Concealing Judy Holliday is an expressionistic non-linear play that explores what may have been going through the mind of the 1950s Academy Award-winning actress as she lapsed in and out of consciousness in the last days of her life. It’s a funny and poignant collage of scenes that play out in a kaleidoscopic fashion as she is beguiled and beset by memories of the triumphs and tragedies of her life.
Judy Holliday had a genius level I.Q. of 172, but was best known for playing characters who, on the surface at least, were not the sharpest tools in the shed. Most notable was her portrayal of Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday, which won her an Academy Award in 1950. The public conflated Judy with this beloved character, so, when she was called before the Senate Internal Subcommittee and interrogated about having Communist leanings, Judy used that persona to avoid implicating herself or naming names. This concealing of her true self spilled over into the relationships in her life as well, as she tried to negotiate a career as an intelligent woman in Hollywood during a very oppressive era.
Actual transcripts from the Senate Internal Subcommittee hearing are dramatized along with vignettes featuring stars such as Tallulah Bankhead, Jimmy Durante, and Groucho Marx, and interlace with scenes that focus on Judy’s interactions with her unstable mother, her devoted best friend, her insecure husband, and her relationship with jazz musician Gerry Mulligan.
The play is a tragedy with comic elements, examining the regrets and remembrances of a brilliant actress whose most celebrated character became a blessing and a curse. Judy finally got a chance to show off her dramatic chops, playing her idol, legendary actress Laurette Taylor, in an autobiographical play, but sadly, she became too sick to fulfill this dream and died at age 43. Concealing Judy Holliday is a meditation on life and death, of the joy and the sorrow that make up the fabric of our lives.
A sensationally moving interpretation of some historical moments that deserve celebration.
–Stage & Cinema
Judy Holliday – brilliant actress best known for her Academy Award-winning performance in 1950, as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday.
Tallulah Bankhead – flamboyant actress notorious for her brazen sexuality and cutting wit.
Mother (Helen Tuvim) – needy and unstable woman who is a protective and devoted mother to Judy.
a. Laurette Taylor – renowned actress best known for her superlative performance in The Glass Menagerie.
Gerry Mulligan – respected jazz musician, good friend and companion to Judy.
a. Richard Arens – no-nonsense lawyer from Kansas City and the Staff Director of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.
Female Revuer (Betty Comden) – part of a troupe called “The Revuers” which performed with Judy in clubs such as the Village Vanguard in NYC from 1938 to 1944.
a. Nurse – a sweet and efficient caretaker;
b. Yetta – Judy’s best friend and loyal confidant;
c. Female Fan – an ardent lover of Judy’s performance in Born Yesterday;
d. Newsgirl – NYC paper hawker;
e. Creepy Voice #2 – sinister caller;
f. Queen – actress doing her best to act with Judy’s erratic portrayal of Ophelia.
Male Revuer #1 (Adolph Green) – part of a troupe called “The Revuers” which performed with Judy in clubs such as the Village Vanguard in NYC from 1938 to 1944.
a. David Oppenheim – talented clarinetist and husband to Judy;
b. Ezio Penza – celebrated Italian opera singer;
c. Bob Hope – beloved comedian and actor;
d. Arlene Francis – best known as a panelist on the TV show What’s My Line;
e. Psychiatrist #1 – knowledgeable and insinuating;
f. Fan #1 – an ardent lover of Judy’s performance in Born Yesterday;
g. Affiliate #1 – charming, looking for a hand-out;
h. Conspirator #1 – deadpan;
i. Meter Reader #1 – oblivious;
j. Creepy Voice #1 – sinister caller;
k. Newsboy #1 – NYC paper hawker;
l. Hamlet – actor portraying the melancholy Dane.
Male Revuer #2 (Alvin Hammer) – part of a troupe called “The Revuers” which performed with Judy in clubs such as the Village Vanguard in NYC from 1938 to 1944.
a. Doctor – professional;
b. Groucho Marx – the classic comedian and film and television star;
c. Bennet Cerf – witty, best known for his appearances on the TV show What’s My Line?;
d. Jimmy Durante – popular personality and comedian known for his distinctive raspy voice;
e. Psychiatrist #2 – knowledgeable and insinuating;
f. Grandmother – bossy Russian immigrant;
g. Director – all business, impatient;
h. Uncle Joseph – over-bearing uncle to Judy, Helen’s brother;
i. Fan #2 – an ardent lover of Judy’s performance in Born Yesterday;
j. Affiliate #2 – polite;
k. Meter Reader #2 – oblivious;
l. Conspirator #2 – deadpan;
m. Newsboy #2 – NYC paper hawker;
n. Louella Parsons – snarky gossip columnist;
o. Manager’s Voice – all business.
Setting: Judy Holliday’s house in Upstate New York, spring 1965
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“A sensationally moving interpretation of some historical moments that deserve celebration. This story, a pastiche of a genius whose career was derailed by injustice, of a woman whose romances were unlike fairy tales, of an artist disallowed from achieving her potential, needs telling and seeing.” –Stage & Cinema
“In her writing of this potentially melodramatic material, Ms. Johnson consistently avoids the maudlin unless she can find humor in it. She is unafraid of the horrifying, the absurd, and the deadly sober, and she can play all these as well as she has written them.” –Stage & Cinema
“Risk-taking writing.” –Stage & Cinema
“A semi-surreal biographical drama about this remarkable actor, opening as Holliday is in her final days/hours of painful death, Ms. Johnson allows her to dream/fantasize about her life: her over-bearing mother, her husbands, female lover, career, etc. The play weaves skillfully in and around her history." –stagehappenings.com
“This is a special show.” –stagehappenings.com
“It’s fun, informative and sad. Great theatre in fact.” –stagehappenings.com
“There’s a lot of laughter here in the face of tragedy, and a sour reminder that hurt can come without cause or concern, and, surprisingly, a lot of fun in the face of possible tragedy.” –Park La Brea News/Beverly Press
“Ms. Johnson seized the moment of those terrible trials, duly refreshing a terrible memory with adept and still terrifying reality. Wow.” –Park La Brea News/Beverly Press
“Johnson’s play places the star on her (very premature) deathbed and then takes us into her drug-induced memories and biographical fantasies, with a much more elastic and theatrical touch than many a conventional showbiz bio.” –LA Stage Watch
“It’s an engaging journey.” –LA Stage Watch
“Memorably funny.” –LA Weekly
“The most compelling of the recollections is the hearing run by Richard Arens to investigate Holliday’s potential communist leanings.” –LA Weekly
Materials: your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date and will include everything necessary for your production and can be ordered in Printed or Digital format. Printed Materials are provided on unbound three-hole punched loose-leaf paper while digital Materials are provided via email as downloadable PDF files for you to print in-house. All materials are yours to keep! No deposits, no returns.
The production materials for Concealing Judy Holliday include:
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Director's Script – Single-sided script with space for director’s notes.