Terry Teachout on writing Satchmo at the Waldorf

Posted Friday, October 19, 2012 - 12:38pm

Mr. Teachout is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, the critic-at-large of Commentary, and the author of “Sightings,” a biweekly column for the Saturday Journal about the arts in America. He also writes about the arts on his blog, “About Last Night” ( He has written the libretti for two operas by Paul Moravec, The Letter (commissioned and premiered by the Santa Fe Opera) and Danse Russe (commissioned and premiered by Philadelphia's Center City Opera Theater). His most recent books are Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Harcourt), All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine (Harcourt) and A Terry Teachout Reader (Yale University Press). He is currently at work on Mood Indigo: A Life of Duke Ellington, which will be published by Gotham Books in 2013, and recently received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the completion of the book. Satchmo at the Waldorf is his first play.


Writing the biography of a performing artist is like standing in the wings to watch a play. You see what the public sees, only from a different perspective. Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, my 2009 biography of the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century, is about the joyous entertainer who sang “Hello, Dolly!” and “What a Wonderful World” and made millions of people feel warm inside—but it’s also about the private Armstrong, who swore like a trooper and knew how to hold a grudge. The fact that Satchmo (as he loved to call himself) had two sides to his personality doesn’t mean that the public man was somehow less “real” than the private one. Like all geniuses, Armstrong was complicated, and that complexity was part of what made his music so beautiful and profound.

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the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park

Posted Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 1:03pm

Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika concludes at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Atop the fountain is an eight foot bronze statue of a female angel known as the “Angel of the Waters”.  This name refers to the angel who blessed the healing waters in the pool of Bethesda in the Gospel of John. Water in the fountain cascades from an upper basin into a large pool filled with plants such as water lilies, papyrus and lotus. The fountain also features four cherubim representing Temperance, Purity, Health and Peace. While the pool at the base of the fountain was designed by Calvert Vaux, the co-designer of Central Park, the fountain sculpture was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868. As Louis notes in Perestroika, Stebbins was a lesbian and had a lifelong relationship with the noted actress and native Philadelphian Charlotte Cushman. “The Angels of the Waters” made Stebbins the first woman in New York City to receive a public commission for a major work of art. At 26 feet high, the Bethesda Fountain is one of the largest fountains in the city.

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The Wilma Theater has made Pennsylvania voter registration forms available in our lobby

Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 1:02pm

Election season is upon us and with the November 6th presidential election it is more important than ever to vote. To help facilitate voting in Philadelphia, The Wilma Theater has made Pennsylvania voter registration forms available in our lobby.

We were inspired by Sean Daniels of GeVa Theatre Center in Rochester, NY to offer this service to those attending performances of Angels in America, Parts One and Two. GeVa has partnered with the Rock the Vote campaign to get patrons involved in the electoral process once the show is over by providing them with voter registration information.

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Free screening of 'Audition', directed by Miloš Forman

Posted Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 1:57pm

The Wilma Theater will screen Audition, directed by Miloš Forman as part of A Tribute to Miloš Forman, a 15- city retrospective of the acclaimed director’s work in celebration of his 80th birthday

Presented in cooperation with Peter Rafaeli, Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic

When: Monday, October 8, 2012
The Wilma Theater
265 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

The film explores the life of amateur musicians and candidly examines talent competitions. Konkurs is in fact two shorts welded together: If There Were No Music (Kdyby ty muziky nebyly) and Audition (Konkurs). Forman and his friends, cinematographer Michal Ondřiček and co-writer/assistant director Ivan Passer, began shooting a 16mm documentary about Semafor Theater. They showed their footage to the Šebor-Bor production team, who would oversee all Forman’s Czech films. After seeing the footage, the production team asked Forman to expand the film into a 15-minute short. When Forman returned with 45 minutes, the only way it could be distributed was with the addition of another short to make a feature-length program, hence If There Were No Music. The film is 77 minutes, in Czech with English subtitles.

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Angels in America Timeline: Part Two

Posted Monday, September 24, 2012 - 1:17pm

The script for Angels in America draws heavily from crucial junctures in World history. To help guide you through some of the references made in Angels in America, we have constructed a timeline - this week's installment is the second half, 1980 C.E - 1990 C.E.

1980 -
A mysterious constellation of diseases in forty-one different patients in discovered. The patients are all gay men living in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta publishes a report on the outbreaks of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) and pneumocystic carinii pneumonia (PCP). The epidemic is later referred to as Gay Cancer or GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency).

Jan 1981 - Ronald Wilson Reagan is inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States. The GOP gains control of the Senate.

March 1981 - Ronald Reagan is shot 60 days into his first term. Although seriously wounded, he becomes the first U.S. President to be shot and survive. He leaves the hospital 21 days later.

July 1981 - PCP is discovered among intravenous drug users in New York City; most of the patients are heterosexual.

Jan-Feb 1982 - In several cases across the United States, infected Factor III blood is identified as the cause of PCP cases in hemophiliacs.

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