February 7, 2013

“This Town” at the Annual Dinner, 1939

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 10:26 am

In the minutes of the Board of Trustees meeting, dated November 13, 1939, the Executive Vice President of the Federation, Solomon Lowenstein offered “the appreciation of the Board of Trustees for the efforts of Mr. Armand Deutsch and Mr. Jerry Danzig, and first and foremost, of Mr. Thornton Wilder and Eddie Dowling, for the assistance and cooperation which they rendered in connection with the play presented at the Dinner.”

The capital ‘D’ dinner was the Annual Dinner of the New York and Brooklyn Federations of Jewish Charities. 1939 was several years before the two federations merged to become the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York and the two federations were conducting a joint campaign and annual dinner.

The play referenced in the minutes was an adaption of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Our Town.” “This Town” was a one-act play, written by Armand Deutsch, Jerry Danzig, and Eliot E. Cohen, created for and produced by the New York and Brooklyn Federations. The star-studded performance of the play “This Town” at the Annual Dinner featured Eddie Dowling as the Stage Manager and Celeste Holm as Mrs. Kane.

Playbill for the play "This Town,"

Playbill for the performance of “This Town” November 12, 1939

Interestingly, the adaption contains an epilogue written by Mr. Wilder himself that could be further tailored for use by other organizations and communities as part of their own fundraising efforts.  A portion of the epilogue reads:

“How mysterious it is that in every time and place there are these people, a society within a society, who realize the sufferings, the for-the-most-part invisible sufferings around them. While the majority of men and women go about their daily life with an inevitable self-preoccupation, these others are concerned, are mysteriously prompted, to alleviate the troubles of others…It is all the more admirable when it is found in the big city where the persons who need us are not known personally, but where it is, its names are neighborliness and neighborly responsibility…”

A copy of the script and playbill of “This Town” were found while processing the chronological files of Executive Vice President Stephen Solender. The script and playbill were passed onto Mr. Solender by a staff member in the Management and Budget department of UJA-Federation, Ms. Beatrice Newman. In his August 7, 1995 response to Ms. Newman, Mr. Solender thanks her and notes that the script and playbill “will be particularly useful in our archives.”


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