ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Kiss Me Kate: About the Show

Posted on: December 6th, 2016 by Roundabout

 

Kiss Me, Kate

While Shakespeare’s plays are regularly turned into musicals these days, the origins of Kiss Me, Kate go far beyond the notion of making The Taming of the Shrew sing.

Back in 1935, there was perhaps no bigger pair of theatrical stars than the husband and wife team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. But while they sparkled on the stage, they had a different kind of spark behind the scenes. As the two performed in a production of Shrew, the verbal sparring between their characters became almost impossible to separate from the bickering between the Lunts themselves. A young stagehand named Arnold Saint Subber witnessed the backstage arguing and realized that it had a great deal of dramatic potential all its own.

Years later, Saint Subber, now a producer, decided to pursue the idea of this onstage/offstage marital fight in the form of a musical. He and partner Lemuel Ayers thought of the husband and wife writing team of Samuel and Bella Spewack to create the script. As fate would have it, the Spewacks were in a marital dispute of their own at the time, so Bella was approached on her own first. She jumped at the idea and knew exactly who should do the music and lyrics: Cole Porter.

Porter was already a wildly popular songwriter, but he had never composed a score that was fully integrated with the book of a show. In fact, almost no one had attempted to do so, with one major exception: Oklahoma! When that musical opened on Broadway in 1943, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score caused a sensation. Their songs didn’t just divert – they actually advanced the plot. Porter was eager to try his hand at this approach himself, and he was intrigued by the duality offered by the onstage/offstage story. He immediately saw what fun could be had with writing songs both for the Shrew characters and for the people playing them.

As work on the show progressed, Bella Spewack realized that that her estranged husband could make a contribution, so they put aside their differences and began collaborating again, with Bella working on the structure and Sam concentrating on the humor, particularly for the gangster characters. Happily, life would later imitate art, with the Spewacks rekindling their own romance in time for the show to open in 1948, remaining together for the rest of their lives.

When Kiss Me, Kate opened, it was an immediate hit, with the New York Times praising it as “terribly enjoyable” and Variety declaring it “unquestionably a smash.” The show would win the first Tony Award for Best Musical ever given out, and it would run for more than 1000 performances on Broadway. Even in a career as fantastic as Cole Porter’s, it would be this show that was considered his greatest success.


A benefit reading of Kiss Me, Kate is being performed at Studio 54 on December 12. For more information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Special Events


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Interview with Teaching Artist Leah Reddy

Posted on: December 6th, 2016 by Sarah Kutnowsky

 

Roundabout Master Teaching Artist Leah Reddy has worked with Education at Roundabout for the past ten years. During the day, Leah can be found in classrooms leading residencies and workshops. In the evening, you may see Leah at one of Roundabout’s theatres engaging audiences in a pre-show discussion. During the summer, Leah acts as the Marketing mentor for Student Production Workshop. Leah is also a contributing writer for Roundabout’s UPSTAGE guides, where she writes articles and activities for teachers to use with their students.

In addition to her work with students and patrons, Leah serves in leadership positions. As a member of the Teaching Artist Advisory Group, Leah works with other teaching artists to better Roundabout’s TA training, which she also co-facilitates. She also serves as a Partnership Coordinator for Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre, where she works with school leadership and educators to ensure that the school’s partnership with Roundabout best serves their goals.

Education Coordinator Sarah Kutnowsky spoke with Leah about her career and work at Roundabout.

Teaching Artist Leah Reddy facilitating a talkback after a student matinee.

Teaching Artist Leah Reddy facilitating a talkback after a student matinee.

Sarah Kutnowsky: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.
Leah Reddy: I grew up on the west side of Cincinnati, Ohio. I went to The Ohio State University and moved to New York after graduation. I started out as an actor/director, but in the past five years I've spent more time on writing, photography, and video production, in addition to teaching. All the work I do comes back to telling a story, and I'm never sure what I'm going to be doing next.

SK: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?
LR: I answered an audition notice for Roundabout on Playbill.com right after I moved to city. The audition consisted of teaching a lesson, and I used the plot of the Saved by the Bell episode about zit cream to talk about script analysis. My first arts education experience was probably kindergarten dance class. I didn't get hooked on theatre until second grade, when we performed "Achoo! The Mouse That Saved Christmas" in our holiday program. I played Nibbles, and most of my lines involved eating cheese.

SK: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?
LR: I love making theatre, seeing theatre, and talking about theatre, and that's what I get to do as a teaching artist. I love the community theatre creates, and thinking about how we build community. My teaching work is also part activism. I hope that it empowers students to express themselves and think critically about representation in the media and how the stories we see and share shape us. I also hope it gets them thinking about the professional world and how to make their way in it. Also, my fellow TAs and the Education staff are the most amazing people and artists. They challenge and inspire me all the time.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
LR: I had the opportunity to shoot a series of short videos about issues around water access in Cuba this summer. We're editing them now and they'll be used a water justice conference in 2017.

Over the next month, Leah will share her experience working with students at Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre in a residency focusing on restorative justice for the Roundabout blog.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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Love, Love, Love: The World of the Play, 1967

Posted on: December 4th, 2016 by Roundabout

 

The late 1960s were a time of social and political change in both Britain and the United States. In many ways these were the conclusion of shifts begun in the wake of WWII. For the older generation, these changes were disorienting; for Love, Love, Love protagonists Kenneth and Sandra, representatives of the cohort born just after the war, they were a natural evolution of the only society they had ever known.

 

Sample of a UK Child's Ration Book, WWII

Sample of a UK Child's
Ration Book, WWII

THE END OF AN EMPIRE

While the United States emerged from WWII as a world power with a strong economy, Britain was left bankrupt and physically devastated, unable to maintain control over its far-flung colonies. Between 1945 and 1968, more than two dozen British colonies, including India, all became independent nations. At the same time, immigration to Britain rose due to the need for new workers to rebuild the British economy. Indians, Poles, and West Indians arrived in large numbers.

A MORE AFFLUENT POPULATION

Though Britain struggled economically after the war, by the late 1950s the country was more affluent than ever before. There was a purposeful effort to build a more equitable, less class-based, society. The creation of the social safety net, including national health insurance and payments to families to offset the cost of caring for children, raised the material standard of living. Employment levels were high, and families could afford cars and televisions for the first time. Housing estates, similar to older American suburbs and early public housing developments, were built to replace housing destroyed in the war and to house those displaced by slum clearance projects. These estates featured amenities uncommon in previous generations: central heating and indoor plumbing.

ACCESS TO EDUCATION

The Education Act of 1944 made secondary school, equivalent to high school in the United States, free and available to all students. Previously, secondary school had been almost exclusively for upper class males. Beginning in 1962, universities in Britain were free: the state paid students’ tuition and awarded maintenance grants to cover living expenses. Between 1960 and 1970 the number of Britons earning a college degree doubled. Kenneth and Sandra are part of this group.

Recruitment Poster for the National Service

Recruitment Poster for the National Service

THE END OF NATIONAL SERVICE

From 1939 until 1960 all British men between 18 and 21 were conscripted into National Service and required to spend 18 months in the military and four years on reserve. This system was phased out between 1960 and 1963. Kenneth was part of the first group of teenagers not required to join the military in two decades.

WOMEN

Women in Britain in the 1960s did not have the rights or opportunities of their male peers. Most left school at 15, worked for several years, and married by their early twenties. Pursuing a college degree makes Sandra part of an elite group.

Though an official marriage bar — which required women in civil service to give up their jobs after marriage — ended in 1946, women were still expected to leave work after marriage in many fields. Women could not get credit or make large purchases without a male guarantor.

Birth control became available to married women only in 1961, but it was not prescribed to unmarried women until 1974. Abortion was legalized in 1967, but the law required the doctor, not the woman, to make the decision about whether or not abortion was appropriate.

The women’s liberation movement coalesced in the late 1960s around issues of wage equality. Women earned 54% of what men earned on average and in many cases were paid less for exactly the same work.

Students on their way to class, early 1970s

Students on their way to class, early 1970s

YOUTH CULTURE

British and American young people in the late 1960s were similar in their rejection of “the establishment,” a term for those who hold political or cultural power in a society. The revolutionary, rebellious music of the decade spanned the Atlantic, as did the appreciation of recreational drugs and free love. But the United States had two challenges the British did not face: direct involvement with the Vietnam War, and a major civil rights movement.

The main political cause for British youth was the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. CND unilaterally opposed nuclear weapons, held at the time by the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union, out of fear of a nuclear war and in moral objection to the loss of civilian life seen after atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. While CND opposed the war in Vietnam, not many Britons were active participants in the Campaign in the late 1960s.

Twiggy

Twiggy

British youth culture centered on “Swinging London.” Swinging was slang for hip or fashionable, and came into use in the late 1950s. Perhaps because the political situation in Britain felt less urgent, Swinging London was all about music and fashion. “Mod,” short for modern, clothes were in: miniskirts and shift dresses in bold colors and prints, designed by Mary Quant and modeled by Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton.

U.S. AND VIETNAM

U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which began in the early 1950s, was driven by fear of communist expansion. By the late 1960s many Americans no longer supported the war because they objected to American soldiers dying in another country’s civil war, learned of the death and devastation caused by the American and south Vietnamese militaries, and/or or considered American involvement a form of imperialism. The draft system, which conscripted men between 18-21 to serve in the military, drew heavily from minority populations and was seen as unfair. Student groups, civil rights activists, mothers’ organizations, and clergy were all involved in the anti-war movement.

The U.S. civil rights movement, which began in 1954 and had forced change in U.S. laws and practices in housing, employment, education, and voting rights, continued in the late 1960s. Britain, which didn’t have a significant minority population until the immigration of the 1950s, also passed anti-discrimination laws during this period. Overall, the movement was much larger in the United States.

1967 FACTS

  • Senator Edward Brooke, Republican of Massachusetts, becomes the first popularly elected African-American Senator since Reconstruction.
  • The Great Human Be-In in San Francisco features Timothy Leary, who tells the crowd to “Turn on, tune in, drop out”
  • The first ATM is installed in a North London bank.
  • Male homosexuality is decriminalized in Britain.
  • The Outer Space Treaty is signed by the U.S.A, the U.K., and the Soviet Union. It prohibits orbiting weapons of mass destruction.
  • The first air conditioned subway car goes into service in NYC.
  • The first black police officer joins the the London Metropolitan Police Force.
  • The first heart transplants are performed in Cape Town and New York City.
  • In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Love Love Love


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