Tuesday, May 1, 2012


From last evening's conversation at the HB Playwrights Foundation Theatre with Broadway producer Elizabeth McCann, director Jack Hofsiss, and casting director Jack Doulin.

Towards the end, Elizabeth McCann was describing the crowd conditions on the title page of so many Playbills, how often "you need a magnifying glass" to read the list of producers whose names appear above the title of the show (this so that they are eligible for a Tony), and then, referring to the spate of producer bios, she mimicked, "And I want to thank my husband and my dear dog, _otsy."

I asked my seatmate to repeat the dog's name. "Potsie," he said, as in 'Happy Days.'" I believed him but almost heard the word as "Hotsy." Elizabeth McCann being the funny person she is, I settled on Hotsy. She worked for Jimmy Nederlander. She can have Hotsy.

Ms. McCann's start in the theater seems to fly in the face of so many efforts to start today's children into their futures as soon as possible, early pre-professionalism. The producer did not spend her own childhood attending the theater: "We never went near a theater."

Until a cousin (I think it was a cousin) had an extra ticket to "Cyrano de Bergerac," she said. She recalled being not very excited or even very interested. The play starred José Ferrer, and between his name (probably not billed as José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón) and the playwright's, Ms. McCann was, by her account, lightly confounded. She recalled thinking, "Was it going to be in English?" And then of course it became one of her favorite plays--"I have loved but one man and lost him twice," she told the HB audience.

After "Cyrano," she said, she didn't decide she wanted to go into the theater. She decided she wanted to go to the theater.

Frankly, I understand this.

The Playbill cover from the performance that made the difference?  (November 1953)

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