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Season Info

Toys in the Attic
By 
Lillian Hellman


Back: Nancy Linehan Charles, Alex Morris
Front: Jane Longenecker 


Director
Producing Director
Costume Design
Composition and Sound Design
Properties Design
Hair & Makeup
Dramaturgy
Production Stage Manager
Dialect Coach
Assistant Director
Scenic Design
Lighting Design
Technical Director/Master Electrician
Directing Intern
Stage Management Intern
Set Construction
Light Rigging
 

Production Photography
Casting Coordinator
Music Composition
Guitars, drums, bass, and piano
Saxophone and piano
House Manager
Lighting Operator
Sound Operator
Back Stage Crew


Jessica Kubzansky
Barbara Beckley
Alexa Stone
Steve Goodie
Chuck Olsen
Douglas Noe
Aaron Henne
Leesa Freed
Joel Goldes
Heather Louise Parker
Tom Buderwitz
Jeremy Pivnick
Red Colegrove
Elon Rutberg
Jennifer Henderson 
Sets To Go
Robert Kyle
Derek Bjornsen
Aaron Ford
Michael Lamont
Patricia Cullen
Steve Goodie
Steve Goodie
Michael Duncan
Marja Harmon 
Sergio Castillo
Rachelle Horak
Sean Madden
Jennifer Henderson 
Anna Berniers
Carrie Berniers
Gus
Albertine Prine
Henry Simpson
Julian Berniers
Lily Berniers
Taxi Driver/Moving Man
Caryn West
Bonita Friedericy
Curtis C
Nancy Linehan Charles
Alex Morris
Donald Sage Mackay
Jane Longenecker
Brad Bilanin
Original Music Recorded at Punch Sound, Santa Monica
 
 
Program Notes
Lillian Hellman and Toys in the Attic 
Lillian Hellman (1905-1984), arguably the most famous female playwright of the last century, earned her place in the canon of great American writers such as Williams, Miller, and  O'Neill. Born in 1905, Hellman saw her first show reach Broadway less than thirty years later; The Children's Hour was both a critical and commercial success. Ms. Hellman went on to write more than a dozen plays, her most famous of which is the biting family drama The Little Foxes; others include The Autumn Garden, Another Part of the Forest, and Watch on the Rhine. Toys in the Attic is considered her last major play.

Toys opened on February 25, 1960 at the Hudson Theatre, New York City to a mostly positive critical response that heralded the work as a breath of fresh air in a stale season. As usual with Hellman, her stark lack of sentiment, her use of  uncompromising language and subject matter, and her willingness to go to the ugly places in human beings shocked her audience, even as they were riveted by the depths of the family drama.

Interestingly, those familiar with the 1963 film version of Toys may be surprised by what they see and hear on the stage this evening. For various reasons, the film, not written by Ms. Hellman, abandoned much of her dialogue and changed quite a few plot points. As some may recall, it starred one of the big draws of the day, Dean Martin, as wayward brother Julian Berniers.

Hellman wrote Toys in the Attic between 1957 and 1960. These were, in fact, trying times for Hellman both emotionally and financially.  Her previous work for the Broadway stage was Candide, a commercial flop. Mystery novelist Dashiell Hammet (Dash as he was affectionately known), Hellman's partner of thirty years, was suffering from lung cancer and their monetary resources were greatly depleted. Out of this hardship, Hellman seemed to reach into her past. Much like our ingénue, she too was often called by her nickname, Lily. And she did have two single aunts (her father's sisters) with whom she spent much of her childhood living in New Orleans.  Some have argued that Toys is Ms. Hellman's most autobiographical work. 

And indeed, two major "characters" in Toys in the Attic could be said to be money, and the city of New Orleans. 

Theatre director Robert Brustein once said, "Lillian's major subject was money, how it is made, how it changes lives and what people do to acquire it--in Toys in the Attic money is stroked as if it were a domestic animal." The money at the heart of Toys that is sought after, adored, loved, and loathed is certainly no small amount: $150,000 in 1957. The equivalent cash value today is almost a million dollars. 

And New Orleans, which often serves as a setting for evocative Southern dramas such as Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, is no less provocative here. The city has a rich history. Even in the latter half of the 1950s, in the vibrant area of New Orleans known as the French Quarter, a melange of cultures and religions was the order of the day; race, sexual preference, and even status could become nearly irrelevant. However, outside of the "Vieux Carre," the town was an entirely different story and the usual class, race, and social code barriers were firmly in place. (Toys' Berniers family does not live in The Quarter.) 

Lillian Hellman had a complex and liberal bias in her own relationship to race, a conundrum which she explored in many of her plays, and especially in Toys in the Attic. And in 1957 the country was experiencing the rapid growth of the Civil Rights Movement.  Nine of the 17 segregated states integrated their public schools that year.  However, Louisiana did not join them officially until 1960, at which point riots erupted. Nonetheless, when President Eisenhower ordered Federal troops to Arkansas as a way of insuring that nine African-American children were admitted to school, even the most stubborn of holdouts were on the cusp of change. 

Ms. Hellman, a richly complicated woman who was a mainstay in the elite literary circles of the time, was a political animal. She was called upon by The House Un-American Activities Committee, where, after being told to name names or face personal consequences, she stated, "...to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions."

Ms. Hellman's plays reflect this uncompromising world view.

-Aaron Henne
 
 

With a Special Thanks to

Ted Guth, Anjali Bal, Bardwell's on the Boulevard, Priscilla Davis, Susan Gratch, Occidental College, Doug Haverty, Art + Soul Designs, Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, Salvador Palacios, California Lighting & Power, Mi Piace, Wadler Data Systems