More writing for Bullett Mag. This time, I did a little research on long-ago Vietnam protests which roped in some of Broadway's leading lights—including a young playwright and stage actor named Woody Allen.
Seized with fears of a mass walkout, Actor’s Equity issued a warning that, “Despite what our individual feelings may be regarding the war, Equity cannot condone any unauthorized absence from performance.” Rather than skip work, a gang of actors took the morning off to lead a parade through Times Square. From the next day’s Times: “Led by Stacey Keach, the star of Indians, the crowd began to sing a new refrain in soft, almost subdued tones: ‘All we are saying is give peace a chance.’” You can almost smell the good vibes.
Not everyone was such a sport. Producer David Merrick pitched a fit when Woody Allen, author and star of Play It Again, Sam announced that he was walking out for the day. Merrick refused to cancel the play, saying through a spokesman that “there’s been insufficient advance notice to the theatergoing public,” and threatened the young Woody with a breach of contract. Nevertheless, Allen said he was ready, “to face the consequences whatever they could be, because I think my commitment is not to the theater but to the moratorium.” He skipped out of work that evening, leaving his part to be played by understudy Lawrence Pressman, later of Doogie Houser fame, and was never heard from again.
Taking advantage of his rivals’ dark theaters, Merrick chose October 15 to open a new play, The Penny Wars, a soft-hearted anti-war drama which the Times called “out of key and out of focus,” “melodramatic,” “doomed” and “a bore.” It closed on October 18 and has yet to be revived.
That's the last three paragraphs. Read the first three here. I'm sorry for spoiling the ending.
Play It Again, Sam really is a wonderful film, and would have been amazing to see live in 1969. It's revived periodically, which is a terrifying thought. I can't imagine anything more painful than two hours spent watching someone impersonate Woody Allen.