Charity for the Rich? (Dramaturg’s Note Continuted)

by Bianca Dillard, dramaturg

Holiday was produced in 1928, just 9 months before the stock market crash. In a play that explores the effect of money on families and individuals, this detail seems particularly important. What could have happened to Edward Seton, big bank capitalist, after the stock market crash of 1929?  (For more info on this question as it relates to the characters of Edward as well as Johnny check out my dramaturg’s note page 11.)

“Any charity work I do from now on is going to be for the rich, they need it more.”
– Linda Seton, Holiday.

“The sick and the poor are cared for by everyone else now. Nobody has offered any refuge for people of this kind, and they need one more even more than other unfortunates.”
– Andrew Freedman

While Linda’s comment may have been in jest, there was a man who was quite serious about charity work for the rich. Andrew Freedman was serious enough in his belief that economic hard times would be harder on the rich than on the poor that he set up a retirement home where those accustomed to the luxuries afforded the rich could retire in style even if they lost their fortunes.

The idea was prompted by a financial scare in 1907 (a run on the bank that caused panic, but less widespread economic damage). As Andrew Freedman was confronted with his potential loss of wealth, he wondered what he would do in his old age if he were out of money, so he set up a trust fund to build a luxurious retirement home for folks who were accustomed to a wealthy lifestyle but happened to be out of wealth. 

Located in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in New York (1125 Grand Concourse in The Bronx),  the Freedman home’s residents would enjoy architecture reminiscent of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, well maintained English gardens, ornate interior design, grand dining, and servants–all at no cost. Open to a few in 1917, officially opened in 1924, and expanded in 1928 (the year our play is set and just in time for the Great Depression), it housed many of the formerly wealthy of retirement age who lost big in the stock market crash. At its height, the Freedman home housed 130 individuals.

All that is to say that if things had gone horribly wrong for Edward, at least he would have the Andrew Freedman House to cushion his fall.

The trust maintaining the house ran out in 1960 when the residents began to pay to live there. Since that time, the structure has gone through a number of transitions. It currently houses a daycare, and event’s center. It recently housed an art show that you can read more about here.

For more detailed reading about Andrew Freedman himself and his house. Here are a couple of places to go:

A Home for Bankrupt Millionaires (The Evening Tribute Nov. 23 1924)

Landmark Preservation Commissions Report–Andrew Freedman Home. (June 2nd, 1992) 

 

Obscure Cultural References–Everyone a Dramaturg!

by Bianca Morrison Dillard, dramaturg

Every play is a product of a specific time and place and has references specific to that cultural milieu. As a dramaturg, these “little” references can prove especially difficult if the lingo from the time your play was set has not been carried down, or if it’s not something that was commonly enough referenced for the explanation to be written down.

And, unfortunately, so far, nobody’s put together The Complete and Annotated Works of Philip Barry (I guess he’s not as famous or important as Shakespeare), so all we have is the text itself, which means we have to look elsewhere to decode cultural references that are lost on us today. Below I’ve listed a few cultural references we were able to find enough clues to make sense of. My hope is that they will enrich your understanding of the play as you view it as much as it has enriched our experience in production.

But, the thing is, I’m stuck on a couple of things–and here’s where you can help. I’ve listed a few phrases that we were unable to find a definitive context for. If you have any ideas, please think about putting on your dramaturg hat and helping us out. After all, we live in the age of social media and needn’t be limited to the combined knowledge of a single production team. You can be a dramaturg!

Cultural references we were able to find clues to uncover their context:

“Dan to Beersheba” is a phrase used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to the Israelite nation–from Dan, at the Northernmost tip of the settled area, to Beersheba at the southernmost end.

“Hammacher Schlemmerr” was the first national hardware store in the US and holds the record for oldest continuously published catalog in the United States. See if you can spot the joke in the second act that relies on our knowledge that Hammacher Schlemmer is a hardware store and not a fashion designer.

“Grant took bourbon” Most people know that General Ulysses S. Grant loved his liquor. What we discovered is that his preferred drink was bourbon. He was especially fond of “Old Crow.”

References that, even with our combined wisdom, Google, and scholarly searches, still remain a mystery:

“ashman’s touch” One of the characters refers to another who ruins a party by taking it over as having the “ashman’s touch.” It’s not capitalized, leading us to believe it isn’t in reference to a specific person. Is he simply referring to someone who cleans chimneys and would have soiled things had he or she touched them? Or is there something we are missing? Have you heard or used this phrase? Have you read anything else with this phrase?

“Russian L” The line is “If you are so set on being violent get a few Russians in and talk life with a great big L.” Could the character be talking about Lenin? Is his name too horrible to be uttered and must be abbreviated? Was Lenin ever referred to as the big L, or just L?

So, my newly dubbed social media dramaturgs, have you got any ideas? Please share your thoughts, clues, and insights below in the form of a comment. Please take the time to help us follow your trail by including the reference that uncovered the information, even if it’s as simple as, “My grandma used to say that.”

Thank you and good luck!

Holiday?

by Bianca Morrison Dillard, dramaturg

When people ask me what project I’m working on, I’ve gotten used to saying,  “Holiday—it’s by the same guy who wrote The Philadelphia Story.”  This statement is quickly followed by signs of recognition—usually an “Oh!” combined with a smile and nod of the head. Then I talk about how, like The Philadelphia StoryHoliday is a witty romantic sort of comedy, about the American upper-class. I mention how it too has some sweet-hearted and thought-provoking twists along the way.
Next, I usually remind them that Holiday is a Hollywood classic in its own right and that they may have seen the 1938 version starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Like these classic movies, our production of Holiday will feature a star-studded cast of BYU celebs, and up and coming new faces. You see, Holiday is the annual BFA acting final production. A BFA is a Bachelors in Fine Arts and it’s a very concentrated study of acting. BFA acting students are taught by professional working actors and directors as well as scholars. They learn a myriad of different acting techniques from all time periods–they learn how to move, breathe, use their voices and stand. They learn accents, stage combat, and even how to juggle. Most importantly they learn how to communicate with each other and an audience. It’s a very competitive course of study and students are required to audition yearly to stay in the program.  The students have to continue to progress and meet standards of proficiency each year. Needless to say, it’s an intense program, and in a few short weeks you will have the opportunity witness the culmination of all their hard work.

Our production features a good mix of acting seniors who are about to enter the professional world of theatre and film and some brand new students who are working hard to make a good impression, all under the expert direction of veteran actor, acting coach, director, and head of the BFA acting track Barta Heiner.  Here’s a little bit about each of our stars.

Becca Ingram (Linda Seton): From American Fork, UT, a graduating Senior in Acting. Recent credits at BYU include Beth in Merrily We Roll Along & Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank. She recently received the National Classical Acting Award at the American College Theater Festival in Washington D.C.

Magarin Hobson (Johnny Case): From Grantsville, Utah. Senior in BFA Acting. Recent credits at BYU include Armado in Loves Labors Lost, Lord John in Elephant Man, & Keith in Stage Door, also Lachie in The Hasty Heart at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley.

Mallory Gee (Julia Seton): From Elk Grove, California. Senior in Theatre Arts Studies. Recent credits include Becca in Rabbit Hole. Recently participated in BYU’s 24 Hour Theatre Project staring in Haystack, and she is currently filming in the Pick Your Own Adventure webseries.

Eric Gourley (Ned Seton): From Las Vegas, Nevada. Senior in BFA Acting. Recent credits include: Elephant Man, Scarlet Pimpernel, and Persuasion.

Alexander Trop (Edward Seton): From Salt Lake City, UT. Junior in Acting. Recent credits at BYU include Harun-al Rashid in Arabian Nights and Robert in Proof. Also appeared as Mortimer in The Fantasticks at the Brinton Black Box Theatre.

Andrew Joy (Nick Potter): From Clinton, Utah. Senior in Acting with a minor in Sociology. BYU credits include Mike in White Christmas, Babe in Babe the Sheep-pig, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, and Bridegroom in Blood Wedding. He also produced Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along last year at BYU.

Taylor Warburton (Susan Potter): From Las Vegas, Nevada. A graduating Senior in Theatre Arts Studies. Recent Credits include Helena in Utah Shakespeare in the Park’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Maria in Love’s Labours’ Lost at BYU.

Billy Hagee (Seton Cram): From Mckinney, TX. Freshman in the Music Dance Theatre program here at BYU. Recent credits at BYU include Philips in Casey at the Bat. This is Billy’s second role at BYU.

Sarah-lucy Hill (Laura Cram): from Sacramento, California. Senior in the Theater Arts Studies. Recent credits: Ashera in A Roof Overhead ZIon Theater Company, Meructia in Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing Utah Shakespeare in the Park.

Jordan Nicholes
(Henry): From Fort Worth, Texas. Freshman at BYU studying acting. Recent credits include Mr. Smith in The Bald Soprano at BYU’s Mask Club, and Cristopher Columbus in Mariner at San Antonio College.

Michael Comp
(Delia): From New York City, NY. Freshman in Theatre Arts Studies. Recent credits include placing third in the New York Shakespeare Competition. This is Michael’s first role in a BYU production.