'Kurt Vonnegut's Make Up Your Mind' opens in Boston. But whose play is it, anyway?

October 30, 2013
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When the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library presented a reading of Kurt Vonnegut's "Happy Birthday, Wanda June," it was described as the author's "only play." And that's been the party line on the work that premiered off-Broadway in 1970.

Since then, Vonnegut works have been adapted for the stage (see last August's "Welcome to the Monkey House" at IndyFringe and the upcoming "Who Am I This Time?" at the IRT). But having your work adapted isn't the same as writing a play.

So what should we make of "Kurt Vonnegut's Make Up Your Mind," opening Oct. 30 at Boston's SpeakEasy Stage Company?

According to the theater, there was a reading of the play in East Hampton in 1989 and a workshop of it in New York in 1993. After that, the script sat in a drawer. Nicky Silver, who wrote the hit play "The Lyons" (seen last season at the Phoenix Theatre) gets "assembled by" credit, having pieced it together from 11 different Vonnegut drafts. One conceit: He added Vonnegut himself as a character, using Vonnegut's own essays to create his dialogue.

Whoever's play it is, I'm fascinated. And look forward to reading the reviews.

As to the show's future, program notes from the theater quote Silver as saying "My conversations with the producing team have indicated that they're excited about the potential for a commercial run on Broadway. We'd love to see the show have a life after SpeakEasy."

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  • Vonnegut's Play
    Kudos to Lou Harry for addressing this play. I need to apologize on behalf of the Vonnegut Library. What we should have said was that Happy Birthday Wanda June was the only PUBLISHED play at that time. At the time of Vonnegut's death, there was writing that was finished but never published and also work that was never finished. The Vonnegut Library completely supports the good work by Nicky Silver. Check out our website for more information about the play: www.vonnegutlibrary.org.
    • The play's the curious thing
      I didn't mean to imply that the Vonnegut Library was incorrect. I've referred to 'Wanda June' the same way. Will you be going to Boston for this one? Or have you invited Silver to speak at the Library? -Lou Harry
    • Nicky Silver
      We have board members attending different evenings, and I will be there later this month and will participate in a Talk Back after the performance ends. Our Baltimore Chapter President Jane Wehrle will also participate in this Talk Back. We are hoping that Nicky Silver will speak in Indy next year. I'll keep you posted.

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