Thanks very much to Amy Stumpfl and The Tennessean for supporting Carrick Productions’ debut offering =

Mr. Pim’ balances whimsical story with social commentary

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Pick Me! Pick Me!

PIM Post

Thanks to designer/wizard Danny Proctor for our lovely poster (available soon in the gift shoppe).

Photo Call by Catharine Hollifield

MrPimPassesBy LadyM_Pim_children rsz

Wesley Paine, Gregg Colson, Lizzie Boston, Aaron Ardisson

Gregg Colson, Merredith Brittain, Wesley Paine, Rick Seay, Caroline Davis, Lizzie Boston, Aaron Ardisson

Gregg Colson, Merredith Brittain, Wesley Paine, Rick Seay, Caroline Davis, Lizzie Boston, Aaron Ardisson

MrPimPassesBy Aug2013 trio rsz

Caroline Davis, Rick Seay, Gregg Colson

Merredith Brittain and Gregg Colson

Merredith Brittain, Gregg Colson

(Way)Back Stage Notes

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  • Dion Boucicault, Jr. (Mr. Pim): son of the famous Irish actor-producer Dion Boucicault, Sr. (1820-1890, author of London Assurance), Dion Jr. (1859-1929) counted Mr. Pim as one of his best-known roles.  Married to actress Irene Vanbrugh (Olivia), Dion Jr. was the manager for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan; his younger sister Nina was the first woman to play Peter Pan on stage.  From 1885-1896, Dion Jr. acted, produced, and managed in Australia—cf. Mr. Pim’s own Antipodean journey.  He and his wife took Mr. Pim to Australia in 1923
  • Irene Vanbrugh (Olivia): wife of Dion Boucicault, Jr., Dame Irene Vanbrugh (1872-1949) was best known for her comedic roles.  English actress Miss Irene VanbrughShe originated the role of Gwendolen Fairfax in the 1895 premiere of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and later had parts written for her by J. M. Barrie, Bernard Shaw, Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward. (That gown would make great curtains.)
  • Leslie Howaleslie-howard-04rd (Brian): best known in the United States as Ashley Wilkes in the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind, Leslie Howard (1893-1943) got an early start in Britain on the stage and in silent films, including several for the Minerva Company written by A.A. Milne. Howard had only been acting on the English stage for three years when he originated the role of Brian Strange in Mr. Pim Passes By.  His stage career took off in New York just three years later. (Doesn’t he look rather like Mr. Milne?)

MPPB 1920 PlaybillUK Previews:
The Gaiety, Manchester: December 1, 1919.

UK Premiere:
The New Theatre, London: January 5, 1920.

US Premiere:
The Garrick Theatre, New York: February 28, 1921-October 1, 1921.

 

AA_Daphne Milne Irene Vanbrugh 1920

Oh, the many shades of…neutral. (But they’re beautiful.) No wonder Olivia and Dinah are longing for a little excitement at Marden House.

June Kingsbury and Wesley Paine (in work clothes)

June K and Wesley P costume fun

PIM Pix

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Dion Boucicault Jr. and Irene Vanbrugh [married in real life] in the 1920 London production of Mr. Pim Passes By

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From the original 1920 London production:
Georgette Cohan as “Dinah,” Irene Vanbrugh as “Olivia” and Leslie Howard as “Brian Strange”

London Daily Mail reviewJanuary 6, 1920

“Tastefully staged and brilliantly acted,  ‘Mr. Pim Passes By’ received the heartiest of welcomes at the New Theatre last night. Mr. A. A. Milne’s light comedy of conversation has a rather heavy patch of drama; but the players never for a moment take the situation seriously. The alarms and excursions, however, created by Mr. Pim lead up to one of those killing jokes about death that are so dear to the new humorist.

Miss Irene Vanbrugh is at her best as the second wife of a simple country gentleman, who for a long summer day believes her first husband to be alive. She obviously enjoys pulling this simple person’s leg, and finally overwhelms him with his own platitudes in the manner that no audience can resist. And Mr. Ben Webster makes him simple enough without being a simpleton. As Mr. Pim of most uncertain memory Mr. Dion Boucicault is the stage antediluvian with extruded bandana handkerchief and weeping whiskers that have provoked laughter since the Ark left the Brontosaurus high and dry.

Still, it was the young people’s night out, for they took charge of the action and got away with the lion’s share of the fun. Miss Georgette Cohan danced about like a materialised sunbeam, all smiles and ripples of mischievous merriment.

She had an ideal partner in Mr. Leslie Howard as a Futurist painter without a present, to whom the simple one has conservative objections. For he played with a fine flow of natural high spirits and with the absolute self-confidence that only the young posses. Indeed, this jolly pair of  lovers awaken sweet memories in the most hardened playgoer.”

From the 1923 University of Hawaii production

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From the 1921 Garrick Theatre (New York) production with Laura Hope Crews:

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From the 1928 Harlequins Community Theatre (Sandusky, OH) production:
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From the 1951 St. John’s Players, (Cambridge, England) production:

Mr Pim Passes By

From the 2012 Ottawa Little Theater production:

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From the 2004 Mint Theater (New York) production:
(Photos: Richard Termine)

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Stephen Schnetzer as “George” and Lisa Bostnar as “Olivia”

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Victoria Mack as “Dinah” and James Knight as “Brian”

Program Notes & PIM Points

Pooh ManBorn in London in 1882, Alan Alexander Milne enjoyed the kind of halcyon late-Victorian childhood depicted in the juvenile literature of his predecessors, J.M. Barrie and Kenneth Grahame.  Milne’s father was the master of a school where the boys had plenty to eat and were never beaten.  Blond and fair with remarkable blue eyes, Milne was the youngest child of his family and much the favorite.  He excelled first at Westminster School and later at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned Honors in Mathematics in 1903.  He was a long-time contributor to that English mainstay of popular journalism, Punch.  In 1913 he married Dorothy de Sélincourt: known as Daphne, Milne’s wife seems to have been a considerable partner in his literary career and a notable woman in her own right, elegant and intelligent with a cool self-sufficiency.  Their only child, Christopher Robin, was born in 1920.  With the publication of When We Were Very Young, a collection of children’s verse, in 1924, and the story collection Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926, Milne’s adult writing began to shrink into the shadows of his Hundred-Acre-Wood fame.  He died in Sussex in 1956.

Having always enjoyed the success of the golden boy, Milne began writing plays during his service in the First World War.  While other officers played bridge and golf, Milne “amused himself,” in his own words, by composing and then dictating plays to his adored wife Daphne.  th-6Milne’s first play, Wurzell-Flummery, was performed in April 1917 as part of a program of one-act plays, including two by his friend and mentor J.M. Barrie.  Several plays of moderate success and quality appeared before the dramatic work for which he is best known, Mr. Pim Passes By, which previewed at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, on December 1, 1919, and premiered in London on January 5, 1920, at the New Theatre.  The play was produced by the famous Irish actor-producer Dion Boucicault Jr. and starred Boucicault’s wife, Irene Vanbrugh, as the incomparable Olivia Marden (a character likely based on Daphne Milne).  Boucicault himself played the shuffling Mr. Pim while a very young Leslie Howard took the role of Brian Strange, a “futuristic” painter who wants to marry the Mardens’ niece Dinah.  This first production of the play ran for 246 performances.

Generally agreed to be an “unqualified success,” Mr. Pim pleased audiences and critics alike not only with its vibrant characters, charming dialogue, and series of comic revelations, but also for its strong currents of social commentary.  Behind the quips of the Bright Young Things and the conjugal surprises of their elders, Milne cleverly skewers the mummified code of the Edwardian gentry’s manners and morals.  The titular character’s inadvertently disastrous snippets of news expose the hollowness of the period’s understanding of marriage and love, revealing its chauvinism of class as well as gender.  Through the fine character of Olivia Marden—warm, resourceful, intelligent, and sympathetic—Milne advocates both the New Woman and a modern ideal of marriage as the romantic union of equals.  It is not surprising that the play has produced comparisons with the work of such dramatists as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, J.M. Barrie and Noel Coward.

th-8Mr. Pim Passes By was made into a silent film in 1921, which Milne himself collaborated on.  Reversing the usual direction of artistic translation, Milne later rewrote the play as a novel; it was published in London in 1922.  Along with his one mystery novel, The Red House Mystery, the novel Mr. Pim is regarded as his finest work of adult fiction.

–Andrea Bradley Hearn

Nashville Welcomes ‘Mr. Pim’


A. 
A. Milne’s Mr. Pim Passes By Makes Nashville Premiere August 2-10

‘Comedy of conversation’ from Winnie-the-Pooh creator will play five performances

Mr. Pim Passes By, a 1919 comedy of manners and morals by British author A. A. Milne, will make its Nashville debut August 2-10, for five performances in the Dead Poet’s Society Auditorium on the campus of Montgomery Bell Academy. Presented by Carrick Productions, Mr. Pim will play two weekends: Friday and Saturday, August 2-3, and August 9-10, at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, August 4, at 2 p.m.

32707PimWritten five years before Milne’s iconic Winnie-the-Pooh series, and staged to great acclaim in London (1920) and New York (1921) – where it was praised as “the most brilliant light comedy since Oscar Wilde”­ – Mr. Pim Passes By is set in the formal manor house of a Buckinghamshire country estate shortly after World War I (think Downton Abbey). During a visit to Marden House, out-of-towner Mr. Pim’s casual revelations about a chance meeting throw the ordered lives of his host and hostess into complete disarray.

Embraced for its witty dialogue and high-spirited – and often, high-minded – characters (think Noel Coward), Mr. Pim Passes By also weaves a thread of social commentary throughout its comedic dilemma by prompting a question worthy of George Bernard Shaw: Do rules of convention outweigh matters of the heart?

The cast features Rick Seay as George Marden, J.P.; Caroline Davis as his wife, Olivia; Lizzie Boston as George’s niece and ward, Dinah; Aaron Ardisson as Dinah’s suitor, Brian Strange; Wesley Paine as Lady Marden, the family matriarch; Merredith Brittain as the housekeeper, Anne; and Gregg Colson as the title troublemaker, Mr. Carraway Pim.

Seay will direct and Jennifer Rybolt is producer. June Kingsbury will handle the 1920 costumes.

Tickets for Mr. Pim Passes By are $10, with $8 senior or student rate, and can be purchased at the door.

The Dead Poets’ Society Auditorium is in the Lowry building on the MBA campus. Free parking is available in a garage located adjacent to Lowry and accessible via the Wilson Avenue entrance (near West End). Visit montgomerybell.edu for a campus map.

About the playwright:

Known worldwide for his stories and poems about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh, Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956) was lauded as a playwright, humorist, novelist, essayist and screenwriter before the enormous success of Pooh overshadowed his previous work and interests.

A native Londoner, he studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, and wrote for the student magazine. After graduating in 1903, Milne came to the attention of the leading British humor magazine Punch, where he became a contributor and later an assistant editor. With encouragement from his idol J. M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame), he applied himself to playwriting, which he declared “the most exciting form of writing.” Milne’s first real hit was Mr. Pim Passes By, which premiered in London in 1920 (with a young Leslie Howard in the cast). In the 20 years following Cambridge, Milne wrote 18 plays and three novels, and was one of the most popular and produced British playwrights of the time.

In 1924 he introduced a collection of children’s poems, When We Were Very Young, about a boy called Christopher Robin (named for his son, born in 1920) and various characters inspired by his son’s stuffed animals. The remaining entries in the Pooh canon – a second poetry collection, Now We Are Six (1927), and the story collections Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928) – assured his literary legacy.

For more information, contact Caroline Davis

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