Miss Kitty Takes to the Road
August 1934

Alexander Woollcott

Proving that a great audience is as rare and as wonderful as a great actress.

The last time I saw the Divine Sarah, she was a ravaged and desiccated old woman with one leg. And the foot of that one was already in the grave. Indeed, she had only two months left for living. But the prospect of such an untimely taking off was never in her jaunty scheme of things, and when I went around to call upon her in that fusty and frightening museum on the Boulevard Periere, which was her home when she was in Paris, she made it clear that her thoughts were even then at play with the witching possibility of just one more farewell tour of America—that charming America where she had always been so uncritically applauded and so handsomely paid. My French was equal to the modest task of assuring her how ravished my country would be by these glad tidings. This time, she said, she would not attempt a long tour. In the voice of one who rather hopes to be shouted down, she explained that she was now much too old for such cross-country junketing. Too old? At this suggestion I was gallantly incredulous. “Yes, young man, I shall play Boston and New York and Philadelphia and Baltimore and Washington. And perhaps Buffalo and Cleveland and Detroit and Kansas City and St. Louis and Denver and San Francisco. But at my age I cannot attempt one of those really long tours.”

Thus, in all seriousness, the great Bernhardt when approaching her eighties. Hers was a viewpoint which seemed both alien and anachronistic in an era when there had come into possession of the New York stage a generation of players who regarded any departure from Broadway as penitential, who thought of Manhattan Transfer as a wild frontier town, and who, when induced to play three or four seacoast cities in the trial flight of a new play, would return to New York from the strain of such an exhausting expedition quite too prostrated to speak above a whisper. But Bernhardt, like all the great men and women of the theater of her time, was a trouper. Of the younger stars now shining brightest in the theatrical firmament only one is entitled to be called by that name. That one is Katharine Cornell.

When, at the end of June, she sailed to take her well-earned ease beside the Mediterranean and brood over the prompt book of Rosmersholm, with which darkling tragedy she will make her first excursion into the leafy and beckoning depths of Henrik Ibsen, she had just completed an extraordinary season. With her repertory of three fine plays, her company of sixty persons—to say nothing of Flush [her cocker spaniel]—and her special car presided over by the only bearded porter in the entire personnel of the Pullman Company, that season had taken her on a journey of more than sixteen thousand miles and had involved her appearance in more than seventy-four cities. From Waco, Texas, to Portland, Maine, from Tacoma, Washington, to Montgomery, Alabama, she had taken to the road with such plays as the Romeo and Juliet, of Shakespeare, the Candida, of Mr. Bernard Shaw, and—most popular item in her bag of tricks—The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Mr. Rudolf Besier. She had taken along as fine a troupe as she could assemble, offering the country at large considerably better entertainment than had been offered it in twenty years. She had moved through sandstorms and blizzards and cloudbursts, and never failed to keep an engagement. She had come to towns where a large percentage of her eager audience had never seen a play before and were entirely unfamiliar with the idiom of the theater. She had opened up mildewed and cobwebby opera houses which had stood dark so long that the guy ropes broke as they swung the scenery into place, the only surviving stage hands were so ancient that their palsied hands faltered at their tasks, and outraged rats ran startled along the footlight troughs during the performance. She had, incidentally, played to such huge and enthusiastic audiences that, by her unprecedented venture, she came home with a very considerable fortune.

It was a venture so personal and so isolated in the springs of its motive that it would be easy to exaggerate its importance as the harbinger of a new day. But with all the due allowance for that reservation, it would still be true to say that Katharine Cornell had reminded the people of her day that there once had been and still was a vast and inviting province called “the road.” The effect on her own career is a story only time can tell, but, as a direct result of the Cornell tour and triumph, Helen Hayes in Mary of Scotland and George M. Cohan in the delightful Eugene O’Neill play called Ah,Wilderness will embark in september on tours as heroic and prolonged as hers. If Miss Hayes is even now booked for Wichita in Kansas and Shreveport in Louisiana, if the incomparable Cohan is planning now to play, if only for one night in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Little Rock, Arkansas, it is only because in the season just past Katharine Cornell rediscovered America.

Perhaps, in what I have thus far said and in what I may hereinafter say, there is conveyed the suggestion that until Miss Cornell took to the road, the towns which lie off the small beaten track of the theater had in recent years known no theatrical entertainment whatever. That is almost true, but not quite, There had been some. For example, many of these more remote ports of call did experience the visits of The Green Pastures and Walter Hampden. Some had bowed low when, three years ago, Maude Adams and Otis Skinner took to the one-night stands. And only last season the dauntless Eva Le Gallienne tried her luck at a swing around the circle.

But at the risk of seeming invidious, I must make it clear that the arrival of one of these in any town could not possibly have seemed so glamorous and eventful as did the triumphant visit of Miss Cornell. No, if I lived in Sioux City, Iowa, or in Dallas, Texas, I would know that none of these proffered entertainments was faintly comparable with the advent of a gleaming and immensely successful young star at the crest of her career, bringing a fine troupe, either in a Shakespearian production which New York would not be privileged to see for another year or the watchfully refreshed masterpiece which had been one of the shining successes of the theater. Such a boon—rain in abundance after a long drought—would be comparable only to the coming of Helen Hayes in Mary of Scotland or to the arrival, let us say, of the Lunts in Reunion in Vienna.

In these analogies, it is implicit that such a tour can be successfully made only by one of such reputation that his or her name, written in lamps above a theater door, is both a summons and a guaranty. The Lunts in Reunion in Vienna? Has Sioux City a chance of seeing them in that diverting climax of their partnership? I doubt it. Indeed, for their own sakes, I hope not. You see, they have already played it for a season in New York and in some fourteen of the larger American cities. They have also played it for a triumphant season in London. It is quite true that after a somnolent summer on their farm at Genesee Depot in Wisconsin, they could take it forth on a tour such as Miss Cornell so successfully completed. There would be at least another season of tremendous audiences and overflowing coffers. It would be pleasant for Austin, Texas, and for Mr. Sherwood, who wrote the play. But it would mean another year’s confinement to roles of which the Lunts have already exhausted the most important satisfactions. Their own pleasure in their profession and their growth in their art alike demand that they turn to the refreshment of new tasks.

It is stultifying for an actor to follow the vicious old American habit of continuing to play a part indefinitely just because there is a line at the box office waiting to see it. What of it? After five years of imprisonment in the success of Rain, the madness of the caged came upon poor Jeanne Eagels, and in a sense she died of that madness. Hers was the desperation and the death of the trapped. In protest against such bondage, John Barrymore was ever rebellious and it was largely on this account that he at last deserted the house of his fathers. In London, the matchless Elizabeth Bergner, an exile from Nazi Germany, who is probably the ablest actress in the world today, has found herself caught in a like success, and escaped from it for a time last spring only by a singularly persuasive fit of hysterics.

It was Miss Cornell herself who startled the money changers in the temple by
striking out at the deeply planted but essentially absurd tradition that, like Abie’s Irish Rose and Chu-Chin-Chow, a play must, for the sake of the management and the author’s bank account, go on running as long as it is profitable. When The Barretts had completed its first year at the Empire Theater in New York and was giving every sign of going on playing for at least another year, Miss Cornell, although more than twenty thousand dollars was pouring into the box office every week, calmly packed up her costumes and started off on tour. She did not want to get locked in the same play indefinitely and she was already deeply imbued with the wisdom of playing as many cities as possible. New York? As the late Minnie Maddern Fiske used to say, New York’s just a stand.

By that notion of hers you must account for Miss Cornell’s arriving, bag and baggage, in seventy-four towns last season. Her deepest motive may be no more complicated than the fact that she likes to travel. Like Mrs. Fiske, she is instinctively vagrant. As the man in The First Year said of his wife when she wanted to go to Joplin, “That woman’s just train-crazy.”

But it is the guess of at least one onlooking neighbor that another force has contributed a good deal to Miss Cornell’s decision to use for her career a pattern which everyone else had thought forever gone out of fashion. I mean the influence of her director and adviser, Guthrie McClintic, who is also, incidentally, her husband. In my diagnosis, considerable importance must be attached to the fact that he was once a stage-struck youngster in Seattle, his insatiable passion for the theater nourished, or at least tantalized, by the visits of such stars as Olga Nethersole, Mrs. Fiske, and Maude Adams, by stray numbers of the old Theatre Magazine, from which he would clip half-tones for his scrapbook, and by the engagements of the Charles A. Taylor Rep Company, which used to take over the tottering old Third Avenue Theater every summer. Taylor was the author of such hardy perennials as From Rags to Riches and The Queen of the White Slaves, and the McClintic boy became so interested that, when he wasn’t sitting goggle-eyed in his balcony seat, he used to loiter around the stage door for forbidden glimpses of the shabby world behind the scenes. He thinks now that even then he discerned a real talent in old Taylor’s young wife, who was introduced to Seattle in the ingénue roles and later became leading woman of the stock company. Her name was Laurette.

McClintic went from Seattle to New York to study at a dramatic school, but by the time Katharine Cornell made her first appearance on the stage, acting a tiny part with the Washington Square Players, he had become discouraged by the general apathy over his own prospects of ever becoming a Mansfield and had decided, instead, to be the David Belasco of the next generation. As a first step, he succeeded, by really alarming insistence, in getting the job of assistant to Winthrop Ames, an elegant, fastidious and overly meticulous producer from Boston in whose faintly Georgian Little Theater startled and gratified guests used to be served after-dinner coffee between the acts. Sometimes some of the shows were good too. One of his new assistant’s functions was that of scout. It was among his duties to attend all the plays and make program notations after each new name for the voluminous files at the Ames office. Thus it befell that there is an actual record there of that otherwise undistinguished occasion when Mr. McClintic first clapped eyes upon the young actress with whose destinies his own were later to be linked. Opposite her name when he filed the program for reference next day was the notation: “Monotonous. Interesting. Watch.”

Well, that was many years ago. Miss Kitty, as he calls her, is nominally under her own management, but, none the less, he is her chief counselor, and if it is now her policy to stir the dust in forgotten circuits, it is chiefly, I suspect, because she is living up to the notion of what a star should be which was formed in Seattle long ago. McClintic still thinks of a great star, not as one who rules a playhouse on Broadway or in London, but rather as an annual event, as one who is forever arriving by train, scenery and costumes and all, from some haze-hung and mysterious distance.

Let us admit that even in the palmiest days there were never enough of these to go around, that for the most part they were third and fourth rate actors who used to hit Seattle with a tremendous and unpersuasive pretense of being Marlowes and Mansfields. It is these which have vanished from the scene, unable to compete with the movies. Wherefore, for a time only a few plays came each year and then only one or none at all.

Stand with me in the lobby of a West Coast theater watching the line at the box office. One woman, puzzled by the price of the ticket, discovers only from the ticket seller himself that this is a cast of real flesh-and-blood actors who have come by train instead of by parcel post. At such a dazzling prospect, she is beside herself with excitement. She has never seen a real play before. Behind her in line is a small boy who wants to know how many bread coupons you must collect before you can get a ticket. I know not in what heathenish school of entertainment he has been brought up. Behind him a woman is hesitant because the seats offered her are so far forward. She is afraid the flicker will disturb her. And so on and so on. When I think of what, in my salad days, the theater meant to me, as I came to know it at the old Coates Opera House in Kansas City or later at the Broad Street Theater in Philadelphia, where I kept the red plush of the gallery rail moist with my tears over the nightly death of Nat Goodwin as Nathan Hale, I feel a pang in my heart at the sight of these dark theaters throughout the country and even find myself thinking of a tour like Miss Cornell’s as akin to the adventure which long ago in Polynesia befell one black sheep whose folks I knew. Lost or strayed from some pearl-diving expedition, he stumbled upon a long-forgotten colony of Puritans who still guarded the Bible their forefathers had brought with them out of England three centuries before. But now none of them knew how to penetrate to the gospel imprisoned in the black characters on every page and, because they had nursed my friend back to health, he stayed with them long enough to teach their youngsters the lost art of reading.

I you crave testimony to the deep hunger for the theater which the turn of the wheel and the play of economic forces have left unsatisfied in our time throughout the greater part of America, you should have seen the vast audiences which, in the decaying death of the depression, were mobilized in Iowa and Kansas and Tennessee by the news that Miss Cornell was coming that way. You should have seen the cheering multitude which surged around the Tulane stage door in New Orleans, waiting for a glimpse of the star on her way to her hotel. You should have seen those Texas audiences in Amarillo and Dallas and Austin and San Antonio and Houston and Fort Worth, made up of people who had waited months for this opportunity and driven hundreds of miles to see the play. Such response is warming to the heart, but I think Miss Cornell should warn her sisters in the theater that they must not, therefore, count upon a grateful hinterland to throw out the welcoming red carpet. If the Lunts, for instance, fired by the heroic example set by Miss Cornell and Miss Hayes, should consider forsaking New York and London to follow in their footsteps, they might make the great decision in a moment of graciousness—“Alfred, dear, these people need us so”—or even in a glow of missionary zeal. But their management would, nevertheless, have to fight every step of the way even to get a hearing for them.

In many a town to which no play has come in recent years, I have heard the bereft citizenry saying in aggrieved accents, “They never send us plays any more,” for all the world as if the drama could be scattered over the land like seeds by a congressman; as if, indeed, some vague undefined department in the National Government had thereby failed in its appointed constitutional task. These discontented ones never think to inquire what would happen if a play actually had the temerity to suggest visiting their fair city. The chances are it would find no theater available at all. And even the Lunts, on this hypothetical tour of theirs, must be prepared to act away like mad in structures more inappropriate than any Alfred Lunt himself has known since he used to play for pins in the barn at Genesee Depot.

When you play seventy-four cities in a season, you can count on finding theaters in only a few of them, and some of those will be old opera houses so neglected that the star must give up her dream of hot water with which to remove her make-up, huddling as best she may in a community cubbyhole which has not been cleaned since last it was occupied by the late Sol Smith Russell. If no theater is still left standing, she must dispossess a movie or make shift in a community hall or a high school auditorium. In Oakland she must share the space with the local basketball team and, through the thin partition dividing the sheep from the goats, endure with what philosophy she can muster the pistol shots of the timekeeper on the other side of the dividing wall—strange, anachronistic gunfire sounding faintly through the swordplay which finishes Mercutio. In Memphis she must play in a temple built by a river captain who retired from the Mississippi, got religion and left as his memorial a huge auditorium which seats—in pews—a vastly profitable number of drama lovers, some of them so advantageously placed that by a little craning of their Tennessee necks they can see, over the top of the inadequate curtain, the hastily improvised dressing room in which Robert Browning or Romeo is emerging shyly from his underclothes.

Such mere physical inconveniences lend a touch of salt to the eternal adventure of pitching one’s booth in the market place, but there remains now in the path of any touring company one obstacle which only this generation has encountered. It is a commonplace that the celluloid drama has driven the flesh-and-blood companies from the one-night stands. But are you also aware that the local interests thus engaged are now stubbornly united in an instinctive conspiracy to keep such ancient rivals out of town?

Frankly, the movie houses do not welcome the advent of such a challenge as Katharine Cornell, and in one frustrated city, not a stone’s throw from the Great Lakes, they pay the only feasible stage so much a month not to book any plays in the town at all. In a hundred American cities the local movie houses would not let a play be booked on any of their stages. I could name a dozen where they prevented Miss Cornell from playing in their town at all.

The viewpoint of the local management is reasonable enough. The petty lord of a movie house in which she might rear her scenery and play her play could make way for her easily enough and, with a little rehearsal, even teach its elegantly caparisoned ushers the lost art of seating an audience—the forgotten meaning of a reserved seat. But all his colleagues would regard him as a traitor to the common cause, and he himself, after he had collected his momentarily gratifying share of her enormous receipts, would discover that the neighborhood must have been stinting itself to pay the exceptional price of her entertainment. At all events, he finds that, when he then books a film to follow her, his dependable clientele has spent all its money and his receipts for days to come are so lean that in the end he is no better off for her having passed that way.

Many of that troupe’s experiences during the tour they will none of them ever want to forget. They will long remember, I suppose, the leisurely progress from Columbus to Louisville, some of the players making the jump by water, moving serenely down the Ohio, taking their ease in the rocking chairs on the deck of perhaps the only river boat in the world which is captained by a woman. They will long remember the performance at Amarillo, where a sandstorm competed so successfully for the attention of the audience that in the tender colloquies between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning neither could hear a word the other was saying and, under the deafening cannonade upon the roof, fell back upon the ancient art of dumb show.

And surely no one in that troupe will forget while he lives the Christmas they spent together in 1933. Christmas Eve—it was a Sunday, you remember—found them trundling through Montana. They were booked to begin a week’s engagement in Seattle, and you may be sure that Mr. McClintic had joined the troupe in St. Paul to witness his great lady’s triumph in his home town. All that Sunday there had been prodigious preparations in the purlieus of the dining car. The mere members of the public who were traveling on that train were notified to dine early, as the diner had been preempted from 8:30 on. Miss Cornell was giving a Christmas dinner for her company, the whole troupe—actors, electricians, everybody.

There was immense hilarity, with young Marchbanks from Candida cracking nuts for Juliet’s nurse while Robert Browning and the hated Mr. Barrett of Wimpole Street drank to each other’s everlasting prosperity in thick railway tumblers of Christmas punch. But even as the last toasts were drunk and the troupe scattered to their berths with much wishing of Merry Christmas and quotations from Tiny Tim, the management was growing uneasy because of telegraphed reports that the December rains were making transit through the state of Washington slow, perilous, and incalculable. It had already rained for three and twenty days and nights, and if it kept up much longer, they might have to make the rest of the trip in an ark and give their show, if at all, on the first convenient Ararat. At best, they would be later than they had hoped to be in reaching Seattle.

After they passed Spokane, it began to be doubtful whether they would get there at all. At every pause a telegram would come on board with anxious inquiries from the worried management ahead. The tickets had all been sold for the first performance. Even if the company could not arrive at the appointed time, would the management be justified in sending out word over the radio and catching the evening papers with an announcement that, however late, the troupe would at least arrive in time to give the performance at the scheduled hour? Then, as night fell, they were still proceeding at a snail’s pace through rain-drenched darkness far from Seattle. The anxiety shifted to the question whether, even if the curtain could not be sent up as advertised, would they at least be there in time to make it worth while holding the audience fifteen minutes or half an hour? Seven o’clock, eight o’clock, nine o’clock passed, and still they crawled through the darkness, stopping even at one point while hastily mobilized bands of railroad workers flung up a new trestle, over which the train might creep breathless past the wreckage of one which had given way. By this time the company had given up hope. There could be no performance. This meant that, on the following Saturday night, one-eighth would be missing from each salary envelope. It is a rule of the theater that such deductions can be made whenever a performance is called off through what is blasphemously known as an act of God. It was, therefore, a gloomy bunch of Thespians who rode the last stretch, their noses glued to the streaming windowpanes as the train seemed to crawl over a bridge made of the very faces of the railroad workers who stood aside to let it pass, grim, rain-drenched mongolian faces lit up in the darkness by the flare of acetylene torches, staring in cold frightening wonder at the perilous passage of these strangers whose necessity had brought them out to work in the night and the rain.

It was an exhausted and disgruntled troupe that finally climbed down on the platform in Seattle at 11:15 p.m. They were just collecting their wits and their baggage when they were pounced upon and galvanized into immediate action by an astonishing piece of news. The audience was still waiting. All the best trucks in Seattle were assembled at the station to grab the scenery and costume trunks, and rush them to the theater. Tarpaulins were stretched and a hundred umbrellas proffered to protect it as it was being put into the trucks and taken out at the other end.

A line of automobiles was waiting to carry the company to the stage door. At the theater, or loitering in groups in the lobby of the Olympic Hotel across the street, twelve hundred people were still waiting. Most of them were in evening dress and some of them were sustaining themselves with light midnight snacks. They had waited so long. Would Miss Cornell still play for them? Would she?

But the company must have time to unpack their trunks, put on their make-up, and get into the crinolines and gay, shapely pantaloons of 1855. They promised to do it in record time. Meanwhile it seemed a pity to ask that audience to wait any longer with no entertainment of any kind. So, for once in the history of the theater, the curtain was rung up forthwith and that Seattle gathering, at midnight on Christmas Day, actually saw the stage being set and lighted, saw swing into place the walls of the Victorian prison in which the tyrant of Wimpole Street chained his frail and gifted Andromeda. Each feat of the stage hands received rounds of applause. As the windowed wall of Elizabeth Barrett’s room fell into place before the distant canvas glimpses of Wimpole Street and the windows in turn were hung with the rich portieres and valances of yesteryear, the enthusiasm mounted. It grew as the trunks, in full view of the audience, were opened and the costumes doled out by the wardrobe mistress. The actors, in dripping raincoats and horn-rimmed spectacles, lined up like charity boys at a handout, each collecting his ecru pantaloons, his flowered waistcoat, his ruffled shirt and what not. There was a great applause for the one member of the troupe who was already in complete costume when he arrived at the theater—Flush, the guileful and engaging cocker spaniel who has never missed a performance of The Barretts of Wimpole Street since the first one, in Detroit some years ago.

But the greatest interest of all, I think, attached to the mysterious and intricate process by which a stage is lighted, a carefully calculated cross-play of beams by which certain parts of the stage are bathed in radiance, and others, in which the action will be less important, are left in shadow. The focal point of The Barretts of Wimpole Street is the couch from which Robert Browning rescues the sleeping princess. As Elizabeth Barrett, Miss Cornell must spend the entire first act, probably the longest act in all dramatic literature, supine upon that couch, and it is a matter for very careful calculation to have the lights which play upon it adjusted to the fraction of an inch. For this purpose, to the rapture of Seattle, Jimmy Vincent, the stage manager, stretched himself out and assumed, one after another, all the postures he knew Miss Cornell would later assume. As Mr. Vincent is stocky and oriental in appearance, and as the visible gap between his trousers and his waistcoat widened horrifically with every languorous pose into which he tried to fling his arms and head, the effect was stupefying. Then the warning bell rang, the lights in the auditorium went down, and the curtain fell, only to rise again with Miss Cornell at her post on the couch. The play was ready to begin.

It was five minutes past one in the morning. The entire troupe—scenery, costumes and all—had arrived in the town less than two hours before and already the curtain was rising, which is probably a record for all time. The excitement, the heady compliment paid by the audience in having waited at all, had acted like wine on the spirits of the troupe and they gave the kind of performance one hopes for on great occasions and never gets. But at the end of that first long act, Miss Cornell was visited by a kind of delayed fatigue. A postponed weariness took possession of her. She felt she must have something, anything, if she was to go on at all with what remained of the play. To Mr. McClintic, hovering apprehensively in the offing, she merely said: “Get me an egg,” and rushed to her dressing room.

Into the streets of Seattle at two o’clock in the morning rushed the faithful McClintic in quest of an egg. Nothing was open except a drug store and a lunch wagon, and the audience, in its long wait, had consumed every morsel of food in that part of town. There wasn’t an egg to be had. The kitchens at the Olympic across the street were dark and inexorably locked. As a last desperate measure, McClintic began calling up such surviving citizens of Seattle as he had gone to school with years before. Finally one such appeal aroused someone. A sleepy voice asked who could be calling at such an hour in the morning. It was with some difficulty that he succeeded in identifying himself. “You remember Guthrie, who used to live in such-and-such a street and used to go to school with you?” Oh, yes, and then what? “Well,” the voice from the past faltered in its final task, “can you let me have an egg?” Incidentally, she could and did.

It was a quarter of four in the morning when the final curtain fell. And that blessed audience, feeling, perhaps, that it was too late by this time to go to bed at all, stayed to give more curtain calls than the exhausted troupe had ever heard.

When the tour wound up in Brooklyn, on June 23, Miss Kitty had played to more than half a million of her fellow countrymen. I suppose they will all remember her, but none, I am sure, more fondly than the faithful band in Seattle which, on the day after Christmas, waited until one in the morning for her first curtain to rise. They will ever have a welcoming round of applause to greet her entrance when she is an old, old actress playing the Nurse to the Juliet of some youngster as yet unthought of. The Juliet, perhaps, of Mary MacArthur. Mary is Helen Hayes’ daughter.

Published originally in The Saturday Evening Post, August 18, 1934,
and reprinted in Long, Long Ago, The Viking Press, 1943.

By 1922, acid-tongued Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943) was one of the highest-paid critics in America, producing thousands of theater reviews, hundreds of magazine essays, and fifteen books. From 1914 to 1922 he was drama critic for the New York Times and later, from 1925 to 1928, for the New York World. He also had his own weekly radio show, the Town Crier (1929-42). His gossipy essays were collected in While Rome Burns, Long Long Ago, and others. Woollcott was the model for Sheridan Whiteside, the central character in The Man Who Came to Dinner, a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

The self-named "vicious circle" at the Algonquin Hotel included Woollcott, Franklin P. Adams, Harold Ross, and Heywood Broun; Vanity Fair's Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Robert Sherwood; and aspiring playwrights Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. That group became famous for producing ingenious puns, quips, and insults which usuallyappeared in print in someone's column the next day.

TheScreamOnline recognizes Woollcott as having produced some of the most enjoyable reading ever to be seen when it comes to theater reviews and cultural commentary. It is in this spirit that we provide "Miss Kitty Takes to the Road."

Woollcott caricature by William Auerbach-Levy (18891964). Ink and pencil on paper, circa 19291939, Billy Rose Theatre Collection, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York City.


Back to