Archive for the “Judy Samelson” Category
Posted by Ann in Construction Updates, Fans of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Funding & Donation, Fundraising Events for "The Kate", Judy Samelson, Katharine Hepburn, The Connecticut Arts Scene, Things to Do in Connecticut, tags: Aerial Photography, Capital Campaign, Connecticut, Judy Samelson, Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Old Saybrook, Playbill, summer, The Kate, Tom Walsh, winter
September 6, 2009 on the day of an Open House at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, we celebrate making our Capital Campaign goal for the theater. One-point-seven million, the building is paid for. Thanks to state and town and private donations we made it. Chief of the campaign was Trustee, Edie Gengras, she’s pictured along with President of the Board of Trustees, Bob Welsh outside our thermometer.
Featured below that photo are beautiful aerial shots of The Kate from Tom Walsh of Shoreline Aerial Photography. Walsh captured the theater in September, 2009 and the preceding winter…what a difference some months made.
The former editor of Playbill, Judy Samelson, and a long time fan of Katharine Hepburn, submitted this article to Playbill.
Thank you so much, Judy.
Now onward to a long history of wonderful events at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.
See you at “The Kate!”
Ann Nyberg, Trustee, KHCAC
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Posted by Ann in Chuck Still, Executive Director, Construction Updates, Judy Samelson, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn's Brownies, The Connecticut Arts Scene, Things to Do in Connecticut, tags: Bee and Thistle Inn, Connecticut, Garde Arts Center, Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Katharine Hepburn's Brownies, Live Opera from the MET, Marie-Lynn Piscitelli, Memorial Day Parade, Miss Connecticut Shoreline, Old Saybrook, Open House, The Kate
What a perfect day this was! More than one-thousand lined up after Old Saybrook’s Memorial Day Parade to get a look inside at the Katharine Hepburn Cultual Arts Center and theater.
The historic venue opened up exactly 98 years ago on Memorial Day…the people she’s seen in her 98 years.
The board of trustees manned their posts inside and outside the theater to welcome everyone, answer questions and give tours.
We served Katharine Hepburn’s famous brownies made for us by the wonderful eatery right down the street from “The Kate” Frankie and Gianni’s.
Our hat is off too to the Starbuck’s in town that provided the coffee.
Urns full of beautiful flowers outside the venue were provided by the owner of the Bee and Thistle Inn, Linnea Rufo…Linnea they were beautiful , thank you.
To all the volunteers who helped out to the new volunteers who signed up to be a part of this wonderful cultural arts center we thank you.
To Miss Connecticut Shoreline, Marie-Lynn Piscitelli…thanks for riding in our convertible in the town parade to help us announce the Open House for “The Kate…we wish you luck as you head for the Miss Connecticut Pageant this June 27th at the Garde Arts Center in New London.
We are so excited to open this venue in August…you’ll see comedy and live Opera from the MET in NYC in HD. We will also show movies and have children’s theater and cabaret and exhibits and authors and you name it, it’ll be there.
Thank you to all who came to the Open House to watch us grow. We hope you will think of us as your “livingroom” to see what’s up at The Kate in the months and years to come.
See you at “The Kate!”
Ann Nyberg, Trustee, KHCAC
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In Katharine Hepburn’s 1973 interview with Dick Cavett, the subject turned to the Oscars and the fact that she had never appeared to accept any of her Best Actress awards (by that time, she had already won three and would win an unprecedented fourth by 1981). By way of explanation, Miss H laughed and said she was “too gutless,” continuing with, “afraid I wouldn’t win it. It must be that; couldn’t be anything else.” She elaborated by repeating her father’s words of wisdom about his children: “My children are very shy. When they go to a party—and this would include that—they’re afraid they’re going to be neither the bride nor the corpse.”
Then when asked what she thought about Brando and George C. Scott, who both refused to accept their Oscars, she said, “You’re either in a business or your not,” she told Cavett. “And you’re not that important. Nobody is.”
She continued to say that she probably should have gone to pick up hers, “but I really just didn’t. But I’m not proud of it . . . And the big moral stand about not being in the running for a prize . . . Oh . . .” The quote trailed off into laughter from Hepburn, Cavett and the few lucky souls who had drifted into the theatre to hear this historic interview, stopping just short of the divine Miss H possibly uttering an obscenity on television.
“What would you have said if we hadn’t been on television?” Cavett inquired. “I wouldn’t have said it,” she replied with a laugh.
Well maybe Katharine Hepburn wouldn’t have uttered a naughty word in public but that doesn’t mean Coco Chanel was averse to doing so—or should I say Katharine Hepburn as Coco Chanel.
Let me take you back to 1969. Katharine Hepburn is starring as Chanel in her first and only musical, Coco. Act One ends just as the great designer is about to present her comeback collection to the public. The curtain comes down with a flurry of anticipation. When it rises again for Act Two, the stage is a tumult of overturned chairs, and various accessories on the floor—in short, it looks like a war zone in the aftermath of the show. But the audience is still in the dark. How did it go? Was it a success? Hepburn as Coco rises from where she has been sitting watching the show and walks through the room, surveying the mess. When she reaches the front of the stage, she stops and with great feeling says: Sh – - t!
As I sat in the darkness of the mezzanine at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, eyes glued to the commanding figure onstage, my ears perked up at the sound of a voice that certainly sounded like hers emanating from below. I thought to myself, “Did she just say what I think she said?” For a moment, time seemed to stop and after an endless split second of silence, my answer arrived in the form of an explosion of laughter, like an enormous tidal wave, starting at the front of the house and crashing past me way up to the balcony.
In his book Tracy and Hepburn, Garson Kanin wrote that he asked Coco’s lyricist and book writer Alan Jay Lerner how he got Hepburn to agree to say the word. Lerner replied: “Easy. She wrote it.”
Kanin then questioned his friend Kate about it and she explained her reasoning. In previous versions of the scene, she said, there had been a lot of expository material explaining that Coco’s fashion how had been a failure. And in a true demonstration of the theory of less is more, Hepburn thought that one very well-placed cuss word would say it all. As she told Kanin, “I needed to start Act Two with a bang.” Mission accomplished.
A few months ago, when it was announced that Miss Hepburn’s theatrical papers had been donated to the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, one of the interesting letters that was quoted in the press coverage concerned this one little four-letter word. Apparently, when Coco was headed to Los Angeles, Hepburn was contractually forbidden to use the profanity. Believing that the loss would ruin the integrity of the scene, she fought for it via a letter to Edwin Lester of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association, in which she wrote:
First, we have tried everything that anyone can think of to use instead. Nothing works—the sadness—the finality—the clarity and the brevity of this expression coming from the lips of a highly respectable old lady—who is alone—and who is in tears over the total failure of her show—strikes the audience as funny then as she runs up the stairway—curiously gallant.
Who could not be charmed after receiving such a thoughtful plea from the star? Certainly not Lester. He responded that her letter “was sufficient for us to acquiesce, particularly if acquiescence would make you happy.” And he added, “let me tell you how much we are looking forward to your visit with us, even though you bring that naughty word along with you.”
Till next time…
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Posted by Judy in Judy Samelson, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn on Stage, tags: Blanche Yurka, Katharine Hepburn, Katherine Alexander, Leopold Stokowski, Lysistrata, Playbill, the Philadelphia Academy of Music, The Warrior's Husband
Program Cover: In Sophocles' Electra
In a previous post I wrote about a one-night only performance of Beauty and the Beast put on in Fenwick by a young teenage Kathy Hepburn and her friend Alice Barbour to raise money for a cause. But that wasn’t the only time in her career where a show in which she appeared closed after only one night.
In March 1932, Hepburn opened on Broadway in a play called The Warrior’s Husband, Julian Thompson’s comic twist on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Though the play was cut down, the young actress in its midst was a palpable hit and made the town buzz. (There’ll be more on that and Hepburn’s earlier career in future posts.)
With no real hope for a long run, Hepburn agreed to appear in Ossining, NY, in a stock company production of The Bride the Sun Shines On opposite Henry Hull (a longtime Old Lyme, CT, resident), when The Warrior’s Husband closed – which it did in May 1932.
As she recounts in her book Me, prior to the play’s demise, “a man came to my dressing room” and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: Five hundred bucks (!) for one performance in a production of Electra to be presented at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Blanche Yurka was to be Electra, Hepburn would be one Greek chorus and Katherine Alexander the other, Leopold Stokowski was to conduct the music. The whole event was to be, in Hepburn’s words, “very highbrow.”
And so she agreed to appear and was off to Philadelphia with a maid whom she had recently hired in tow. (Hepburn described Lily as a dominating woman whose wages were half of the $150 she was receiving for The Warrior’s Husband. During the run, the cast was asked to take pay cuts and Hepburn’s was reduced by half, so eventually it was all going to the dominating Lily!)
On the train ride to over, Katharine and Katherine agreed to share a room at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. When they arrived at the theatre for makeup and rehearsal, they found what appeared to Hepburn to be total chaos and she began to suspect that there was something rotten in Greece – or at the very least in Philadelphia.
They returned to the hotel but Alexander said she had to go out again. Kate offered to accompany her but Alexander wanted to go alone. It was only later that Hepburn learned that Alexander, too, had been offered $500 and that she, too, had “smelled a rat” when they were at the theatre earlier. So she went back on her own to ask to be paid up front. And she was.
“I wasn’t so clever,” Hepburn wrote in Me. “It never occurred to me that there might be no money.”
Still, the show must go on. And it did, with assurances of her salary to come. The curtain came down on this one-night only performance, she paid Lily and returned home. And the promised $500 “remained a dream.”
The program/handbill for Electra whose title page is shown here contains this curious note: “The action of ‘Electra’ is continuous but there will be a brief intermission.” What exactly was going on during intermission, I wonder. Perhaps the promoters were skipping town?
Till next time….
Judy Samelson/Editor, PLAYBILL®
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Katharine Hepburn's Beauty and the Beast Letter
Anyone know the name of the first play in which Katharine Hepburn starred?
Animal Kingdom? No. These Days? Uh-uh. Art and Mrs. Bottle? Nope. Give up?
Here’s a hint: It opened in Fenwick and played one performance only. It starred young Kathy Hepburn and her friend Ali Barbour. It was produced on the porch of Barbour’s house with the audience sitting on the lawn. The play? Beauty and the Beast. Ali was the Beauty. And Kate? Well… I’ll let you guess what part she played.
When I was about 8 or 10 years old, I, too, played the Beast in my friend’s backyard in Bayside, NY. And though this was a few years before I ever knew who Katharine Hepburn was, I’ve often wondered if my own childhood performance in this classic fairy tale was some sort of cosmic connecting rod to the woman who would soon have such a strong influence on me.
But enough about me and the cosmos. Back to the star’s beastly debut.
In her 1991 autobiography Me, Hepburn recalled a sermon she heard as a child in Fenwick. The Bishop of New Mexico had come to the local chapel to preach about the plight of the Navajo Indians. “Filled with noble thoughts,” she wrote, she and her friend decided to raise money for the cause by putting on the play. The take was $75, which they presented to the Bishop to buy the Navajo a victrola!
In 1974 a woman who worked as a volunteer at the historical museum in Farmington, New Mexico, came upon a “music box.” Word was that Katharine Hepburn had donated the music box to the museum. When the woman wrote to Hepburn to inquire if this was true, she received a wonderful response from the actress, filled not only with noble thoughts but also with humor and fond memories of this, her first theatrical appearance (the letter, from my personal collection, appears below):
In later years, when the swell of adulation simultaneously amused and astonished her, Hepburn took to referring to her public persona as “The Creature”—a being who, in her eyes, bore little relation to the local girl from Hartford (her international fame notwithstanding).
But earlier in her life, her identification with “the beast” surfaced, somewhat more cryptically, in another of her letters. This letter hangs on my wall. It is not dated but from the nature of her handwriting seems to me to have been written sometime in the forties. It is written in pencil on yellow legal pad and is addressed to “Dear Harold.” Though I have not been able to confirm it, it’s possible that the Harold in question was famed literary agent Harold Freedman. In the letter, Hepburn turns down an offer to do a play. The play goes unnamed, but the letter reads in part:
I have read the play very carefully & I do not think it would be the thing which would lure me back to jail… I can’t imagine what play would do that at the moment. Also I do not think that I would be too good in this play—the obstacles & her problems are not really obstacles or problems with which I am in sympathy—I always felt that Mary of Scots was idiotic & when I played her—I succeeded in being idiotic—& I had no reality—I have not the confidence of a “beauty”—Mine is the confidence of the “beast”—
Till next time…
Judy Samelson/Editor, PLAYBILL®
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