Program cover for the premiere of American Hurrah at the Pocket Theatre. Art by Francisca Duran-Reynals.
|Written by||Jean-Claude van Itallie|
|Date premiered||December 7, 1966|
|Place premiered||Pocket Theatre
New York City
America Hurrah is a satirical play by Jean-Claude van Itallie, which premiered at the Pocket Theatre in New York City on November 7, 1966. Directed by Jacques Levy and Joseph Chaikin, the play was an early expression of the burgeoning 1960s counterculture, expressing discontent with American consumerism and involvement in the Vietnam War. It consists of three one-act plays: "Interview," "TV," and "Motel."
Two of the short plays were first presented at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in 1964-65: "Interview" directed by Peter Feldman, and "Motel" directed by Michael Kahn. "Interview" had begun as an exercise at The Open Theater.
When the full trilogy premiered in 1966, "Interview" was directed by Joseph Chaikin, and "TV" and "Motel" were directed by Jacques Levy. The producer was Stephanie Sills. Incidental music was composed by Marianne de Pury and Fred Cantor. Ken Glickfeld was the Stage Manager, T.D. and lighting designer and Tania Leontov designed the costumes with the help of Beckie Cunningham.
The cast included Cynthia Harris, Conard Fowkes, James Barbosa, Ronnie Gilbert, Brenda Smiley, Henry Calvert, Bill Macy, and Joyce Aaron. "Motel" featured actors wearing large doll heads constructed by Robert Wilson. The Pocket Theatre production closed on May 5, 1968 after 634 performances.
The show was performed in Australia by the New Theatre, Sydney in 1968 causing police action to be taken against the acting company. After 13 performances the third segment of the show, in which two big dolls scrawl obscenities on the walls of a motel room, was banned on moral grounds by the New South Wales Chief Secretary. While the season continued (with the banned segment replaced by a satire on the situation) a broad committee called ‘Friends of America Hurrah’ prepared plans for a one-night performance of the unaltered version. This played to a packed house in the Teachers Federation auditorium while outside thousands of people thronged Sussex Street hoping in vain to get in.
Audience excitement ran high at the end of the third segment when the police attempted to arrest the two heavily disguised ‘dolls’ in the cast as they made a dash for the auditorium door. They appeared to vanish, but protected by fellow cast members they shed their costumes and actually returned to mingle with other cast members who were trying to stop the police from tearing apart the set to take it away as evidence. There were no prosecutions, and some time later the confiscated pieces of the set were returned.
The cast of the performance by the New Theatre Sydney included Maggie Kirkpatrick, John Hargreaves and Carole Skinner.
America Hurrah was first published by Coward McCann, NY, and by Penguin Books, London, subsequently published in mass paperback by Bantam Books, and then by Grove Press, NY.
In America Hurrah and Other Plays, Grove/Atlanitc, 2001. Acting edition: Dramatists Play Service, NY
In popular culture
- "America Hurrah (Interview, TV, Motel)". Website of Jean-Claude van Itallie. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Novick, Julius (November 27, 1966). "About the One That Succeeds". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- "'America Hurrah' Puts U.S. in Eerie Focus". The New York Times. November 7, 1966. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- "'America Hurrah' to Close After 634 Performances". The New York Times. April 24, 1968. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- "Awards for 1966-1967". Outer Critics Circle. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
- "The 1966-1967 Vernon Rice-Drama Desk Awards". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved May 22, 2012.