ISSUE DATE: May 9, 1938
When Broadway heard last summer that two up-&-coming young men were starting a new repertory company, play-goers waited with lively interest but natural distrust to see what Orson Welles, 22, and John Houseman, 35, would do with their Mercury Theatre. One bedrock essential that Welles & Houseman apparently lacked was cash. But after a succession of muffled death-rattles backstage, the Mercury came to its first play’s first night. On November 11 it produced Julius Caesar. On November 12 the public was informed that Shakespeare’s five-act classic had: 1) been turned into a one-act cyclone, 2) on a bare stage, 3) in modern dress, 4) with a modern meaning, 5) gone over with the loudest bang that Shakespeare-lovers could recall. And decidedly First in Rome had been Director Orson Welles for managing the entire production, Actor Orson Welles for making Brutus come alive in a blue-serge suit.
With his Caesar a smash hit, Welles flung his laurel wreath into a cupboard, backed Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock—the sceneryless, music-quickened strike play which a scared WPA had dumped overboard the season before— and The Cradle rocked like mad.
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