, who lure the ambitious puppet into becoming an actor.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fantastic Challenge #1

Henry, the Old Actor, is having a tough time remembering his lines. He starts out well with "Friends, Romans, Countrymen..." but from there he meanders far afield.

Identify the next 5 lines in his speech.
From what plays are they spoken?
What is the context?
Who said them?

Be the first to email me your answer and you win a prize.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I've Been The World Over

HUCKLEBEE: I've seen it all; mountain cactus, the century plant, Japanese Ivy. And exotic ports where bog-wort was sold on the open market!"

Where exactly did Hucklebee travel?
The mountain cactus is an easy one and fairly close to home. It is native to the dry mountain regions of the Pacific Northwest. It generally prefers cooler temperatures, and usually requires little water throughout much of the year, though it does have increased water needs during its late winter, early spring and autumnal growth periods. They are most often found at elevations ranging between 6,000 and 10,000 feet . They seem to prefer rocky ridges and dry mountain valley habitats.

The misnamed century plant typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spreading rosette of gray-green leaves each with a spiny margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone. When it flowers, the spike with a cyme of big yellow flowers may reach up to 26 ft in height. Its common name likely derives from its semelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth.

The Japanese Ivy is a flowering plant in the grape family native to eastern Asia in Japan, Korea, and northern and eastern China.

Bog-wart or whortleberry is native to cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, at low altitudes in the Arctic, and at high altitudes south to the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Caucasus in Europe, the mountains of Mongolia, northern China and central Japan in Asia, and the Sierra Nevada in California and the Rocky Mountains in Utah in North America.
It grows on wet acidic soils on heathland, moorland, tundra, and in the understory of coniferous forests, from sea level in the Arctic, up to 11,200 ft altitude in the south of the range.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Reading the Romances

"The boy was born. The girl was born. Went to school....Read Romances, studied cloud formations."

The Romances originally meant something written in French; usually a medieval story. In the broader context, the Romances were fantastic stories about marvel filled adventures with knights possessing heroic qualities who go on huge adventures or quests.

The Romances that Luisa read were probably Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Romeo and Juliet.

Jones and Schmidt provide a little foreshadowing of Matt's quest in El Gallo's first soliloquy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Word About Word

The third member of this happy creative trio was a skinny, pimply little kid a lot like Jones. Charlie (Word) Baker was another directing student at UT Austin. Baker, five years older than Jones, seemed worldly wise; married with 2 daughters, and a stint in the Army during World War II impressed Jones immensely.

He was a director from the start. When he was five he received a Mother
Goose book and promptly cast the neighborhood kids in his own backyard theatrical production. He married his high school sweetheart. Both went on to college where the lure of the stage was too much for Word and he soon flunked out of college. After the Army he got a job helping to organize his hometown's theatre company. At a friend's prompting he enrolled at UT Austin and crossed paths with Jones, Schmidt, B. Iden Payne and found a theatrical home in the Curtain Club.

At this time Oklahoma was only four years old, South Pacific and West Side Story were not even waiting in the wings and the musical theatre was persona non grata at the university level but not at the Curtain Club. Every Friday they would host a hugely extravagant talent show of skits and songs.

From there he got a teaching job in El Paso and made a move to Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now known as Auburn University) when a job opened in the theatre department. His first directing assignment: The Crucible and a long career as a director.

He is often described as "magical", "incandescent." Of Baker, a colleague said, "He had characteristics about him that I have never seen in another was a charisma beyond anything I'd ever heard of."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"I hear her speak of Sabine women"

It is nor surprising that Luisa, who has read the classic and the Romances, would speak fondly and wistfully of her favorite story The Rape of the Sabine Women. After all, to a young young it was fantastically romantic story.

Contrary to what modern audiences might think, no real rape occurred, rather an abduction.

The Rape of the Sabine Women is an episode in the legendary history of Rome in which the first generation of Roman men acquired wives for themselves from the neighboring Sabine families. The English word "rape" is a conventional translation of Latin raptio, which in this context means "abduction" rather than its prevalent modern meaning of sexual violation.

The Rape is supposed to have occurred in the early history of Rome, shortly after its founding by Romulus and his mostly male followers. Seeking wives in order to found families, the Romans negotiated unsuccessfully with the Sabines, who populated the area. Fearing the emergence of a rival society, the Sabines refused to allow their women to marry the Romans. Consequently, the Romans planned to abduct Sabine women. Romulus devised a festival of Neptune Equester and proclaimed the festival among Rome's neighbours. According to Livy, many people from Rome's neighbours attended, including many of the Sabines. At the festival Romulus gave a signal, at which the Romans grabbed the Sabine women and fought off the Sabine men. The indignant abductees were soon implored by Romulus to accept Roman husbands.

Livy is clear that no sexual assault took place. On the contrary, Romulus offered them free choice and promised civic and property rights to women. According to Livy, Romulus spoke to them each in person, "and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying the right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and--dearest of all to human nature--would be the mothers of free men.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"She's Too Vibrant for a Name"

Juliet, Helena, Cassandra, Cleopatra, Beatrice, Guinevere? What a line up of Beauties.

Mostly familiar names at least to 1960's audiences who were still studying the classics in school.

In case you missed it in English class..

Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba. Her beauty caught Apollo's eye and he granted her the gift of prophesy. Unfortunately for him it was unrequitted love so he put a curse on Cassandra. She still had the gift but no one would believe her. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.

We get the phrase the Cassandra metaphor from our fair lady.

The Cassandra metaphor (variously labelled the Cassandra 'syndrome', 'complex', 'phenomenon', 'predicament', 'dilemma', or 'curse'), is a term applied in situations in which valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved.

Jones's Beatrice may be the one from Much Ado About Nothing as is Helena but I like this Beatrice better.

Beatrice was the woman to whom the great Italian poet Dante dedicated most of his poetry and almost all of his life, from his first sight of her at the age of nine (“from that time forward, Love quite governed my soul”) through his glorification of her in La divina commedia, completed 40 years later, to his death in 1321.

Beatrice is usually identified as Beatrice Portinari, the daughter of a noble Florentine family, who married Simone de’ Bardi and died at the age of 24 on June 8, 1290. Dante wrote a chronicle of his relationship with her

Cleopatra. I couldn't possibly do justice to her in a short little blog post so I'll pay homage to the iconic Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Everything Fantasticks

Check out MTI's Fantasticks page with music clips, synopsis, photos, videos, forums, and upcoming shows ...Look for us!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It is hard to know what is most important or how it all began.

...They grew up - quickly - went to school, became shy in their own ways and for different reasons. Read romances, studied cloud formations in the lazy afternoon and instead of reading textbooks tried to memorize the moon."

Harvey Schmidt, the son of a Methodist minister, traveled from town to town in Texas as his father's assignments changed. It was his mother, with her love of music had the most significant impact on the young Harvey. She made a living as a piano t
eacher. Harvey was one of her student's, but as he admits, one of her worst students. It was his mother and her love for music that made an impression.

In those small Texas towns long before TV radio was king. He listened to hour upon hour of symphony broadcasts and operas on the radio, it was the highlight of his weekend. That and the movies that came to town. "People growing up today can't imagine how different the world was before television," Schmidt says, "We had movies, radio, and some live performances and I loved them all because they were all separate. TV smears them all together. In those days I didn't know quite what was real and what was fantasy. I'd see these old 30's musicals where everybody'd be dancing on black glass floors and that supposedly was New York. I thought, well that looks swell."

Although reading notes baffled the young Schmidt it in no way stopped his love of music. He did learn to play and as soon as he knew how a song went he could play it by ear. He had a wild imagination and would meander down the dirt roads of Texas creating wild productions with huge production numbers like the one's he had seen in the movies. "Only mine were even bigger, and grander, because out of door, under the sky, I was not restricted by a studio budget!"

He did excel in one other thing and at a very early "A precocious artist, Schmidt's drawing so impressed his first grade teacher that the teacher announced to the class that he could grow up to be a commercial artist in New York. 'That sounded good to me.' Schmidt said , so I always claimed, I'd do that.'"

By 1948 he was headed to the University of Texas as a commercial art student but the Siren call of music and the theatre led him to a performing group on campus called The Curtain Club, his first audition as a pianist, and his first meeting with Tom Jones that sealed his fate.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Perhaps You Recall my Hamlet?

Back to the titanic theatrical influence in Tom Jones's life....

B. Iden Payne the internationally known Shakespearean actor and director arrived on the UT Austin campus in 1946 at the "moonlight" of his illustrious career with no less energy, spark, and eccentricity that he had demonstrated his entire life.

A native of Great Britain, he directed at the Abbey Players in Dublin, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford on Avon, and New York's Theate Guild Shakespeare Company and was one of the godfathers of The Goodman . He credits himself with giving John Barrymore his first serious role in Galworthy's Justice. He cast Helen Hayes at 14 in her first serious role. He was an authority on Elizabethan stage technique.

Today on campus his name is as prolific as Emmy, Oscar, and Thespie, with a theatre named after him and an annual theatre award given in his name.

"He was determined to root out the notion that complicated sets and scenery were necessary for theatre." For Payne, the text alone in all his richness was enough. "He was emphatic about this and pounded it into his students." This may not sound like a revolutionary idea today but in 1946 it was cutting edge and to many a little bizzare.

It was under Payne's tutelage that Tom Jones was inspired. He came to realize the kind of theatre he liked the most, that of "Shakespeare, Moliere, the Greeks, and Thorton Wilder." The kind of theatre that was presentational not realistic. It was so over the top, smaltzy, a bit of glittery fantasy."

Jones says, "I could believe anything. If you didn't ask me to believe anything, I could believe everything."

HENRY: Don't look at us like we are, sir. Please. Remove ten pounds of road dust from these aged wrinkled cheeks. See make-up caked in glowing powder pink! Imagine a beard , full blown and blowing like the whiskers of a bear! And hair! Imagine hair."
..."Try to see it under light. I assure you it's dazzling."

BTW...The role of The Old Actor/Henry was inspired by B. Iden Payne.

(much credit needs to go to The Fantasticks: How It All Began by Donald C. Farber and Robert Viagas.)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Deep in the Heart of Texas

"All roads to The Fantasticks lead to playwright Tom Jones" and Texas. ( 1)

Texas in the 1930's was scruffy, dusty and dry and unlike the fantasy world of The Fantasticks , "there was no confetti, whirling girlies, no tipsy gypsies" in Jones's tiny hometown of Coleman,Texas. Located 150 miles northwest of Austin, the town's signature was the smell of turkeys at the turkey hatchery Jones's father ran.

As a child Jones was plagued with ill health, in fact, when he was two, severely ill with pneumonia, he landed in the hospital for weeks. During his hospitalization, doctors cut out a rib to drain the pus. Jones says, "It left me convinced that I was in some way scarred, mutilated, unacceptable. I'm convinced that at least in some part of my compulsion to pretend was the necessity to compensate for that feeling."

He spent most of his time indoors reading and listening to radio comedies and dramas. He wasn't as tough as the other boys but he was popular for telling great stories and reenacting what he had heard on radio. He sparkled in school plays. At the relatively young age of 12 he starred in a production of Our Town as the narrator in an all adult cast. The idea of an omniscient narrator was certainly the inspiration for the narrator El Gallo.

His big love, however, were the movies that came to the local movie house. Zorro, Robin Hood, and Tarzan those swashbuckling heroes were his idols. When he was old enough he got a job as an usher at the movie theatre, sometimes catching 4 movies a day on the weekends.

The only live theatre he had seen, came to town in the form of the popular traveling shows known as The Toby Show, named after the freckle faced, red headed, country bumpkin main character named Toby. Jones was mesmerized by the shows; their colorful wagons and tents, the improvised stages, the lantern lighting, clownish costumes and bands. By the time he was in seventh grade he knew he wanted a life on stage.

Jones's theatre career began at The University of Texas at Austin where the theatre department was first class and where he met his most influential mentor.

(1.Quotes and a lot of information from The Fantasticks:How It All Began by Donald C. Farber and Robert Viagas an excellent book for fanatic Fantasticks fans)