Over the years I have written four letters to The New York Times.Two of them were published which shows that my view points were taken into consideration.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

60 YEARS OF THEATER MEMORIES...Confessions of a Not Too discriminating Theatergoer



The first show I ever saw was Oklahoma’ I was l2 or l3 years old and took the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan by myself, feeling very grown-up. I bought a mezzanine seat and eagerly awaited the start of the performance. The curtain went up, and I was stunned...with disappointment. In all the movies I had seen, Broadway shows had acres of shiny floors and huge, lifelike sets. Here was a plain wooden floor and a painted backdrop. Within 30 seconds, I completely accepted what was in front of me as glorious reality and loved every second. I was particularly thrilled when the entire cast came to edge of the stage and sang the title song.
The next show I saw was Finian’s Rainbow, and I adored it. Years later, I had the great pleasure of getting to know the composer, Burton Lane and his brilliant, outspoken wife, Lynn.
Many years later, I was working as a copywriter for the man who really founded AARP, as a vehicle to sell group health insurance. He was a brilliant businessman, but a true vulgarian. He sent a contribution to Gore Vidal’s congressional campaign...and decided that gave him to right to send a lengthy critique of Vidal’s play “The Best Man”. Not surprisingly, Mr. Vidal was not amused and let his feelings be known.
By now, my boss has gotten Broadway fever and began forming a producing company. I arranged for him to speak to a friend of mine who was a company manager and wanted to be a producer. Boss-man rejected my pal, Mort Gottlieb....probably because a recommendation from an employee of his carried no clout. Mort met a wealthy lady from Denver and went on to a wildly successful producing career.
Now Boss-man set up an elaborate office and hired staff. He produced an Off-Broadway show called “Hey You, Lightman” which folded quickly. His interest in Broadway waned, and he decided to make a movie. His company films, in England, a gentle story of a young boy whose uncle is the same age he is. In order to show the film, he has to rent an art cinema on 58th Street at great expense. After a few weeks, he threw in the towel. He disbanded the office and gave his assistant the only script in any real stage of development. The assistant produced this film...”Georgy Girl,” a tremendous success.
Back to my theatergoing. I have seen hundreds of shows and remember most. Even bad ones usually provide me with some pleasant memory. I only remember walking out of a show in the middle once.
That was in London...and was a treacly musical about the Brownings, entitled I think “Robert and Elizabeth”.
Ï will close by telling an experience I had at an off-Broadway show. As I sat waiting for the show to begin, I saw that a patron in the first row put his program on the stage. I was shocked and incensed...because I suddenly realized that the stage is a sacred space...like an altar...and it certainly is not respectful to use it as a place to put down a Corvette’s shopping bag...or whatever!
Herbert Zohn

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