Thursday, March 18, 2021


Company of Paul Sills' Story Theatre.
PAUL SILLS' STORY THEATRE [Comedy/Animals/Fantasy] AD/D: Paul Sills; SC: Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales; S: Michael Devine; C: Stephanie Kline; L: H.R. Poindexter; P: Zev Bufman; T: Ambassador Theatre; 10/26/70-7/3/71 (243)

Paul Sand, Richard Libertini, Richard Schaal, Peter Bonerz. 

Note: this entry was originally filed as Story Theatre. Rightfully, though, it should be Paul Sills' Story Theatre, so it's alphabetically out of order here.

Peter Bonerz, Mary Frann, Richard Schaal.

One of the more unusual experimental Broadway productions of the 70s, Paul Sills' Story Theatre was developed by Paul Sills out of workshops where he and his actors devised dialogue and action with which to tell ten popular Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. The show, which originated at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, added the genre of "story theatre" to the modern theatre lexicon.

Folk-rock, mime, sound effects, and third person narrative mixed with dialogue were the ingredients out of which this popular work was composed. The talented company had eight members, several whose names subsequently made their mark: Hamid Hamilton Camp, Melinda Dillon, Paul Sand, Peter Bonerz (succeeded by Peter Boyle, McIntyre Dixon), Valerie Harper (succeeded by Linda Lavin before returning herself), Richard Libertini, Richard Schall (succeeded by Charles Bartlett), and Mary Frann. Their ensemble unity was helpful in garnering nightly laughs. On a practically bare stage against which lights and projections played imaginatively, the actors brought familiar characters (many of them animals) to joyful life.

The stories, presented over two acts, were "The Little Peasant," "Bremen Town," "Venus and the Cat," "The Fisherman and His Wife," "Is He Fat," "Henny Penny," "The Master Thief," "The Robber Bridegroom," "Two Crows," and "The Golden Goose."

Paul Sand, Valerie Harper.

The critics were mostly well disposed toward the work. An ultra-enthused Clive Barnes wrote, “I adored the show, which brings back magic and innocence to Broadway, raises charades to the . . . eminence of an art form, and demonstrates the essential theatricality of children’s games. . . . Great, unequivocally great.” Walter Kerr questioned its revolutionary status, but did find it entertaining enough. John Chapman, however, considered it too juvenile for adult appreciation.

Most of the same actors appeared later in the 1970-1971 season in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which ran in repertory with this show and was based on the same techniques.

Story Theatre snared a Tony nomination for Best Play; Paul Sand, the standout actor, won a Tony for Best Supporting Actor, the Variety Poll for the same, and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance; Paul Sills won both a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Circle Award for his directing; and H.R. Poindexter won the Tony for his lighting.

Next up: A Streetcar Named Desire