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ACT ONE STUDY GUIDE

February 1, 2009

Pages 19-34

Aunt took him to Alhambra Theatre every Thursday and Bronx Opera House every
Saturday. Aunt Kate kicked out of the House after giving away Moss’ Dad’s Deb books that
were given to him from a boarder. Dad only had 25 cents to get Hart a Christmas gift, but
their shopping efforts proved to be a failure
Hart had a bad relationship with his parents. They did not understand him. Hart was
accepted by the tough neighborhood boys through his gift as a Dramatist. He retold them
stories such as Sister Carrie. This discovered gift changed his life. He began to read the New
York World, a new excitement in his life.
Hart’s two motivating influences’ A goad- poverty, Broadway and the Theatre.

Moss finally gets a job at a theatrical office. To be exact: He was working for August Pitou
("King of One Night Stands") in the New Amsterdam Theatre Building. His next-door
neighbor/friend was working there before, and he just so happened to walk in on the day that
his friend had quit. He is hired on the spot.

Each year Mr. Pitou sends out six companies with six different stars (i.e. Fiske
O'Hara) to travel the nation and stop in such small towns as Au Claire, WI talks about how
these shows were on a crazy schedule, traveling all day, arriving just in time to slap makeup
on, perform, and then on the road again. He talks about a "tougher breed" of actors back in
the day. Mr. Pitou is described as always looking over the RAILWAY GUIDE, scheduling
the next performances.

Moss was so good at being an office boy, that he eventually replaced the secretary. He was
GREAT at his job except for one thing: he couldn't turn down actors. He nearly got fired, but
he learned quickly to say "No auditions today. Come back in two weeks."

Working in the New Amsterdam Theatre Building, he gets lots of free tickets, and he gives
his Aunt Kate a call, to bring her down from the gallery and into the orchestra seating. He
once again rekindles his relationship with her, talking to her for the first time in many years.

ACT ONE: p. 51-66

- Moss arrives at the Clare de Hirsch House for Working Girls to have dinner with Aunt Kate
and go to the theatre.
- They go to the theatre and for the first time they sit in the orchestra level, which brings his
aunt more happiness than she has known in her life.
- Moss says that this is a major turning point in his life as their trips to the theatre continue
for the next year and they are both happier than they had been in a long time, thanks to the
theatre.
- Mr. Pitou is having trouble with choosing his last show of the season. He loses out on a lot
of money by turning down a show written by Anne Nichols, which ends up making millions.
Moss decides to write a show himself and writes a first act under the name Robert Arnold
Conrad. Pitou LOVES the act and asks for a second act, showing it to co- producer Mrs.
Henry B. Harris (wife of the famous producer and owner of 44th St. Hudson Theatre). He
asks for a 3rd act, when Hart confesses that he is R.A. Conrad, but Pitou keeps plans to
produce play on Broadway. Director is to be Priestly Morrison - an NYC actor/director. The
major actor is to be Joseph Regan. Performances booked for Rochester, NY to Chicago and
finally Broadway

ACT ONE – Pages 67- 82

Hart and the production team for The Beloved Bandit head for Rochester for the opening of
the show. Hart recalls his first experience with privacy. For the first time in his life he had a
private room. The dress rehearsal begins and Hart explains that when a dress rehearsal goes
smoothly, and turns out to be a huge mess. The entire production team gets frustrated except
for Mrs. Harris, who cheers on the team saying, “A bad dress rehearsal means a good
Opening night. I’ve never seen it fail.”
After the dreadful rehearsal, Hart heads back to the hotel and hit a second wind and
is unable to fall asleep. He realizes he doesn’t care if the play fails or not, because his name
isn’t even listed as an author. He falls into a deep sleep and dreams of a successful opening
night. The next morning, he goes to the 11 o’clock rehearsal goes smoothly and they toast
the show with Hart’s first drink, a martini. He gets a little drunk and heads off to the show.
The audience doesn’t love the show and leaves the theater almost immediately after the final
curtain falls. Hart goes to his first theatrical conference (in Mr. Harris’ hotel room), which is
bustling with people who are figuring out how to change the show’s doomed future. They
decide to move the play to Chicago, where they hope the change of audience will make the
show a success.
In Chicago, Hart goes to see BEGGAR ON HORSEBACK, by George S. Kaufman,
which Hart sits through the show, marveling at the great talents of Kaufman. THE
BELOVED BANDIT opens in the Adelphi Theater in Chicago the following night and as
the show begins, Hart and Priestly Morrison watch Ashton Stevens, Chicago’s leading
theater critic, get up and leave the theater- taking most of the audience with him.

Pgs. 99-114

Moss Hart was in the rehearsal process for THE EMPORER JONES and was told that the
show was going to open in two nights. He went home to memorize his part of the play
(Smithers) and came back the next day ready to “hassle with it”. Moss’ role included a lot of
work in the first act and then nothing until the very end of act two so he got to watch Gilpin
every night. He believed that Gilpin was an incredible Emperor Jones and the Times thought
so too. The paper (as well as others) gave both Mr. Gilpin and Mr. Hart great reviews. The
following night, Gilpin showed up very drunk for the performance and Moss had to shake
him to keep him awake. Gilpin somehow managed to get through the first act –occasionally
grabbing Moss’s arm to keep him upright. This same thing happened several times and only
once did the management decide to cancel a performance.
After finishing that show, Moss decided he would take any part and not be too picky.
He turned to Irving Morrison who got him a letter of introduction signed by George Tyler.
Tyler was rehearsing THE CONSTANT NYMPH (dir. Basil Dean) starring Claude Rains
and Beatrix Thomson. Mr. Dean was quite possibly the last of the directorial “despots”. He
was a quiet man with an acid tongue and had zero tolerance for things not going the way he
wanted. At one rehearsal, Dean made a fool of the character man by making him do a
snippet of the scene that he thought was terrible in front of everyone in the company. Dean
also refused to consider Moss for a spot in the show because he wasn’t English. After this
rejection Moss found himself identifying with the character man and he thought himself as
adequate at best. He decided that he would stay in theatre, but not as an actor.
When Moss returned to the New Amsterdam he ran into Edward Chodorov- he
would impact the rest of his life…

In these pages, the disappointed Moss leaves the New Amsterdam


Theater after a failed audition and the conclusion that acting was not his ticket in
The theater. By chance, or “fate,” he meets an exuberant young man also exiting by the
name of Edward Chodorov (Eddie). Eddie has an articulating comedic talent with words in
which he can make convince anybody of anything. He seemed to be proficient in theatrical
knowledge even at such a young age (he’s as old as Moss Hart). Over the next couple of
months they sporadically ran into each other enjoying one another’s company very much but
not able to keep a solid friendship up due to schedules. During a conversation, Eddie tells
Moss of a job he had been offered - directing 6 plays for the Labor Temple (a little theater
group). He offers Moss three of them. Even though neither has directed a play before, they
take the job. Eddie is thoroughly committed to working is something he’s never done before.
Moss, however, is a little more skeptical. Eddie took over the theater “acting” as a Director,
performing the part flawlessly. Moss describes Eddie’s talent as “hypnotizing.” Two weeks
later, rehearsals started, and because of Eddie’s dominating personality, every actor in
Moss’s show sincerely wished they had been in Eddie’s. Consequently, rehearsals went
roughly because of the lack of respect and the want to be somewhere else. To gain a
presence as a director, Moss decides to not take the humorous approach, but the authoritative
stance with a firm voice and iron fist, demanding the attention of the room.
Moss says if a director shows, even for a second, that he does not know what he
is doing, all control is lost. In this job, Moss learned a great deal about directing and the
role of directing in the theater. The first thing a director must do is creating “a climate of
security and peace, in which actors can do their best work.” If this goes well, the theater is
like well run laboratory. If not, chaos.
Moss was happy he took the authoritative approach to his directing so he wouldn’t
have to compete with Eddie’s exuberant style and come in an assured second best. Every
rehearsal after the first one ran smooth. The shows went well and he was back for more with
the same group of actors who now liked him. Another valuable lesson he learned that would
contribute greatly to the rest of his life was realizing the inner structure of a play, how the
play actually works. He began going to the library daily to read all the plays they had, for he
felt this was the only way to learn how to learn the art of playwriting.
In the next season he decided to direct Ibsen’s Ghosts. Opening was a disaster where
he actually had to step in for a role that he was “ludicrous” in. Despite the ridiculous
performance, Eddie and Moss got the job in the summer camp as the social directors. That
night, Moss and Eddie celebrated over what alcohol and food they could get for $5.

Act One (pages 147-162

The agonizing rehearsal schedule continues. Eddie keeps himself coherent with coffee and
Hershey bars. The rehearsal schedule takes a toll on the actors and social directors who have
to be sociable all the time. As one group of campers left, a new one arrived. The social
directors carried on with the same extremities displayed for previous groups, putting on a
show and then wearily heading off to bed. There was a rain spell, which depressed the camp
and put everyone in a bad mood.

It was eventually lightened with the Great Mustard Fight. Moss Hart appreciated the fact
that he was among the trees and things since he had never been outside urban areas. He also
appreciated the food. But the GREATEST reward was that he learned to swim. He and the
lifeguard made a deal that Moss would cast him in a show the weekend the lifeguard’s girl
came to visit if he would teach him how to swim. Because he now knew how to swim,
Moss could take out the canoe and have two hours of solitude on an island in the middle of
the lake. *It was there that he came to the conclusion that he would do anything to get
back into the theatre. After Edie left at the end of the season, he had three days before
Moss returned home. He paddled to the island, thought a lot, and ultimately decided he
should become a playwright. He went though all the possible options of getting back into the
theatre (acting and stage managing) and ultimately decided that writing a play was the only
sound conclusion. He decided that he should remain a social director so he would still have
free time to focus on his writing. He decided to try to ignore the embarrassment of THE
BELOVED BANDIT.
His homecoming was a bit depressing. He is fifteen pounds lighter. We see Moss
begin to really mature when he sees his mother and father as people for the first time, rather
than just as his parents He also wondered why he didn’t know his brother at all. He realized
that poverty had caused the separations within his family and resolved to do something
about it. Perhaps get his brother and father a job at one of the theater camps.

(INSERT HELENE; 163-178)

Pg. 179-194

It starts with Moss, his brother and father leaving to go to camp in


Vermont. Their trip on the train to Vermont was uncomfortable and overnight.
Once they arrive at the train station they look for their ride and he is nowhere to be found.
They are all cold and starving, but they can't find anything that is open because it is so late
and they don't want to walk around incase their ride comes. They are all very upset and no
one is talking. Finally after waiting two and a half hours their ride shows up and is in no way
sorry. On the ride to the summer camp Moss begins to get very excited because the setting
was so beautiful. After traveling for some time the scenery becomes very ugly and bare.
The pictures of the camp were beautiful so Moss knows that they have a ways to go. But
then the driver makes a quick turn and there is a sign for the camp. It is so ugly, run down
and empty. They meet Herb, a worker and he shows them where they are all staying. The
living conditions are the worst. Moss can't look at his father or his brother. Moss decides
that they will go home and soon as he meets Mr. Axeler, the owner. Herb informs him that
they call him the Mad Cossack. No one likes him and he his not a good man. Moss goes on
to explain that Mr. Axeler let him go to a store and buy a lot of clothes and charge it to him.
Herb explains that he will never see those clothes; Mr. Axeler is not good for his word or his
money. Moss decides to stay that he has no choice; it is too late to find another job.
Act one – pg. 195 – 210

Moss meets the horse riding Mr. Axeler, and moves into his position as a full-fledged social
director. Summer of Discontent Decoration Day at the Half Moon, Moss decides to go ahead
with his program of O’Neill, Shaw, and Kelly. First show, THE EMPEROR JONES.
Decoration Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day were the most important shows. Reputations
from these shows ensured the life of the camp, and the future career of the social director.
Moss found it hard to get actual cash from his boss. To solve his clothing problem, Moss
resorted to wearing costumes to the evening events and going as a character. He loathed the
embarrassment and the whole situation.
The show came with a cold spell, and Moss was miserable wearing nothing but a
loincloth and in full blackface. The failure of a tragedy Moss put on, entertained the
audience because they took it as a comedy. Moss and the Orchestra members that played
with him in the show were stuck in black face for some weeks due to the old makeup they
had used. Adding insult to injury, Moss first meets Joe Hyman at this camp; he offers to
help with light cues for the show. They become quick lifelong friends.

Pgs. 211-226

~The opening show and the opening week of camp is over, Hart is most concerned with his
brother and father (since they have to suffer through the camp as well)

~Hart dresses as Confederate general is his "first ridiculous getup” in the doorway of the
dining room and loses the hope of any kind of intimacy between himself and his brother (his
embarrassed brother runs out of the dining room)

~Hart discusses his father: he had become increasingly lonely living with his wife and son
but now that he had a job to do he was fun and more relaxed, merry and delightful, and
established himself as a camp favorite (10 years seemed to drop from his shoulders as he
stood behind the counter dispensing soft drinks, cigars, and cigarettes)

~After a few weeks, he starts having fantasies about burning down the camp, he begins to
frequently and carefully count all of his money, and starts to save his money so he mooches
off the guests because he won't spend his own money--not even on toothpaste or laundry--
(he only takes out $10 a week to send to his mother so she can pay for rent)

~This period does not last long and when it ends, some of his melancholy vanishes--he's
happy because the summer's coming to an end (counts down days until Labor Day)
~Labor Day comes but he doesn't feel anything; he's indifferent and only leaves the stage
and the Bastille (his housing) as trashy as he had first found it

~Hart wakes up the next morning, ready to find Mr. Axeler, get his salary, and go home, but
Axeler is nowhere to be found. Hart runs into a terrified Herb Morris who tells him the
news: Mr. Axeler left the previous night for New York and only left enough money to get the
kids and the counselors home by train. No one received their salary and even the waiters'
pool of tips was gone (they were all given notes for their salary, which were to be paid in
full ASAP in the fall- "a grandiose promise that fooled nobody")
~For the first time, Hart appreciates his father's lifelong habit of blotting out everything
unpleasant or upsetting; he was closer to his silent brother at that moment than even before--
his silence = understanding, not blame (they were both in the same situation--they'd suffered
a terrible summer and got nothing in return monetarily)

~Father able to go to NY and brother and Hart only get to Albany and have to hitchhike the
rest of the way home (the brothers experienced terrible hunger pains on their journey home)

~The family only has about a week left in the house they are currently living in until they
cannot pay the rent any longer; the family is now penniless--despite this, mother does not
cry but remains hopeful that they will somehow receive money, maybe through family and
friends

~Hart debates dropping his theatre jobs for a regular job but decides to stick with his
passion; talks about how he feels his family ties are slipping

~Hart thinks of the richest person he knows, Mrs. Henry B. Harris, and calls her, but she is
out of the city until November; Hart wishes for Eddie's return from South Africa since he is
good at evoking money out of thin air

~Hart suddenly remembers Joe Hyman (who he met at Half Moon Country
Club) and calls his office to schedule an appointment in half an hour.
Hart, without meaning to, speaks in a crude and patronizing manner to Hyman and tells
Hyman "this is his chance to invest in him because he’s (Hart) going to write plays and for
lending Hart $200, he can produce them"; Hart doesn't know why he (Hart) doesn't just tell
Hyman the truth (that he's broke)

~Hyman only states, "all right, we're partners. Do you want it in cash or check?"

~Hyman obviously does this as a favor to Hart and understands the real situation, despite
Hart's awkwardness

~Hart gives a lame "thank you" and leaves the office with $200

Pg 243-258

-Moss Hart fantasizes about the legendary Jed Harris (a director who every play he touches
turns a hit) directing his play, ONCE IN A LIFETIME.
-Moss Hart is convinced by his friend Dore Schary convinces Hart to send Jed Harris his
manuscript of the play straight to his hotel
-An appointment is set up for Hart to meet with Jed Harris.
-Hart is asked to wait by the receptionist at Jed Harris' hotel until Harris is ready to see him.
-Hart is later told later to come back tomorrow by the receptionist.
-Hart once again comes the next day and waits but is once again told to come back the next
day
-Moss meets up with his friend Lester Sweyd but is nervous in telling him about his
appointment with Jed Harris because he hadn't even told Lester that he wrote another play
yet.
-Lester Sweyd has been a long time supporter of Hart
-When hart tells Lester of his appointment Lester says, "Jed Harris will never do that play."
and is angry that he was not given a copy of the script to read yet.
-Moss goes to see June Moon, a George Kauffman play that night. Hart compares his play
ONCE IN A LIFETIME to Kauffman's
-When Hart returns to see Jed Harris the next day he is sent right up to his suite.
-He is told to come in by Harris who is standing naked shaving. Hart is freaked out and
speechless.
-Hart describes Jed as one of the best conversationalists he's ever met.
-Jed tells Hart that he is considering either taking on ONCE IN A LIFETIME or a
production of Uncle Vanya.
-Once Jed is dressed he takes a taxi downtown with Hart but leaves Moss to pay the taxi bill.

ACT ONE
p. 259 – 274

This whole section is about Moss Hart getting his script of ONCE IN A LIFETIME
out to producers. Moss had only given a copy to Lester Sweyd, his friend, to read while he
waited for Jed Harris’ decision. At the beginning, Moss Hart is awakened one morning by
Lester, announcing that Sam Harris had read his play and that he had an appointment to meet
with him and Max Siegel, the general manager of the Music Box Theatre. Lester had
turned over the play to a Miss Frieda Fishbein, who had just recently succeeded in selling
Elmer Rice’s STREET SCENE. Lester and Moss went to lunch with Miss Fishbein before
meeting with Max Siegel, where Lester did most of the talking. They got to their meeting a
little early and fantasized about how it was everyone’s dream to have their play open at The
Music Box Theatre. They eventually went up to Sam Harris’ office for the meeting, and
upon meeting, Max Siebel was cheerful and congratulatory about the play.
He had a telegram from Sam Harris asking Moss if he would make the play into a
musical with Irving Berlin. At this, Moss was silent, then rose from his seat. “I do not
write musical comedies, Mr. Siegel,” and he headed for the door. Max Siegel stopped him
and proposed a new telegram back to Sam Harris. This telegram asked if keeping it as a
play would be all right. Everyone was dumbfounded at Moss’ outburst and strong
statements because no one turns down Sam Harris and Irving Berlin “in the same breath.”
“When they move at all, things move with the speed of lighting the theatre.”
The next morning, Moss awoke to another telegram from Sam Harris. This one said he
would produce his play if he would collaborate with George Kaufman. Moss Agreed. When
Moss told his friends who had been advising him on these decisions, they all told him that
with Kaufman his name would disappear, he wouldn’t get any credit, etc. All this time,
Moss still had the want to have Jed Harris produce his play, but now he realized that he
would get much more out of the experience with Kaufman, even if his name was erased
from the credits. So he decided to call Jed Harris and tell him that he could no longer
consider his play. Jed Harris told him that he was doing the right thing, and also that he
should call this guy up, named George Kaufman, and tell him that Jed Harris says that “this
is just the kind of play he ought to do.” So Moss called Kaufman and told him just that. The
phone got silent and then Kaufman replied, “I would not be interested in anything that Jed
Harris was interested in.” Moss now realized the kind of man Jed Harris was. With the
thought that his hopes were gone forever, Moss went through the rest of that day in total
wretchedness. The next morning, Max Siegel calls and tells him that Kaufman read the play
and wants to meet with him. Moss got up and told his mom the exciting news but once
again she thinks it is just something plain that has to do with his “homework”. Moss called
up Miss Fishbein and Lester and told them the news but that he wanted to go to the meeting
alone. At the meeting, Mr. Kaufman was exactly how he pictured him to be from all the
caricatures he had seen. The meeting covered the fact that Kaufman loved the play and
wants to produce it and they gave Moss a list of the division of royalties. They set up a
work session at Kaufman’s house and then it is all done. Moss then got up and began to
thank Kaufman for reading his play and thanking him for giving him this opportunity, but to
his surprise, Kaufman darts from the room. Max Seigel then tells Moss that Kaufman hates
all sentimental things. As Moss leaves, Max Siegel hands him a check for$500. This is his
advance royalty.

Pages 275-290

These 15 pages are basically Hart’s memories and thoughts on George Kaufman’s
personality, talent and work habits.

The bit begins right after Hart has learned that Kaufman has accepted his play, so he has
gone to meet with Kaufman, at which time he is presented with a check. Hart rushes home
and shows the check to his family; however, they don’t know who Kaufman is therefore
they don’t share in Hart’s excitement. Not to mention, his family isn’t used to such large
amounts of money, so they warn Hart to be careful. In a rage that his family doesn’t
understand his joy and excitement Hart storms out and calls his old buddies to share in his
success.

Here begins the next chapter in which Hart begins working with Kaufman for the first time.
He goes to the house and is amazed at the beauty of the home until he enters Kaufman’s
bedroom, which is small, dark and rather drab. Here they work from 11 in the morning until
around 5 or 6 in the evening. After his work day with Kaufman, Hart leaves for Brooklyn
where he directs small theatre until around 12 and then after going out with the cast usually
doesn’t make it home until 2 or 3 am and then has to turn around and get up and be ready to
leave around 8 to make sure that he gets to Kaufman’s on time.
While working with Kaufman he learns of Kaufman’s meticulous work ethic in
which each session begins with Kaufman paying no attention to Hart, then saying “errr” and
pacing about the room. At this time when he begins to pace is the work session really in
progress.
At their first meeting, Kaufman completely rips the play apart and they practically
restructure it. However, rather than being offended, Hart is amazed at Kaufman’s skill. He
writes in reference to Kaufman as a surgeon, cleaning his hands and then cutting the
play with precision.
Along the way Hart also learns of Kaufman’s idiosyncrasies such as, he is physically
ill by cigar smoke (a habit that Hart keeps up because for whatever reason Kaufman never
mentions the issue, but rather deals with it by keeping windows open and quickly discarding
the cigar butts), Kaufman hates any sort of sentimentality (so every time Hart begins to tell
him of his gratitude Kaufman rushes to the bathroom etc), but Hart’s biggest observation is
that Kaufman’s intimidating and hard-assed reputation is just a façade that he uses, never
once in working with him did Hart feel that Kaufman was intimidating or scary.
Hart is surprised yet again when they go all day working without food, so Hart
comes to the decision that Kaufman doesn’t feed his body energy from food, but rather from
the energy of working. However, Kaufman soon realizes Hart’s need for food breaks when
snacks are brought up and 6 cookies and 2 pieces of chocolate disappear while Kaufman
uses the restroom. Finally, Hart comes to Kaufman’s for yet another day of work on the play
when he sees Kaufman talking to a woman with gray hair. Kaufman never spoke of wife or
child so Hart had no clue as to who this was. It was the very first time he had ever laid
eyes on her. Who she is isn’t revealed in these 15 pages.

VOCAB TO LOOK UP:

P 283 compendium
P 285 imperturbable
P 285 eminently
P 285 demoniacal
P 285 yogi
P 287 asperity
P 287 irascibility
P 288 obstinacy
P 288 crotchety
P 288 churlishness
P 288 alacrity

Pg 290-306 (?)

This section starts when Moss Hart meets Mrs. Beatrice Kaufman, Mr. Kaufman's wife
whom Moss Hart mistakes for his sister. Hart describes her as, "...having an uncommon
distinction, an individual style, and a unique and singular quality of her own that lent to
everything she said and did a special radiance."
Beatrice invites him to a "tea party" she is having and he goes with Mr. Kaufman. At
this tea party, "everyone I (hart) had ever read about or hero-worshiped from afar seemed to
be contained within my awestruck gaze." characters ranging from Helen Hayes to George
Gershwin to Harpo Marx and even Ethel Barrymore were in the room. Kaufman introduced
him to a couple people and then allowed Hart to go off on his own. Hart decides to talk to
one of his biggest idol's, Alexander Woolcott, who happened to be reading a book Hart had
finished a couple of days prior to the party. He went up to Woolcott and said, “you'll like that
very much Mr. Woolcott," referring to the book. He replied, "How would you know?" after
that, Hart immediately left the party.
Hart set a furious working pace after the events at the tea party the second act was
completed and the structure of the third was planned and roughly committed to paper in
scenario form. Since they are doing so well, they decide to take the next day off, which
allows Hart to meet Sam Harris who just got back from California. We learn that Hart is
not a morning person in this short segment of the book. "... Like myself, who lumpishly
resist the golden glow of dawn."
Sam Harris is a young author. He is also extremely hard of hearing. He is very soft
spoken and as Hart puts it, "Everyone in the theatre adored him." Hart says that Harris
helped him make up his mind about his predicament about being a social director. Hart
decides to turn down the very high paying job as a social director at the Flagler Hotel and
become a playwright... "Come hell or high water."
Hart talks about his collaboration with Kaufman starting on page
305. He tells how he is constantly questioned about how one proceeds to write about a play
and he says, "The process of collaboration is exactly what the dictionary says: a union of
two people working in agreement on a common project." "The mechanics (of working
together) remained as simple as putting a fresh sheet of paper into the typewriter and
laboriously plugging away until that page satisfied both of us."

Pgs 339-354

Moss and Kaufman continue to write and re-write ONCE IN A LIFETIME, and are
dismayed by the “basic human element or ingredient” missing in the play. Moss marvels at
Kaufman’s resiliency in working as both writer and director, because of the toll it takes on
one’s energy and time. Moss concludes that vanity must be what drives some people to act
in both capacities. Moss returns to NY from Atlantic City, remembering that he is “at least
not still a social director.”
Moss is frustrated by his family’s enthusiasm for the play, despite its near failure.
They focus on a review in VARIETY that they have misinterpreted to be a good review for
Moss in particular. All of his theatre friends are equally enthusiastic and even Moss begins
to believe that the play isn’t that bad.
Upon opening in Brighton Beach, Moss comes upon the bath-house that his
Grandfather had taken the family to a long while ago…and he remembers both
Grandfather and Aunt Kate, and wishes they could see how far he has come. The audience
for the opening in Brighton Beach is surprisingly Broadway- esque…that is, they are all
secretly hoping (save Moss’s friends and family) that the show will be a flop. It is not a
particularly encouraging group of people. Kaufman is pacing even more furiously than ever
once the show begins, and the actors do not give their best performance to start. Yet the
audience surprisingly takes a liking to it. The first act plays like a hit, and everyone is ready
to jump on the bandwagon and support the play. Unfortunately, the second act died even
worse halfway through, just like in Atlantic City. Joe Hyman comments that the play hasn’t
changed since AC, and Moss blows up at him and storms out. Moss leaves the theatre that
night with an optimistic actor, just to hear someone compliment the show.
The out of town reviews are very harsh on Moss, claiming that Kaufman must have
written the good first half and Moss- the lousy second half. Kaufman decides to take a few
days off of writing to get a fresh start. Moss calls Joe Hyman and apologizes. The next
performance is equally as traumatic, especially because Moss’s mother attends and laughs
loudly through the whole show, surrounded by silence. That week the audiences got better,
but sparser. Kaufman didn’t show up for the beginning of the show that Saturday night, and
Moss started to freak out. He comes late with his wife, and Moss tells him the show is going
well (a lie). Moss goes out into the lobby to smoke, to avoid seeing the bad part of the show.

Act One – p. 355 – 367

● Beatrice Kaufman, wife of George S. Kaufman, tells Moss “You’re going to be a very
successful playwright. You’ll be writing other plays.” Moss worries she means by “other”
plays… what’s wrong with this one?
● Kaufman pulls his name from the play; says he’s gone dry however, he does say there’s
plenty of good stuff there and it’ll be done again Moss knows that if Kaufman and Sam
Harris say a play is unfixable, no one else will pick it up since Kaufman “fixes the
unfixable”
● Hart falls into despair watching couples and youths idly spending their time. Irony saves
him when he realizes he’s never envied this before since all he’s ever wanted was to be in
the theatre. He decides he will somehow refresh Kaufman’s staleness on the play
● Hart and Kaufman’s relationship was purely a working relationship
● Hart had to rewrite decent 2nd and 3rd acts to show Kaufman the next day or else
Kaufman would probably be on a new project already, being the most sought-after director
in the theatre
● SPRING TRYOUT: gave playwrights 2-3 months for rewriting without pressure of time. It
allowed new playwrights to learn their craft economically possible then Hart showed up at
Kaufman’s house unexpectedly and performed his entire new 2nd and 3rd act for Kaufman,
who suggested Hart move in the next day because they would need ALL summer to work
out the re-write. Hart’s perseverance and forward thinking potentially saved his first
play (and his career!)
● as work began on the acts, a lot of ideas that seemed great in outline form, but took rough
shape once formed into dialogue. They would be lucky to finish the play by August, but they
kept on writing.

PAGES:
168-178

- Massive Heat Wave in NYC


-Hart can't stand the heat and Kaufman doesn't seem to mind it.
- Just like food, Hart has a big appetite and Kaufman doesn't seem to have one. Hart is
ALWAYS hungry while he works with Kaufman. - About a page is devoted to how
hungry he is during his work sessions with Kaufman and how when he went home to
Brooklyn Thursday nights he would eat everything he mom put in front of him. - This is the
first summer that Hart was not at a summer camp (6 years).
-Kauffman decided to take the weekend off, to Hart called Flager and asked to be a guest
performer at a camp. He caught the evening train to the Catskilss.
- Realized that he might have to do this again all summer if ONCE IN A
LIFETIME failed.
- Second acts are much harder to write than first acts.
-Heat wave settled
-They ended earlier than usual but Hart was upset cause he hated the four-day wait that we
would have to encounter before rehearsals started.
-During rehearsal the second act was better, but Hart didn't know about the third act because
the typist had many errors.
-Rehearsal period of these three weeks were the worst ever. He couldn't judge what were
good and bad now because of he had been wrong before.
- On the train to Penn. he had two "stiff drinks". He was nervous; the cast is now travelling
to PHILADELPHIA for their out of town opening in the The Lyric Theater. Hart follows a
particularly calm Mr. Kauffman to the theatre that he describes in a very glum, cave-like
fashion. Due to the paid living expenses, and late night room service orders, Hart finds
himself in an increasingly enthusiastic state. He noticed that his optimism really seemed to
rub off on the cast and after four nights of dress rehearsal they were ready to open. Joe
Hyman called on the morning of opening night to say he could not be there.
Hart prepared for opening night by ordering a bottle of scotch and slowly sipped it as he
took a bath; disappointed Joe Hyman was not there to drink with him. The show began in
good spirits and the audience responded better than anyone had expected, especially Hart
and Sam Harris. The second act that followed fared even better. Moss Hart stepped out into
the lobby to do some eavesdropping and found that people were discussing how wonderful
the show was. The third act plummeted, and the once highly energized crowd became silent.
The next couple weeks Hart and Kaufman devoted themselves to cutting, rewriting, and
adding scenes to the third act, which was standing in their way of creating a real hit. This
constant changing of material took a toll on the actors and although they changed the third
act, their performances in the first and second act were becoming weaker. As the shows went
by, the audiences grew smaller and less enthusiastic. By the beginning of the third week
Kaufman made his decision to make no more changes -hot or cold- on the Thursday, so that
the cast could run with the same show for the final 4 performances before they went to New
York. Ashamed, Kaufman ducked out of town. Sam Harris and Hart proceed to go out for a
couple of beers and take their mind off the show.

Pages 391-402:

This section marks the pivotal discovery in Moss Hart's attempts to fix ONCE
IN A LIFETIME. As he and Sam Harris sit around drinking, Sam says that "the play is too
noisy" and that what it needs is a simple scene of dialogue. Moss is immediately convinced
that Mr. Harris's observation has hit the nail on the head, and leaves to take a walk and
formulate the Act Three changes in his head. As he sits at a playground, he decides that the
necessary change is to discard the flashy "Pigeon's Egg" sequence and bring Mr. Kaufman’s
part back into the play. The next day, he races to the theatre to speak with a skeptical
Kaufman about his plan. He then visits him the next day at his home (while he's in the
bathtub), and is advised to write a rough draft of the changes on his own, and then show
them to him after the show that night.
He spends the evening rewriting, and then the two begin to rework the play after the
show that night. The next day at rehearsal, everyone is uneasy about the major changes so
late in the game. Before the revised show is to be performed that night, Moss eats a huge
dinner and gets a major case of the hiccups. The hiccups won't cease, and since they are so
loud, he is forced to sit in the back row of the highest balcony of the theatre as he waits to
see if his risky third-act overhaul will play with success. As the third act progresses, it is
evident that his solution to the "noisiness" has cured the play of its problems- as he puts it,
"I could tell that this audience had been captured".

PAGE 403-418

It is the last few days before the opening of the play in New York and everyone is
getting very worked up. Upon returning from Philadelphia, Moss and his brother have
finally formed a friendship. Moss was for once glad to return to his family in Brooklyn and
was touched to realize that his brother had been keeping a scrapbook of the clippings from
ONCE IN A LIFETIME.
The following day at rehearsal, things started to go wrong when the stage was not
ready to be rehearsed upon. Mr. Kaufman became furious after stubbing his toe, running into
a chair, and realizing that the stage would not be available for another day. Soon after the
entire company became enraged at the fact that they would only have one day to rehearse on
stage before the opening.
The first run through was horrible; every possible thing went wrong. However, the
evening's was the exact opposite. The perfect evening rehearsal was great, although all of the
acting was completely hollow. After the horrible day of rehearsals, Sam Harris offered for
Moss to come up to his office for a drink. One drink turned into many, and Moss found he
trying not to look at his watch and was listening to a drunken re-enactment of ONCE IN
ALIFETIME. Around 5, he walked him downstairs to get a cab and found that Mr. Harris
had given him a one hundred dollar bill! With this money, Moss decided to walk over to the
Astor Hotel and treat himself with a day of luxury due to the opening of his play.

Pgs.419-430

This section opens with Moss Hart receiving a massage, as well as treatment from a
barber and manicurist. He makes a deal out of how "each stroke of his [the masseur's]
fingers represented part of that hundred-dollar bill." He says that manicurists and barbers
who work with theatre folk are a special breed and that no day of an opening could start out
any better than did that day. On his way to the 11 am run through of the show, he encounters
Sam Harris and George Kaufman. With 15 dollars left, Hart rode around the park with Joe
Hyman. Hart continued on to the Music Box and felt his panic finally catch up with him. He
realized that he was, for the first time, going to become a spectator of ONCE IN A
LIFETIME. He found Jean Dixon, Grant Mills, and Spring Byington to be filled with
obnoxious nerves as well. Hart sits down to read telegrams that he received as he arrived.
He comments on just how good those telegrams could make a playwright feel when he
opens them backstage on opening night. The "unexpected names" that came on the
telegrams included: George Steinberg and Irving Morrison; the box-office man from
Mayfair Theatre; guests from camp; Augustus Pitou; a group of the boys to whom he had
told stories to outside the candy store; Priestly Morrison and Mrs. Henry B. Harris; old
neighbors in the Bronx; little-theatre groups; Mr. Neuburger; Mr. Perleman of the Labor
Temple; athletic instructor that taught him how to swim; and Herb of the Half Moon
Country Club. The show starts but no one laughs at the 3rd or 4th lines, as they should. It is
because the fans are on, and the audience cannot hear the actors' words. Someone turns off
the fans, the audience applauds, Jean Dixon starts the show over, and the audience gives
wonderful feedback. Kaufman stands up at the end and says,” I would like this audience to
know that eighty percent of this play is Moss Hart." After the show, the backstage is packed
with fans. Hart rushes back to find Kaufman, but instead finds Beatrice Kaufman and
shouts, "Tell him I was here." The show was an absolute hit.

Vocabulary- "Not often is young playwright welcomed into it with a beau geste as gallant
and selfless as the one that had just come over those footlights." beau geste- a gracious
gesture

Pgs. 429-444

He begins this section describing the proceedings that usually take place backstage
after a show’s opening night. (His show ONCE IN A LIFETIME WRITTEN with George S.
Kaufman has just finished its opening night in NY as he narrates this section of the book.)
He refers to the proceedings as having a set pattern—audience rushing through stage door to
jam stairways, crowded dressing rooms, the repeated phrases of congratulations by
everyone, and the like. The opening of Once in a Lifetime was a very unruly and mob- like
scene, like that of a show destined for success, in spite of what the critics write (everyone
wants to see it and be a part of the success in some way). He attempts to stop by Mr.
Kaufman’s dressing room, but the crowd is too much, he just asks Beatrice Kaufman to tell
him he was there. He catches a glimpse of Jean Dixon and Hugh O’Connell’s (both cast
members in his show) overheads in the throng of people, but passes them by, as he does
when he hears the voice of Sam Harris near a crowd of people by the stage.
He returned to stage to meet his family (Mother, Father, Dore Schary, Lester, Eddie) who all
look as alien in the theatre as he felt at the moment. Moss and family went to restaurant to
await the first notices (reviews) of the production. They received the notices and they were
“a blaze of glory.” At this point he decided to never look at notices again, for he would never
feel the way he felt at that moment. He asks, “Is success in any other profession as
dazzling, as deeply satisfying, as it is in the theatre?” He says no. There are other
professions that have comparable fruits of labor to that of theatre, but he doesn’t think any
taste as sweet. The success of the theatre is shared with everyone around you and no other
success feels as good as the first.
He mentions how late the morning papers came out back then and how all the theatre
folk went straight to each newspaper to get the notices “hot off the presses.”
The Times came out at about 2:30am, the Tribune at about 3:00am, the Daily News at
4:00am. The World was far downtown on Park Row so Moss and fam waited for that one
till morning. After the very first review was read aloud from the Times by Dore Schlary,
Moss’s fam departed for home. He stayed and got some breakfast with Joe Hyman. He
doesn’t recall any of the conversation over breakfast, but they left the restaurant at about
6am.
He took a taxi back to Brooklyn with the fifteen dollars he had left from the $100 he
had left after his massage hair cut and manicure, and views the city in a different light while
crossing the bridge. “The over powering symmetry can be spirit crushing and make the city
seem impenetrable” For Moss this was a day of acceptance because the city would now
know his name. As the cab passes the tenement housing he sees a boy running a morning
errand before school, which reminds him of his childhood and gives him a feeling of
patriotism. His attempt to enjoy his long ride home failed when he falls asleep, pondering
about what he should spend his money on.
With everyone asleep he makes a pot of coffee and looks around his home and
memories of his childhood float back to him. He stands in the house thinking of his goals
and the dominant force that enabled him to meet his goal in theatre and how he would only
be able to know the fulfillment of being possessed by this theatre goal if he moved from one
world into another. He woke up his entire family and tells them that they are moving out of
their house that day and that they’re leaving everything in the apartment except for the
clothes on their back. His plan is for them to stay in a hotel until they can find and furnish
an apartment. His fam is worried about necessities (toothbrush, clothes etc.) and he tells
them that they will buy everything new in NY. His parents are a little concerned about the
rationale of their son. They mention the 2 months rent they’ve paid and his mother refuses to
leave w/o the family pictures. Moss allows everyone one suitcase, they pack and they all
head down to the lobby of their apt to get a cab. Moss heads back upstairs (pretending he
has forgotten something) and opens all of the windows in the apt allowing the heavy wind
and rain to rush in and soak all of the apt furniture, wall paper carpet, everything. He left
the room with a great sense of satisfaction, “It was the hallmark, the final signature of,
of defiance and liberation, short of arson I could do no more.”
Except for his brother reading the review of the World aloud the cab ride was very
silent until the cab was one the Brooklyn Bridge. He says: “Perhaps there was, in all of us, a
feeling of unreality in what we were doing or a separated awareness in each of us that this
almost too great change in our life—would change us too as a family.” Moss’s mother,
silent, wiped the tears from her eyes with a handkerchief. After crossing the Brooklyn
Bridge seemed to put an old way of life behind them as it did for Moss and it seemed they
all talked at once. He told the cabby to take them to the Edison Hotel, but had him stop by
the Music Box first, where a line spilled out under the marquee. He went up the box office
and with drew an I.O.U for $500.00. A woman behind him remarked, “That’s not George
Kaufman, it must be the other one.” The box office man told Moss, ONCE IN A LIFETIME
was the hottest ticket in town, to come around anytime they would be there for a while. He
counted his money when he returned to the car; his brother remarked “When do they change
the name of the theatre to Money Box?” His family all burst into uncontrollable laughter.
The exhaustion of their last few days with the opening of the show and the excitement of
that morning all needed release. His fatal weakness for translating everything around him
into vignettes of drama took over him once again. He thought about retelling the entire
mornings events to Sam Harris later that afternoon, the notices, the drive home, the move,
the stop at the theatre and telling it to him proper dramatic embellishment.
And he imagined his response “Not bad, kid. Not a bad curtain for a first act.”