Twice over lightly part 2: Joseph Papp and the Public Theatre


Do you recall our fun project about re-enacting Twice Over Lightly, the 1972 book from Anita Loos and Helen Hayes, that we started before the storm hit?

We have not forgotten it.

To jog your memory banks, we set out our intent here and then went to re-visit the famous writer and her glam blonde sidekick, the famous actress and benefactor, as they tripped gently around the (then) scary east village.

And then, last night, we went to Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre for something of a cabaret setting but Victorian style Improving Lecture crossed with a live Radio program(me) on the BBC talking to a Writer and a Writer/Performer about Art and The City.

It was marvel(l)ous.

But firstly, let’s look at what Anita and Helen found at Joe’s Pub (as it is now called).

Remember this was 1972 (or just before as the book was Published in That Year). How brave and enterprising and glorious Anita Loos and Helen Hayes were. Read on for their adventure into the heart of downtown hippie-and-hip-cats territory where they probably saw more bell bottoms (if there are young people reading, and we know a few of you are from your kind emails and texts and ‘re-tweets’!) these were trousers. If you are an American Young Person you would call them pants (no sniggering from London, please) and they had swoopy flared bottoms usually in engaging carpet-like textiles.

The party in honor of Joseph Papp’s birthday would be at his Public Theatre on Lafayette Street in the heart of Greenwich Village. Joe’s theatre is much more than one mere theatre. It is the ancient Astor Library which he, backed up by generous theatre lovers, has converted into a theatrical complex.
P. 248: Twice Over Lightly

On this occasion, Anita and Helen had charming male companions……let’s read on…..

On the evening of any large supper party in New York, the custom is for guests to attend small private dinners before the main event. Our dinner before the Papp party was really small. There were four of us: Helen and me with our escorts, Mort Gottlieb (the successful Broadway producer, taking a look at how off-Broadway lives) and our host Guy Monypenny, who is editor of a stylish magazine of interior decorating.
P. 249: Twice Over Lightly

Yes. We stopped dead at the mention of Guy Monypenny. For a start – delicious name (very teamgloria, we think).

The honour of being the first U.T.S. Old Boy to make his name in the world of the Theatre belongs to Guy Monypenny. Guy was a graduate of ’24 U8 years at the time and, after several years of further study, settled down to make his living by selling hand-made lamps in a store in Toronto’s Greenwich Village. He made a trip to New York in June, 1933 with the intention of staying two weeks, to sell some songs which he had written and to write new ones. But while he was there he became interested in the Group Theatre, which in its turn became interested in him and gave him a part with Philip Merivale in “Valley Forge.” When the run of this play came to an end, our young actor had so impressed the Group Theatre that he went, with Mr. Merivale, into the cast of Maxwell Ander- son’s “Mary of Scotland,” in which was starred that great American actress Helen Hayes. While visiting Miss Hayes last summer, he met Noel Coward, and that amazing and Versatile gentleman took a further…..

sadly the online scanned excerpt from the 1935 Yearbook of the University of Toronto ends there! But oh! how tantalizing…….and how Unsurprising that our guardian (for tis how we like to think of Noel) was Involved….

We digress.

Their dinner ended in Little Italy where they drank a cappuccino (which must have been surprising enough to ladies up Uptown – or midtown as Anita Loos lived opposite Carnegie Hall by this point) to mention.

After….we strolled in true Italian contentment along West Fourth to Lafayette Street and there came upon the Public Theatre, ablaze with floodlights. Helen stopped us to view it from afar. “Look! Just look at this truly great example of turn-of-the-century elegance!”
P. 249

We presently learned Joe’s party had already begun in the largest of the four playhouses which comprise the Public Theatre. It had once been the main hall of the old Astor Library and is still crowned with a great domed ceiling of stained glass. This is, moreover, the historic location where HAIR began – minus its silly nude scene.
P. 252

We forgive Anita here, of course, knowing that she was a fan of Paris Couture and probably not of seeing the Young and the Beautiful weaving in and among each other enjoying Free Love and a strangely potent enjoyment of what must have been imported incense.

This next bit gave us a hoot.

Tonight the great auditorium had become a Viennese cabaret, with tiny candle-lit tables spotted among the rows of red plush theatre seats.
P. 252

As. It. Was. Last. Night!

It was So Dark (and atmospheric) that we could not take a good shot – and we did not have the grown-up-camera as we were sure none were allowed so this is the best we could do – forgive.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Event. But we’re a Huge Fan of Anna Deavere Smith (we saw her show Let Me Down Easy about the state of healthcare previously and was struck by her Talent and force and general genius). Friends of ours who own Televisions adore David Simon (as you know, we do not own a telly – far too distracting – and we should tell you that – as who we are in RL – we got Very Far into the interviewing stage for a Big Job in Television before we had to pull out when a friend said, “when are you going to tell them you don’t own a TV?” oops…excellent point.)

Apparently David Simon’s work is utterly brilliant if rather Real (and we’re not big on Real unless it’s set in Paris and perhaps has an interlude of a musical number) but we feel it’s our Duty as a Popular Culture reporter to watch it so we’ll let you know.

The discussion on stage ranged gloriously from Cities to Creating Art to writing Television in New Orleans and somewhere called Baltimore (isn’t that where Mr. J. Waters is from?) and Storytelling and Disasters (we had a silent moment and paused to reflect, perched on the stool at the back as Anna D-S and Mr. Simon talked about visiting Rockaway and NJ shorelines which have been devastated and destroyed this past week).

The two performers embodied compassion and Empathy and Anna boldly proclaimed about the creativity unleashed when re-making your life after a disaster and the room became silent and slightly uneasy but she had a good point. She also talked about how she embodies her characters:

“I desire them – or there’s something about their world that I desire”

We feel the same about the characters who have written themselves into our screenplays through our fingers. Sometimes we think about calling them up, to chat, to see when they’re in Town next – and then we take our hand off the baby pink princess phone and remember that it’s not that they don’t exist – they do – its just we don’t know their phone number. We say this because we’ve written out characters and then met them in real life – not them, exactly, but people that have a similar Feel to them. It’s rather odd and best not to share this information at first, if ever.

Back to Anna DS – she told us the three questions she asks people when she starts to create a show around a theme using monologues drawn from Real Lives:

Have you ever come close to death?

 Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?

 Do you know the circumstances of your birth? 

We were almost going to answer these questions for you – about us – but we paused. Two of them are not suitable (no bright spots or Doris-Day-like pastels shiny memories to impart – just a cold reality that we’d rather Not remember) and the other we already shared with you about Tobias. For if Tobias had grown, undetected, and found his way up and into and through our main artery. Well. Heads would have exploded. Shudder.

It appears Mr. Simon is Terribly Dark himself and writes a blog (quelle joy!) called: The Audacity of Despair (tres Rimbaud). It’s here.

We move on……..back to the Theatre.

Actually we can sum up now, just in case you’re wondering if there’s time to make tea and come back – no – we’re almost Done.

The most exciting part of the evening was not just the sheer joy of watching fascinating people talking about Smart Things in a very intellectual and yet also Visceral blood-filled-and-Real way but the bubbling up gorgeous feeling that here were two people who make their living as Storytellers.

Anna D-S and Mr. Simon pay close attention to Life and to People and their pain and joy and the Feelings that they have and the Adventures and the Sorrows and the sheer excitement at being ALIVE and they share it, through their Craft and their Art into stories which bring these small pockets of humanity to people across the planet (we heard that Mr. Simon does awfully well in Foreign Syndication you see).

Paid to tell stories.

Isn’t that the most delicious way to spend a lifetime?

thank you to Joe’s Pub aka the Joseph Papp Public Theatre for a Most Engaging evening of thought and ideas and storytelling.


another in a series of goodbye to new york from teamgloria.

cue titles.

fade to black.

(yes, we’ve been re-watching The Hour, over and over again – it’s Jolly good).

oh! we just realized – Mr. D. West is not just in The Hour, he’s also in Mr. Simon’s rather Shocking expose of the underbelly of Baltimore. how clever.

One thought on “Twice over lightly part 2: Joseph Papp and the Public Theatre

do say something - do :-)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s