8567 Coral Way #355
Miami, FL 33155
Cultural Arts Center
10950 SW 211 Street
Cutler Bay, FL 33189
Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women
World premiere of a play by Alfred Allan Lewis
December 2, 2005 - January 1, 2006
Choreography: Ricky J. Martinez
Scenery: Jesse Dreikosen
Costumes: Estela Vrancovich
Lighting: Eric Nelson
Production Stage Manager: Caron Grant
Directed by Rafael de Acha
Kimberly Daniel - Bessy Marbury
Patti Gardner - Elsie de Wolf
Lisa Morgan - Anne Vanderbilt
Aubrey Shavonn - Anne Morgan
Annemaria Rajala - First Actress
Tara Vodihn - Second Actress
This production is generously supported by The Miami Salon Group.
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LADIES AND NOT-SO-GENTLE WOMEN
by Alfred Allan Lewis
The New York Times described my book LADIES AND NO-SO-GENTLE WOMEN as "the Life Styles of the Rich and Famous as written for Masterpiece Theater." Its heroines were part of what used to be called "old New York society" and bore such illustrious names as Vanderbilt, Harriman, Morgan, De Wolfe, and Marbury. They never rebelled against the world into which they were fortunate enough to be born, but, instead, they lightheartedly broke every one of its rules with such finesse that they did not so much as chip a piece of its fine china. Unlike Carrie Nation, chaining themselves to the pillars of society was not their way. They simply called in the best architect available and redesigned them.
The obvious achievement of the Civil War was the emancipation of a race. The slower and still subtler achievement of the century that followed was the emancipation of a sex. It was a time in which men found that their girls became the ladies and, ultimately, those blanketty-blank women. Our play takes place during that period. It dramatizes the lives and times of four delicious creatures that passed from one category to the other with such wit, charm, and ease that men barely ever felt their sting - but sting, there was! The world would never be the same for either of the sexes. They were more daring buccaneers than the robber barons to whom they were related and more dramatic than the theatrical greats with whom they associated both socially and professionally. Their story is a delectable cocktail of dry high comedy flavored with a twist of lemon.
First and foremost, there is Bessy Marbury, the most powerful woman in the history of the American theater, whose wit, charm, and brains would make her a legend in her own lifetime. At the height of her career, she controlled over 75% of the plays produced anywhere in the United States. Bessy invented the super talent agency and stroked the egos of her playwright clients with an iron hand encased in a velvet glove. They included Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, P. G. Wodehouse, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, and Eugene O'Neill. Marbury is also credited with liberating Broadway from the "schlag" of Viennese operetta by devising and producing the first modern American musical comedy. With the coming of suffrage, Bessy Marbury became one of the earliest supporters and intimate friends of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt. Many of these legendary characters, along with others such as Sarah Bernhardt and the Mrs. Astor, make cameo appearances in the play. How they are depicted...one will soon see. For Bessy, her greatest invention was also the great love of her Life, Elsie De Wolfe. Bessy's sponsorship and love converted Elsie from an obscure social hanger-on into, first, a glamorous star of the theater and then, the first professional interior decorator. By making interior decoration socially acceptable, Elsie opened one of the first fields in which a woman could earn an income equal to that of the men of the period.
Were Elsie and Bessy sexual partners? That will be for audiences to determine. They were certainly domestic partners in every other sense: two women sharing a thrilling life that was an amalgam of ambition with a clash of wit and a dash of temperament. This play dramatizes their stories along with those of their intimate friends Anne Morgan (the daughter of the great financier, J. P.) and Anne Vanderbilt (wife of William K. whose son occupied all of Fisher Island as his private winter home). It is set in those exciting periods they helped to change so emphatically: the gay nineties, World War I, the roaring twenties, and the beginning of the legendary "New Deal."