Theater and Stage

Touch, The Generation Gap Musical

This dated abomination seems to have all but vanished from the annals of stage history, so far as googling can determine.

Enjoy the whole performance, thanks to the capacious memory of the Internet Archive.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Sep 21, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Music, Stereotypes and Cliches, Theater and Stage, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, 1970s

Tenjō Sajiki

A small sampling of the avant-garde theater of the troupe named Tenjō Sajiki. Their Wikipedia entry.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Sep 11, 2023 - Comments ()
Category: Theater and Stage, Avant Garde, Asia, Twentieth Century

How Now, Dow Jones

The weird premises of certain Broadway shows is a theme encountered before on WU. Here's another instance.

How Now, Dow Jones, set in Wall Street, follows Kate who announces the Dow Jones numbers. Her fiancé will not marry her until the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits 1,000.

The author William Goldman offers his analysis.

Posted By: Paul - Mon May 22, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Ineptness, Crudity, Talentlessness, Kitsch, and Bad Art, Money, Music, Theater and Stage, 1960s

The Perfume Concert of Sadakichi Hartmann

Nov 30, 1902: Sadakichi Hartmann gave the world's first "perfume concert" at the New York Theatre. It was meant to be a journey around the world via scents. Hartmann recited a travel monologue as fans blew scents toward the audience.

Sadakichi started out to be the personal conductor of a tour to Japan. The audience was expected to smell its way. To this end, two contrivances which looked like ovens to an abandoned gasoline stove were brought on the stage. In the ovens were placed pad-like layers saturated with various perfumes. Fans operated by electricity wafted the odors to an audience made up of actor ladies and ladies of other professions, accompanied by "gents" conspicuous for white vests and Tuxedos with "shiny" satin collars.

The problem was that in the early 1900s people freely smoked in theaters. So no one beyond the first few rows could smell anything except cigar smoke. The audience soon left, en masse.

Wikipedia article about Sadakichi Hartmann.

New York Evening World - Dec 1, 1902

Posted By: Alex - Sat Apr 15, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Theater and Stage, 1900s, Perfume and Cologne and Other Scents

G.I. Hamlet

During WWII, Shakespeare's HAMLET was adapted for soldiers in the Pacific theater. As TIME magazine revealed:

The Theater: Hamlet in Hawaii
Monday, Nov. 27, 1944

The Army, taking the Bard by the horns in Hawaii, has come up with a G.I. Hamlet. Moreover, it has come up smiling. With Major Maurice Evans bossing the job and playing the introspective Prince for the first time since 1940, the effect on the dogfaces has been, for Evans, "simply staggering." They even rise above normal behavior by refraining from hollering or whistling when performers go into a clinch. Commented one G.I.: "They certainly must have done a lot of rewriting to bring that play so up to date."

A blue pencil, not a pen, helped do it: a third of the play has been hacked off.

The modernish costumes helped, too: Hamlet wears trousers instead of tights, delivers "To be, or not to be," in a dinner jacket with silver-brocade lapels. No help at all were the unpoetic sergeants who inevitably shattered the high-tragic mood of the soldier cast's rehearsals, with such prose passages as "Hey, Polonius, you and those other guys get some brooms and clean up the theayter."

Wikipedia reveals:

[the] highly truncated version of the play that he played for South Pacific war zones during World War II...made the prince a more decisive character. The staging, known as the "G.I. Hamlet", was produced on Broadway for 131 performances in 1945/46.

This interesting article has more details, and another picture.

Regarding the quote below, I can just picture Hamlet in a fistfight with his stepfather.

Evans’s romantic, extroverted, unneurotic, virile, and soldier-like Hamlet suggested Lord Byron.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Mar 27, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Theater and Stage, War, Adaptations, Reworkings, Recastings and New Versions, 1940s

Louis Duprey’s Trapdoor Theater Seats

One of the minor annoyances of going to a theater is having your view blocked if someone in front of you gets up from their seat. Or having to stand from your seat to let someone get by.

Back in 1924, Louis Duprey patented a solution to this problem. He envisioned a theater in which guests would enter through a subchamber, get into their seats, and then be raised upwards by a hydraulic lift, through a trapdoor, into the theater itself. Anyone who wanted to leave early could simply lower themself back down, disturbing no one else.

It's an over-engineered solution to a minor problem, but I would happily pay extra, at least once, to experience a theater like this. Though I'd probably spend the entire time going up and down in my chair.

More info: Patent No. 1,517,774
Related Posts: Thomas Curtis Gray's horizontal theater, Theater in a Whale, Lloyd Brown's Globe Theater

via New Scientist

Posted By: Alex - Thu Oct 20, 2022 - Comments (6)
Category: Architecture, Entertainment, Theater and Stage, Patents, 1920s

Death by Drama

Paul posted last week about a real-life murder that occurred onstage during a play. This reminded me of another onstage death I once read about in Jody Enders' book Death By Drama and Other Medieval Urban Legends.

The death is said to have occurred in 1549, during a performance of the play Judith and Holofernes, which tells the Biblical (or Biblical apocrypha) story of Judith who cuts off the head of an Assyrian general, Holofernes. The producers of the play supposedly decided it would add a touch of realism if the actor playing Holofernes really was decapitated.

The details from Enders' book:

According to the legend, when Philip II made his triumphal entry into Tournai in 1549, he was greeted by a painstakingly realistic performance of the drama of Judith and Holofernes. Frederic Faber relates that producers Jean de Bury and Jean de Crehan had arranged a very special entertainment for the future monarch. A convicted heretic and murderer was to assume the role of Holofernes long enough to be decapitated during the play by another convicted felon. The latter, having been pardoned, would just as briefly assume the role of Judith, his executioner:

Jean de Bury and Jean de Crehan, duly charged with decorating the streets, had imagined rendering in its purest form the biblical exploit of Judith. Consequently, for filling the role of Holofernes, a criminal had been chosen who had been condemned to have his flesh torn with red-hot pincers. This poor fellow, guilty of several murders and ensconced in heresy, had preferred decapitation to the horrible torture to which he had been condemned, hoping, perhaps, that a young girl would have neither the force nor the courage to cut off his head. But the organizers, having had the same concern, had substituted for the real Judith a young man who had been condemned to banishment and to whom a pardon was promised if he played his role well.

The story goes that the two substitutions were accepted by the two unnamed men. Being an actor / executioner was apparently preferable to being banished, and death by decapitation during drama was preferable to being skinned alive (something that the Eel of Melun might himself have understood).

"Judith" had only one condition to meet: to provide acting so good that it wasn't acting at all. . .

The fantastic narrative next shows Philip arriving just as the axe is falling. As real blood supposedly begins to flow, it prompts applause in some, indignation in others, and curiosity in the prince, who remains implacable as the body of "Holofernes" goes through its last spasms:

In fact, as Philip approached the theater where the mystery play was being represented, the so-called Judith unsheathed a well-sharpened scimitar and, seizing the hair of Holofernes, who was pretending to be asleep, dealt him a single blow with so much skill and vigor that his head was separated from his body. At the [sight of] the streams of blood that spurted out from the neck of the victim, frenetic applause and cries of indignation rose up from amid the spectators. Only the young prince remained impassive, observing the convulsions of the decapitated man with curiosity and saying to his noble entourage: "nice blow".

Enders has doubts this onstage execution ever really took place, but can't rule out the possibility altogether.

In the story's favor: Philip II really did go to Tournai in 1549; Jehan de Crehan was a real person; there really were plays performed in Philip's honor; and Tournai had a history of executing heretics, and of offering decapitation as a "kinder" alternative to more gruesome forms of execution.

The points against the story's veracity: not a single, extant contemporaneous source mentions this onstage decapitation. The first references to it only appear several hundred years later. And it stretches credulity to imagine that a condemned prisoner would obligingly play his part in the performance, even to the extent of pretending to be asleep before he was decapitated.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Mar 18, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Death, Theater and Stage, Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore, Sixteenth Century

Unlikely Reasons for Murder No. 8

Source: NYT for 9/23/1899.

Source: NYT for 1/6/1900.


Source: Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania)01 May 1900, Tue Page 3

Posted By: Paul - Fri Mar 11, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Crime, Death, Theater and Stage, Women, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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