American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
Just when you think politics has lost its sense of humor, in rides Billie Dawn on a breath of fresh air. She’s buried her smarts beneath layers of satin and showgirl sass, but hers is a highly combustible kind of clever. So when her powerful, junk-peddling boyfriend sets out to buy a senator, he decides his girl should be a little less Vegas and a little more DC, striking the flint that sets her mind ablaze. Billie may be the new kid in class, but she’s nobody’s fool. She’s simply her glorious self, whether she’s reading Dickens or wrapping men around her dazzling little finger. A hilarious and uniquely American comedy.
Closes September 22
Featuring: David Daniel, Sarah Day, Colleen Madden, Reese Madigan, John Taylor Phillips, James Ridge
Shady businessman Harry Brock heads to Washington with his ex-showgirl girlfriend Billie Dawn in an attempt to shift the law to his side. When Brock decides that Billie is too unrefined to mix with the DC political set, he hires journalist Paul Verrall to make her appear more intelligent. But a little education can go a long way, and Billie may be smarter than her “friends” give her credit for. A hilarious and timely send up of politics and perceptions.
The story goes something like this…
So when I was sent to London in the war I decided I could either stay
drunk the whole time or work. I tried the first for a while and then I
started to write this play about a junkman in politics. It was going to be a
drama, but Judy Holliday came along and it turned into a comedy.
What I love about this quote is the reluctance and almost disappointment
you can feel in Kanin. The blitzkrieg was literally happening over his head
as he scrawled his first draft of Born Yesterday. I have this image of him
hunkered in his room attempting to write his All Quiet on the Western Front,
some sort of scathing indictment of capitalism and government corruption.
But in the end he came away with this deliciously subversive comedy.
Kanin’s genius was that he was channeling the moment. It was 1946.
The nation on the heels of the war, unable to forget all they had lost and
in need of a laugh and some hope. It may have begun as a much more
serious piece, but ultimately Born Yesterday became an answer to that tender
and complicated time. It strikes a delicate balance between idealism and
cynicism; between the inevitability of government corruption and the
promise of democracy.
At the heart of it all, it’s the story of a remarkable woman. A woman who
boldly remakes herself through learning and who does it for herself and
mostly by herself. It promises that knowledge is the real power and learning
is the ultimate path to freedom. That democracy is worth fighting for.
And that being able to laugh helps everything.
Garson Kanin was always a little disappointed that this wasn’t a more
“important” play. Though he was proud that it had reached so many people.
Indeed, it ran for more than 1600 performances on Broadway, and went on
to become an Oscar-winning movie.
And here we are 70 years later, grappling with the same ideas. Self-determination—
both of ourselves and our government—idealism, corruption, power,
I think Kanin may have been onto something…