posted by Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager and Dramaturg
A wise person once said that two heads are better than one, and George S. Kaufman certainly knew it. Called “The Great Collaborator” because he was known for working with other writers (he wrote a single successful play on his own), Kaufman co-authored some of the most well-known classics of the mid-20th century, including Beggar on Horseback (with Marc Connelly), Dinner at Eight (with Edna Ferber), You Can’t Take it With You (with Moss Hart), and The Solid Gold Cadillac (with Howard Teichmann). Kaufman also worked with Ring Lardner, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and about a dozen other collaborators, creating theatre that would endure for generations. So what better way to honor Kaufman and collaboration than with a collaboration about Kaufman? And who better to collaborate on a work about the man who never worked without a collaborator than Jeffrey Hatcher (who grew up near Pittsburgh) and Eric Simonson (who considers our city a home away from home)? They’re both accomplished comic playwrights in their own rights, as well as masters at theatricalizing stories based in history. Both have worked with City Theatre numerous times before; together they are long-standing friends and collaborated on Work Song: Three Views of Frank Lloyd Wright, produced at City Theatre in 2004-2005.
In Louder Faster, Eric and Jeff place George S. Kaufman at the center of a raucous comedy whose plot bears a striking resemblance to the kind of plays Kaufman himself wrote. But Louder Faster is more specific to Pittsburgh than simply being a City Theatre commission and world premiere. Few people know that George S. Kaufman, “The Great Collaborator” himself, was Pittsburgh born and bred, and Eric and Jeff have come up with an ingenious plot that mines the potential of Kaufman’s reputation as a co-writer of comedy and Pittsburgh’s reputation as a labor town in the 1930s. Facing a looming deadline to win a bet with Harpo Marx by proving he can write a play without a collaborator, Kaufman has returned to his dilapidated boyhood home hoping to overcome his writer’s block and finish in a single weekend the kind of work no one would expect of him: an epic drama. When he’s surrounded by a cast of eccentric locals, the stage is set for mistaken identities, slamming doors, and a classic Kaufmanesque comedy. Much of the genius of the idea lies in the fact that George S. Kaufman finds himself trapped in one of his own plays.
Kaufman started life in 1889 on Station Street, and then Walnut Street, in Pittsburgh’s East End. He attended Liberty School and Pittsburgh Central High, and studied at Western Pennsylvania University (which would later become Pitt). He also rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates, participated in the dramatic society at Temple Rodef Shalom, and acted in school plays during high school. After several brief engagements doing odd-jobs, Kaufman left Pittsburgh for the bright lights of New York. In 1909 he moved to Manhattan, where he began a career as a newspaper contributor and drama writer, eventually working his way up to the drama editor position at The New York Times. He resigned that post in 1930 due to possible conflicts of interest. Between 1918 and 1955, Kaufman had several dozen original works produced on Broadway, most of which qualified as “hits,” and won the Pulitzer twice (for You Can’t Take It With You and Of Thee I Sing, the first musical to win).
City Theatre is excited to be presenting this engaging new work, directed by Artistic Director Tracy Brigden. Louder Faster begins performances this weekend. For more information call 412-431-CITY (2489) or go to