A Thurber Carnival

A Thurber Carnival

Overview
A Thurber Carnival is a revue
Revue
A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century American popular entertainment and melodrama but grew into a substantial cultural presence of its own during its golden years from 1916 to 1932...

 by James Thurber
James Thurber
James Grover Thurber was an American author, cartoonist and celebrated wit. Thurber was best known for his cartoons and short stories published in The New Yorker magazine.-Life:...

, adapted by the author from his stories, cartoons and casuals (humorous short pieces), nearly all of which originally appeared in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

. It was directed by Burgess Meredith
Burgess Meredith
Oliver Burgess Meredith , known professionally as Burgess Meredith, was an American actor in theatre, film, and television, who also worked as a director...

. Following a six city tryout, during which Thurber continued to rewrite the show, it premiered on Broadway on February 26, 1960 and ran for 223 performances, with a break from June 25 to September 5.
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Encyclopedia
A Thurber Carnival is a revue
Revue
A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century American popular entertainment and melodrama but grew into a substantial cultural presence of its own during its golden years from 1916 to 1932...

 by James Thurber
James Thurber
James Grover Thurber was an American author, cartoonist and celebrated wit. Thurber was best known for his cartoons and short stories published in The New Yorker magazine.-Life:...

, adapted by the author from his stories, cartoons and casuals (humorous short pieces), nearly all of which originally appeared in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

. It was directed by Burgess Meredith
Burgess Meredith
Oliver Burgess Meredith , known professionally as Burgess Meredith, was an American actor in theatre, film, and television, who also worked as a director...

. Following a six city tryout, during which Thurber continued to rewrite the show, it premiered on Broadway on February 26, 1960 and ran for 223 performances, with a break from June 25 to September 5. It closed on November 26, 1960. The title is similar to that of The Thurber Carnival (1945), Thurber's most successful collection of stories and drawings.

Cast and format


The nine member cast played roles generically designated as First Man, First Woman, etc., as listed in the published script. Each of these roles included portrayals of numerous characters within the revue's 16 sketches. The opening night cast was as follows:
Actor Role Characters
Tom Ewell
Tom Ewell
Tom Ewell was an American actor.-Early life and career:Born Samuel Yewell Tompkins in Owensboro, Kentucky, where his family expected him to follow in their footsteps as lawyers or whiskey and tobacco dealers....

 
First Man Grant, He, Anderson, The Pet Counsellor, James Thurber, Walter Mitty, Narrator
Paul Ford  Second Man Father, Man, Wolf, Lee, Darrel Darke, Bailey, Preble, Clint Jordan, John, Secretary Bird, Mr. Pritchard-Mitford, The Leader
John McGiver
John McGiver
John Irwin McGiver was a character actor who made more than a hundred appearances in television and motion pictures over a two-decade span from 1955 to 1975....

 
Third Man Psychiatrist, Lee's Staff Man, Visitor, Westwater, H. F. Cluffman, Owl, Dr. Renshaw
Peter Turgeon  Fourth Man Narrator, Officer, Announcer, Mole, Lt. Berg, Dr. Remington
Charles Braswell  Fifth Man Wolf, Policeman, Shultz, Mole, Clothes Moth, First Voice, Dr. Benbow
Peggy Cass
Peggy Cass
Mary Margaret “Peggy” Cass was an American actress, comedian, game show panelist, and announcer.A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Cass became interested in acting as a member of the drama club at Cambridge Latin School; however, she attended all of high school without a speaking part...

 
First Woman Mother, She, Mrs. Preble, Miss Alma Winege, Lou, Mrs. Mitty, Narrator
Alice Ghostley
Alice Ghostley
Alice Margaret Ghostley was an American actress. She was best known for her roles as housekeeper Esmeralda on Bewitched, as Cousin Alice on Mayberry R.F.D., and as Bernice Clifton on Designing Women, for which she received an Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1992...

 
Second Woman She, Salesgirl, Miss Whittaker, Jeanette Gaines, Nellie, Narrator
Wynne Miller  Third Woman Daughter, Little Girl, Bargirl, Girl, Miss Daley, Miss Wynne, Luna Moth, Nurse
Margo Lungreen  Fourth Woman Miss Bagley, Red Fox


These were supported by the jazz music of the Don Elliott Quartet (Jack Six, Jimmy Raney, Ronnie Bedford and Don Elliott
Don Elliott
Don Elliott was an American jazz trumpeter, vibraphonist, vocalist, and mellophone player. His album Calypso Jazz is considered by some jazz enthusiasts to be one of the definitive calypso jazz albums. Elliott recorded over 60 albums and 5,000 advertising jingles throughout his career...

).

James Thurber played himself in 88 performances, dictating letters in the sketch "File and Forget".

Word Dance (Part 1)


Word Dance (Part 1) is a series of punchlines, delivered during breaks in the music as the characters dance, similar to the "Cocktail Party" sketches that later appeared in the television series Laugh-In. The scene was staged by James Starbuck, with music from the Don Elliott Quartet. The characters were credited only by the generic names (and as "performer" in the Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
The Internet Broadway Database is an online database of Broadway theatre productions and their personnel. It is operated by the Research Department of The Broadway League, a trade association for the North American commercial theatre community....

). The punchlines were primarily derived from the captions of Thurber cartoons, including "Where did you get those big brown eyes and that tiny mind?" Part 2 of the sketch appears at the end of Act 2.

The Night the Bed Fell


The Night the Bed Fell consists of First Man sitting at the edge of the stage, telling the story of a particular night from his (Thurber's) childhood, when a collapsing bed provoked remarkable reactions from members of his eccentric extended family. The fictionalized reminiscence first appeared in The New Yorker on July 8, 1933, and was reprinted in the book My Life and Hard Times
My Life and Hard Times
My Life and Hard Times is the 1933 autobiography of James Thurber. It is considered his greatest work as he relates in bewildered deadpan prose the eccentric goings on of his family and the town beyond ....

(1933
1933 in literature
The year 1933 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* February 17 - The magazine Newsweek is published for the first time.* James Joyce's Ulysses is allowed into United States.-New books:...

).

Fables (Part 1)


Fables (Part 1) is a set of three of Thurber's Fables for Our Time, originally staged by James Starbuck. In each fable, the nominally animal characters dress and behave as humans. It includes the following:
  • "The Wolf at the Door" - narrated by Second Woman. Characters include the Daughter (Third Woman), the Mother (First Woman), the Father (Second Man) and the Wolf (Fifth Man). The Sheep family argues over whether the visitor at the door is the Wolf or the Fuller Brush Man. The fable originally appeared in The New Yorker
    The New Yorker
    The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

    on July 28, 1956, and was collected in the book Further Fables for Our Time (1956).
  • "The Unicorn in the Garden
    The Unicorn in the Garden
    "The Unicorn in the Garden" is a short story written by James Thurber. The most famous of Thurber's humorous modern fables, it first appeared in The New Yorker on October 31, 1939; and was first collected in his book Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated...

    "
    - narrated by Fourth Man. The characters are Man (First Man), She (Second Woman), Psychiatrist (Third Man) and Policeman (Fifth Man). Based on Thurber's most famous fable, it is about a man who sees a unicorn, and subsequently turns the tables on the hostile wife who does not believe him when he tells her about the incident. The unicorn is not seen on stage. The story first appeared in The New Yorker
    The New Yorker
    The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

    on October 31, 1939; and was first collected in his book Fables for Our Time & Famous Poems Illustrated (Harper and Brothers, 1940
    1940 in literature
    The year 1940 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Aldous Huxley is a screenwriter for the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.*Jean-Paul Sartre is taken prisoner by the Germans....

    ).
  • "The Little Girl and the Wolf " - narrated by First Woman. The characters are Wolf (Second Man) and Little Girl (Third Woman). Based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood
    Little Red Riding Hood
    Little Red Riding Hood, also known as Little Red Cap, is a French fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. The story has been changed considerably in its history and subject to numerous modern adaptations and readings....

    , it ends with the girl shooting the wolf, who delivers the fable's moral
    Moral
    A moral is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim...

    . The fable first appeared in The New Yorker on January 21, 1939, and was collected in Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940).

If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox


"If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox" - narrated by Fourth Man. The characters are Shultz (Fifth Man), Grant (First Man), Lee (Second Man), Lee's Staff Man (Third Man) and Officer (Fourth Man). Thurber's "what if" story about Grant and Lee at the Appomattox
Appomattox Court House
The Appomattox Courthouse is the current courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia built in 1892. It is located in the middle of the state about three miles northwest of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, once known as Clover Hill - home of the original Old Appomattox Court House...

 surrender first appeared in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

on December 6, 1930; and was first collected in his book The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze (Harper and Brothers, 1935
1940 in literature
The year 1940 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Aldous Huxley is a screenwriter for the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.*Jean-Paul Sartre is taken prisoner by the Germans....

).

Casuals of the Keys


"Casuals of the Keys" features two characters, Visitor (Third Man) and Darrel Darke (Second Man). It consists of Captain Darke telling his visitor unlikely stories of the people he has met. The story first appeared in The New Yorker on May 7, 1932, and was reprinted in The Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze.

The Macbeth Murder Mystery


"The Macbeth Murder Mystery" lists its two characters as He (First Man) and She (First Woman). When a murder mystery aficionado finds herself with nothing to read but Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, she concludes that Macbeth was not the killer, and gives her acquaintance a very different way of looking at William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's works. The story appeared in the New Yorker on October 2, 1937, and was reprinted in My World—and Welcome to It
My World and Welcome to It
My World and Welcome to It was a US-made half-hour sitcom based on the humor and cartoons of James Thurber. It starred William Windom as John Monroe, a Thurber-like writer and cartoonist who works for a magazine that closely resembles The New Yorker, called The Manhattanite...

(1942
1942 in literature
The year 1942 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*André Gide leaves France to live in Tunis.*Robertson Davies becomes editor of the Peterborough Examiner.*Thomas Mann emigrates to California....

).

Gentlemen Shoppers


"Gentlemen Shoppers" - narrated by Fourth Man. Characters include Salesgirl (Second Woman), Westwater (Third Man), Bargirl (Third Woman), Anderson (First Man), and Bailey (Second Man). This story of drunken shoppers was specially written for A Thurber Carnival. It did not appear in The New Yorker, and has never been published in prose form.

The Last Flower


"The Last Flower" - The First Man narrates this slide show of Thurber's cartoon series about the aftermath of World War XII, which first appeared as a book, The Last Flower: A Parable in Pictures (Harper and Brothers, 1939
1940 in literature
The year 1940 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Aldous Huxley is a screenwriter for the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.*Jean-Paul Sartre is taken prisoner by the Germans....

). An animated version of it was later featured in the Thurber-inspired film The War Between Men and Women
The War Between Men and Women
The War Between Men and Women is a 1972 slapstick live-cartoon comedy film starring Jack Lemmon, Barbara Harris, and Jason Robards.It is based on the writings of humorist James Thurber, and was released in 1972 by Cinema Center Films. Like many other films in the Cinema Center catalog, it has long...

.

The Pet Department


"The Pet Department" features the Announcer (Fourth Man), the Pet Counsellor (First Man), Miss Whittaker (Second Woman), and a Girl (Third Woman). This is an advice show, in which the audience is shown Thurber cartoons of pets about which the advice is sought. Some of the individual letters and responses first appeared in a mock column in The New Yorker entitled "Our Pet Department" in 1930. The complete prose and drawings appeared in The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities
The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities
The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities is a book written by James Thurber and first published in 1931 by Harper and Brothers. It collects a number of short humorous pieces, most of which had appeared in The New Yorker, and an introduction by E. B...

(Harper and Brothers, 1931).

Mr. Preble Gets Rid of His Wife


"Mr. Preble Gets Rid of His Wife" features Preble (Second Man), Miss Daley (Third Woman), and Mrs. Preble (First Woman). When Mr. Preble wants to run off with another woman, his wife attempts to stage manage her own murder. The story appeared in the New Yorker on March 4, 1933, and was reprinted in My World—and Welcome to It
My World and Welcome to It
My World and Welcome to It was a US-made half-hour sitcom based on the humor and cartoons of James Thurber. It starred William Windom as John Monroe, a Thurber-like writer and cartoonist who works for a magazine that closely resembles The New Yorker, called The Manhattanite...

.

File and Forget


"File and Forget" includes the characters James Thurber (First Man), Miss Bagley (Fourth Woman), Miss Alma Winege (First Woman), Miss Wynne (Third Woman), Jeannette Gaines (Second Woman), Clint Jordan (Second Man), H. F. Cluffman: Third Man. The sketch consists of Thurber dictating a series of letters in a vain attempt to keep one of his publishers from sending him books he did not order, and the escalating confusion of the replies. The real Thurber, who was completely blind at the time and nearing the end of his life, played himself in later performances of the show. The original casual appeared in the New Yorker on January 8, 1949, and was reprinted in Thurber Country: The Classic Collection About Males, and Females, Mainly of Our Own Species (Simon and Schuster, 1953).

Take Her Up Tenderly


"Take Her Up Tenderly" features the characters John (Second Man), Nellie (Second Woman), and Lou (First Woman), updating classic poetry to be more cheerful. The prose version of the piece, which was a humorous essay rather than a short story, originally appeared in The Bermudian, and was collected in Thurber Country.

Fables (Part 2)


"Fables (Part 2) " consists of two more Thurber fables, originally staged by James Starbuck. They are:
  • "The Owl Who Was God" - narrated by Second Woman, this features the characters Owl (Third Man), Moles (Fourth Man and Fifth Man), Secretary Bird (Second Man), and Red Fox (Fourth Woman), in a story about too many people being fooled "too much of the time". The fable first appeared in The New Yorker on April 29, 1939, and was collected in Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940).
  • "The Clothes Moth and the Luna Moth" - narrated by First Man, this cynical story of unrequited desire features two characters, Luna Moth (Third Woman) and Clothes Moth (Fifth Man). The fable first appeared in The New Yorker on May 19, 1956, and was collected in Further Fables for Our Time (1956).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a short story by James Thurber. The most famous of Thurber's stories, it first appeared in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939, and was first collected in his book My World and Welcome to It...

"
- narrated by Fourth Man. This adaptation of Thurber's most famous short story features the characters Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty is a fictional character in James Thurber's short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", first published in the New Yorker on March 18, 1939, and in book form in My World and Welcome to It in 1942...

 (First Man), Mrs. Mitty (First Woman), First Voice (Fifth Man), Lieut. Berg (Fourth Man), Nurse (Third Woman), Dr. Renshaw (Third Man), Dr. Benbow (Fifth Man), Dr. Remington (Fourth Man), Mr. Pritchard-Mitford (Second Man) and The Leader (Second Man). Mitty, a meek dreamer, imagines himself as the hero of four adventures. The stage version features a slightly more upbeat ending than the short story, with Mitty outwitting a firing squad. The original short story first appeared in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

on March 18, 1939; and was first collected in his book My World and Welcome to It
My World and Welcome to It
My World and Welcome to It was a US-made half-hour sitcom based on the humor and cartoons of James Thurber. It starred William Windom as John Monroe, a Thurber-like writer and cartoonist who works for a magazine that closely resembles The New Yorker, called The Manhattanite...

(Harcourt, Brace and Company
Harcourt Trade Publishers
Harcourt was a United States publishing firm with a long history of publishing fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. The company was based in San Diego, California, with an Editorial / Sales / Marketing / Rights offices in New York City and Orlando, Florida.In 2007, the U.S...

, 1942
1942 in literature
The year 1942 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*André Gide leaves France to live in Tunis.*Robertson Davies becomes editor of the Peterborough Examiner.*Thomas Mann emigrates to California....

).

Word Dance (Part 2)


"Word Dance (Part 2) " - Originally staged by James Starbuck, this is the continuation of the sketch that begins the show. Like Part 1, it is based on captions from Thurber’s cartoons and some of his other writings. It concludes with a request, taken from the last line of "The Ladies of Orlon" (from Alarms & Diversions, 1957), for the women in the audience to keep their seats until the men have left the theater. "They need, God knows, a head start."

Staging


Notes in the script call for a set design (originally by Marvin Reiss) that features painted white furniture, with black lines painted slightly askew to mimic the look of Thurber's cartoons. The scenery also includes backdrops, cutouts and a white scrim that reproduce some of the cartoons themselves. The production is meant to include original music written for the show by Don Elliott.

Album


An original cast album, featuring both music and dialogue from the show, was released by Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 in 1960.

Awards


James Thurber (writer) and Burgess Meredith
Burgess Meredith
Oliver Burgess Meredith , known professionally as Burgess Meredith, was an American actor in theatre, film, and television, who also worked as a director...

 (director) won a 1960 Tony Awards Special Award for A Thurber Carnival.

Sequel


A second revue based on Thurber's work, The Beast in Me, opened on Broadway on May 14, 1963, and closed four days later. Adapted by James Costigan
James Costigan
James Costigan was an American television actor and Emmy Award-winning television screenwriter. His writing credited included the Eleanor and Franklin and Love Among the Ruins television movies....

 from eleven of Thurber's Fables for Our Time, it starred Kaye Ballard
Kaye Ballard
Kaye Ballard is an American musical theatre and television actress, comedienne, and singer.-Life and career:Ballard was born as Catherine Gloria Balotta in Cleveland, Ohio, to an Italian American family, the daughter of Lena and Vincent James Balotta.Ballard established herself as a musical...

 and Bert Convy
Bert Convy
Bernard Whalen "Bert" Convy was an Emmy Award winning American actor, singer, game show host and panelist known for his tenure as the host for Tattletales, Super Password, and Win, Lose or Draw.-Early life:...

, with music by Don Elliott.

External links