W. Lester Trauch – 2

Interviewee:  Lester Trauch
Date of birth/age at interview:  August 26, 1906/70
Interviewer:  Florence Schaffhausen, unknown woman
Interview date:  September 15, 1976
Interview location: unknown, possibly the newspaper offices
Interview length:  1 hour, 1 minute
Time span discussed:  1930 to 1978

Summary: This interview focuses on New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse (where Lester attended the 1939 opening night) and stories about actors and theater people. The interviewer, his fellow Doylestown Daily Intelligencer reporter Florence Schaffhausen and the other woman present were evidently active in promoting a new Doylestown venue for the performing arts and the latter part of the interview is given over to her trying to get Lester involved. Lester’s machine gun talking style brings him to life; however sadly, many of the names he mentions so quickly are not as clear as we would hope.


Time markers:
00:00 – English actor Austin Fair started Bucks County theater in 1939 in Buckingham’s Grange, failed due to economics, lack of interest
02:54 – St. John (Sinjun) Terrell  brought play from Philadelphia
04:20 – Terrell promoted Bucks County Playhouse, opening night sold out, streets packed to see celebrities including Edward Everett Horton, George Kaufman,  Moss Hart
07:30 – Terrell was showman, bought the best for the productions, at Playhouse a couple of years
08:30 – gasoline rations in 1939 hurt the Playhouse business; Richard Bennett and Theron Bamburger followed Terrell at the Playhouse; Tallulah Bankhead story
09:50 – Neil Simon with copy of his play Come Blow Your Horn, Mike Ellis  Playhouse manager
10:30 – actors Helen Hayes, Mildred Natwick, Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, Orson Bean, and others
12:15 – financial problems at the Playhouse, Mike Ellis continued about 10 years
13:40 – “genius area;” met theater people walking on the street; stories of Beatrice Kaufman (wife of George S.) and Edna Ferber, Henry Fonda
15:17 – story about Walter Slezak and Tallulah Bankhead and Hawaiian theater
16:55 – stars bought in Bucks County, went to Hollywood to make money to afford to live in Bucks County
17:40 – easy trip to New York for theater people, George Kaufman, Moss Hart, Harpo Marx, Gertrude Lawrence, World War II  gas rationing beginning of the end of the “genius area”
19:15 – James A. Michener called Bucks County “a poor man’s Connecticut”; Jack Kirkland, his wife Haila Stoddard, Allen Boretz, S.J. Perelman, Dorothy Parker
20:35 – no theater people still in Bucks County, but some government types, Whittaker Chambers
21:44 – Terrell got in a feud with the Playhouse crowd, Chapins, Coles; Tom Ewell in area
23:10 – Terrell started the music circus, theater in the round, Playhouse dark by then, Robert Goulet, Liberace there early
26:15 – Yardley summer theater in town hall but did not catch on, Greg Kelly, Randall Corey, George Price
29:25 – Terrell and Dorothy Parker stories
30:59 – summer theaters discussion, boom in 1920s and 1930s, failed in the 1950s; more theater discussion
36:52 – actors and performances, movies, good theater not happening (in 1976), the differences between London and New York theater
47:08 – New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse; a Doylestown theater workshop
53:05 – business people not supporting theater or performing arts in the area
54:45 – New Hope artists knew some of the actors, Doylestown had no arts tradition
56:08 – James A. Michener said he could not write dialogue for movies, theater, television; stories of many writers

W. Lester Trauch interview 1.
W. Lester Trauch interview 3.

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