The Sound of Music 50th Anniversary!

Today is The Sound of Music film’s 50th anniversary! The film’s US release date was March 2nd, 1965. In honor of the anniversary, here is an excerpt from Barry Monush’s new book, The Sound of Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Maria, the Von Trapps, and Our Favorite Things.

00123101When the Trapps Were Die Trapps

The First Cinematic Versions of the Trapp Story

Pretty much everyone who has worshipped the movie The Sound of Music is well aware that it first came to life as a Broadway stage musical. Less known is the fact that there are not one but two previous movies that cover the story of Maria and the Trapp Family Singers. Although both pictures did good business in West Germany, where they were produced (in 1956 and 1958, respectively), there was no great rush or desire on the part of American distributors to release them over here. The first picture, Die Trapp-Familie, did, however, play a very important role in the development of The Sound of Music, as it was screened by Mary Martin and her husband, producer Richard Halliday, and gave them the idea of a possible stage show, albeit one they initially envisioned consisting of the actual traditional songs the Trapps had sung, and not a full-scale original score. It was not until they approached Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II with the odd idea of the team perhaps contributing one new number that the more obvious idea came to fruition: why not have two of Broadway’s greatest songwriters create their own full score for the story?

2117739,zvp+zhJc1q9tL9rhxced78+KC+0J2tUgonBGucHykXn7Y6ndrWVt3TSkakTsbdK0YDjzV1xJTYwtQa_3w1eR_w==It was because of the eventual success on stage of The Sound of Music and 20th Century-Fox’s purchase of the rights to turn it into a movie that finally allowed some version of the German Trapp films to see the light of day on American cinema screens. Fox did not, however, picture the two movies (Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika was the second one) as separate “art-house” entities showing in select venues with their original German language soundtrack, instead wanting to present them to a wider audience. To this end the studio took the drastic step of not only dubbing the films into English but trimming out a great deal of footage (mainly from the second installment) and piecing them together as one movie, The Trapp Family. 

Event Alert: The Heidi Chronicles

The Heidi Chronicles will begin performances tonight at the Music Box Theatre! Tickets are available here. The production will star Golden Globe-winner and six-time Emmy Award-nominee Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men,” “Top of the Lake,” Speed-the-Plow), Emmy Award-nominee Jason Biggs (“Orange Is The New Black,” American Pie), Tony Award-nominee Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), and Tracee Chimo (Lips Together, Teeth Apart, “Orange Is The New Black,” Bad Jews).

Jan Balakian covers The Heidi Chronicles in her book Reading the Plays of Wendy WassersteinIn honor of the show’s opening night, here’s an excerpt exploring The Heidi Chronicles:

00314771The Heidi Chronicles dramatizes a romantic, witty, unmarried art history professor at Columbia University, Heidi Holland, approaching middle age and becoming disillusioned with the collapse of the idealism that shaped the sixties. Spanning twenty-three years, the play begins with Heidi’s slide lecture about the neglect of women artists and then travels back to a 1965 Chicago high school dance, where she meets the lifelong friends whose feminist values fluctuate. In college, Heidi and her friends become passionate feminists and liberals: we see them at a 1968 Eugene McCarthy rally in New Hampshire, a 1970 Ann Arbor consciousness-raising session, and a 1974 protest for women artists at the Art Institute of Chicago.

While Heidi remains committed to the ideals of feminism, her friends become swept away by the materialism and narcissism of the Reagan eighties, leading the vacuous lives they once denounced. Heidi feels stranded. At her 1986 high school alumni luncheon, the climax of the play, she confesses her feelings of abandonment and her disappointment with her peers: “I thought the point was we were all in this together.” By the end of the play in 1989, however, Heidi feels a little less alone and depressed in her New York apartment, having adopted a daughter as a single parent. She hopes that her daughter will feel the confidence and dignity that were the aims of the women’s movement.

This play grew out of Wasserstein’s strong feminist sentiments: “I wrote this play because I had this image of a woman standing up at a women’s meeting saying, ‘I’ve never been so unhappy in my life. . . .’ The more angry it made me that these feelings weren’t being expressed, the more anger I put into that play.” A comedy of manners, satirically depicting the concerns and conventions of a group of yuppies and a pair of witty lovers – Scoop and Heidi – the play exposes the marginalization of women artists, sexism in general, women’s loss of identity, an unromantic view of marriage, and the lost idealism of the second wave of feminism that began in the early sixties.

Unlike the first wave of feminism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which focused on officially mandated inequalities, like gaining women’s suffrage, the second wave encouraged women to understand the psychological implications of sexist stereotypes and opened the eyes of American women to careers and achievement, which they had lost in post-World War II America.

From the start, Heidi, standing in a lecture hall showing slides of paintings, addresses the neglect of womentheaterheidichronicles artists. She then points out the difference between the male and female sensibility: “Clara Peeters used more geometry and less detail than her mail peers.” This aesthetic difference becomes a metaphor for gender conflict throughout the play. Although female characters are frustrated that they derive their identities from men, they frantically seek boyfriends. Heidi treats this problem with humor as she segues from the art history lecture back to a 1965 high school dance: “This painting has always reminded me of one of those horrible high school dances. And you sort of want to dance, and you sort of want to go home, and you sort of don’t know what you want. So you hang around, a fading rose in an exquisitely detailed dress, waiting to see what might happen.”

During the 1965 dance, we hear the “The Shoop Shoop Song,” whose lyrics answered the question of anxious young American women: “How can I tell if he loves me so?” with “It’s in his kiss.” The song became a hit with Betty Everett’s 1963 album It’s in His Kiss. During this song, Heidi declines the All-American Chris Boxer’s invitation to dance the “Hully Gully” – a sixties line dance consisting of a series of quick steps called out by the MC. Her friend Susan, however, advises her on how to get a guy to dance with her: “Don’t look desperate. Men don’t dance with desperate women.” Eyeing a Bobby Kennedy lookalike, who is “twisting and smoking” in his “vest, blue jeans, tweed jacket and Wee-juns,” Susan quickly unbuttons her sweater, rolls up her skirt, and pulls a necklace out of her purse. She cautions Heidi, “. . . you’re going to get really messed up unless you learn to take men seriously,” and “The worst thing you can do is cluster. ‘Cause then it looks like you just wanna hang around with your girlfriend.”

Heidi is quick to point out that men are not such a big deal, that the only difference between men and women is biology: “. . . he can twist and smoke at the same time and we can get out of gym with an excuse called ‘I have my monthly.'” As Peter Patrone approaches Heidi, who is now reading a book, the Rolling Stones’ 1965 song “Play with Fire” plays, suggesting that Heidi is playing with fire by choosing not to be the representative 1965 girl. In another sense, playing with Peter Patrone is also “playing with fire”; although he may be Heidi’s soul mate, he is unattainable, because, we later find out, he is gay. Peter and Heidi enact their own melodrama, pretending they are star-crossed lovers on a Queen Mary cruise. Their meta-drama ironizes the 1965 high school dance; the sanitarium replaces the church wedding (Heidi declines Peter’s proposal, saying she covets her independence), and Peter and Heidi never kiss.


Listen: Stephen Tropiano on Pop Culture Tonight!

Stephen Tropiano, author of Saturday Night Live FAQ talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” to discuss the recent 40th anniversary celebration as well as take a look at the show’s history!


00315538Television history was made on Saturday, October 11, 1975, at 11:30pm (ET), when Chevy Chase welcomed America to the first episode of a new late-night comedy series. With its cutting edge satire and cast of young, talented performers, Saturday Night Live set a new standard for television comedy while launching the careers of such comedy greats as John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey.

Saturday Night Live FAQ is the first book to offer the show’s generations of fans everything they ever wanted to know (and may have forgotten) about SNL. Beginning with the show’s creation in the mid-1970s by Lorne Michaels and the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, SNL FAQ takes you through the show’s in-depth history.


Monologue Monday

It’s Monologue Monday! This will be the final monologue in our Monologue Monday series from this event. We hope you’ve enjoyed the various monologues featured!

Marla Del Collins performed a monologue at the Applause Books’ Best Monologues Anthology Launch at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe!  In the video below, Collins performs her monologue from “The Lovers and Others of Eugene O’Neill.”  Check it out!


SNL’s 40th Anniversary Special!!

00315538Saturday Night Live celebrates its 40th anniversary with a live, three-hour prime time special on NBC on Sunday, February 15, 2015. In honor of television’s longest running comedy turning the big 4-0, Saturday Night Live FAQ author Stephen Tropiano has provided a list (in chronological order) of 40 memorable moments from Seasons 1-40 (along with the show’s original airdate). You can watch many of these sketches, along with your personal favorites, at the Saturday Night Live archive at (



Saturday Night Live: 40 Memorable Moments

1) In one of the edgiest sketches in SNL history, Chevy Chase gives job applicant Richard Pryor a racially charged “Word Association Test.” (12/13/75)

2) Lorne Michaels offers The Beatles a check for $3,000 to reunite on the show. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were reportedly watching and considered heading down to 30 Rock to make a surprise appearance. (4/24/76)

3) In “The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise,” NBC cancels Star Trek but Captain Kirk/William Shatner (John Belushi) isn’t ready to give up command of The Enterprise (5/29/76).

4) Paul Simon regrets opening the show wearing a giant turkey costume and singing “Still Crazy After All These Years.” (11/20/76)

5) After making a major slip up in a public service announcement parody for “The Right to Extreme Stupidity League,” Candice Bergen tries to hold it together as co-star Gilda Radner improvises. (12/11/76)

6) “New kid” Bill Murray delivers an on-air apology for not being funny. “It’s not that I’m not funny,” he admits, “it’s that I’m not being funny at the right time.” (3/19/77)

7) Miskel Spillman, 80, winner of the SNL’s first and only “Anyone Can Host” contest, gets stoned (off-camera) by John Belushi before her opening monologue (12/17/77)

8) The Conehead Family–Beldar, his wife Prymaat, and daughter Connie–are contestants on Family Feud.


9) From Season 3, a pair of brilliant, self-referential “Schiller Reels” by filmmaker Tom Schiller: Don’t Look Back in Anger, in which an elderly John Belushi visits the graves of some of his former cast members (3/11/78); and La Dolce Gilda, a parody of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, featuring Gilda Radner as she struggles with her new found fame. (4/15/78).

10) Cooking guru Julia Child (Dan Aykroyd) cuts “the dickens” out of her finger, turning her show, The French Chef, into a bloody mess. (12/9/78)

11) Hands down the worst sketch in SNL history: “Commie Hunting Season,” in which a group of white rednecks go out to shoot Commies, Jews and African-Americans (complete with the N-word). No one–in the studio audience or at home–was laughing. No one. (11/22/80)

12) Charles Rocket drops the F-bomb. In a parody of “Who Shot J.R.?” Rocket is asked during the “goodnights” by host Charlene Tilton how it feels after being shot. He responds, “It’s the first time I’ve ever been shot in my life. I’d like to know who the fuck did it.” It didn’t matter. Rocket and most of the Season 6 cast would be gone after the next episode. (2/21/81)

13) The slam dancing fans of the punk rock group Fear create chaos in Studio 8H during their performance. In exchange for booking the band, John Belushi makes his final SNL appearance in the show’s cold opening. (10/31/81)

14) A rare appearance by legendary Beat writer William Burroughs, who reads excerpts from his novels, Naked Lunch and Nova Express. (11/7/81)

15) “Buckwheat is shot!” Buckwheat (Eddie Murphy) takes a bullet–or did he? (3/12/83).

16) William Shatner loses it during a Q & A session at a Star Trek convention and tells the show’s obsessive fans to get a life. (12/20/86)

17) The Church Lady (Dana Carvey) welcomes ex-PTL Club leaders Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker (Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks) to Church Chat. (“Isn’t that special?”) (3/28/87)

18) On the 14th season finale, an emotional Steve Martin pays tribute to original cast member Gilda Radner, who died that day of cancer at the age of 42. (5/20/89)

19) Wayne’s World hosts Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) welcome Aerosmith to their show. (“We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”) (2/17/90)

20) A shirtless Chris Farley is fearless competing against Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze to be a Chippendales dancer. (10/27/90)

21) Tom Hanks hosts SNL for the fifth time and is invited into the “Five-Timers Club” lounge where he meets other five-time hosts Paul Simon, Steve Martin, and Elliot Gould. SNL staff writer and future talk show host Conan O’Brien plays Sean the Doorman and former cast members Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz, and Martin Short tend the bar and wait tables. (12/8/90)

22) David Spade is a snooty, dismissive receptionist at Dick Clark Productions who asks Roseanne (as herself), Dick Clark’s long lost biological mother (Julia Sweeney) and Jesus Christ (Phil Hartman) to take a seat. (2/22/92)

23) Barbra Streisand surprises guests Madonna and Roseanne with a cameo on Coffee Talk with Linda Richman (Mike Myers). Barbra’s nails? Like buttah! (2/22/92)

24) Irish singer Sinead O’Connor stuns the studio audience and sparks a major controversy when she ends her a cappella rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” by ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II and declaring, “Fight the real enemy!” (O’Connor was protesting the Catholic Church in Dublin protecting pedophile priests). (10/3/92)

25) Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra, who insults a long list of recording artists, including Liza Minnelli (host Rosie O’Donnell), Barbra Streisand (Mike Myers), and K.D. Lang (Rob Schneider), as they line up to record a duet for Ol’ Blue Eyes’s 1993 Duets album. (11/13/93)

26) In the first of many parodies of Celebrity Jeopardy!, host Alex Trebek (Will Ferrell) endures Sean Connery’s (Darrell Hammond) insults and Burt Reynold’s (Norm MacDonald) and Jerry Lewis’s (Martin Short) stupidity. (12/7/96)


27) The Delicious Dish hosts Margaret Joe McCullin (Ana Gasteyer) and Terry Rialto (Molly Shannon) welcome Pete Schwetty (Alec Baldwin) to their show and enjoy his “Schwetty Balls.” (12/12/98)

28) SNL’s 25th Anniversary Special: Cast members and hosts reunite to honor the show’s 25th anniversary, which includes moving tributes to late cast members John Belushi, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, and Gilda Radner. (9/25/99)

29) “More Cowbell!” cries record producer Bruce Dickson at the 1976 recording session of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” Will Ferrell is Gene Frenkel, the overly enthusiastic cowbell player. (4/8/2000)

30) Season 27 opens with a moving tribute to 9/11 First Responders (9/29/01) with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; members of New York City’s Fire, Police, and Port Authority Police Departments; and Paul Simon singing “The Boxer.” (9/29/01)

31) In her debut, Debbie Downer (Rachel Dratch) ruins a family trip to Walt Disney World while host Lindsay Lohan and SNL cast members struggle to control their laughter. (5/1/04)

32) When musical guest Ashlee Simpson starts to sing her second number (“Autobiography”), an audio track of her first number (“Pieces of Me”) starts to play, thereby revealing to all of America that some of the musical performances on SNL are not necessarily live. (10/23/04)

33) An early holiday present from Robert Smigel: A brilliant claymation music video, “Christmas Time for the Jews,” with vocals by the great Darlene Love. (12/17/05)

34) The second “SNL Digital Short” is a rap music video entitled “Lazy Sunday,” in which Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell sing about buying snacks and going to see Chronicles of Narnia. Produced with Samberg’s Lonely Island partners, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, the video went viral. (12/17/05)

35) The best “SNL Digital Short” was “D–k in a Box,” an R & B holiday duet sung by Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake, who give their girlfriends a very special package for Christmas. Samberg, Timberlake, and their collaborators, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma & Asa Taccone, and Katreese Barnes won an Emmy for Best Original Song. (12/16/06)

36) Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin (Tina Fey) and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Amy Poehler) deliver a bi-partisan message about sexism toward female candidates in the Presidential campaign. (Palin/Fey’s best line: “And I can see Russia from my house!”) (9/13/08)


37) Two weeks later, Palin (Fey) is interviewed by CBS Evening New’s Katie Couric (Poehler) in a sketch that plays more like a reenactment of the real interview (except for the part when Palin, like a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, wants to use one of her “lifelines” to help her answer a question). (9/27/08)

38) The Season 38th Christmas show opens with a The New York City Children’s Chorus singing “Silent Night” in memory of the twenty children and six adult staff members who lost their lives in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut the previous day. (12/15/12)

39) Weekend Update cultural correspondent Stefon (Bill Hader), who is in love with anchor Seth Meyers, says goodbye. Meyers finally admits he has feelings for Stefon and in a hilarious video, runs to the church to stop Stefon from marrying CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. (5/18/13)

40) Kate McKinnon’s reprises her impersonation of Justin Bieber in a series of commercial parodies of his latest Calvin Klein commercials. Bieber was a good sport, tweeting, “Well played. LOL.” (1/17/15)