Joseph Stein Stage
Dedication remarks by Richard Pletcher, Executive Producer
November 1, 1997
Tonight you are going to see the newly revised version of The Baker’s Wife. This play has never seen the lights of Broadway. After tonight, it might.
Producer Richard Pletcher and Playwright Joseph Stein on opening night of The Baker’s Wife before we dedicated this stage to Joseph Stein, who wrote the book for this show. Plain and Fancy, Mr. Stein’s first work for the musical theatre, was written with Will Glickman. This light hearted look at the differences between the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and a young couple from New York City, was the first new musical to hit Broadway in 1955. It ran for 462 performances. Now after eleven years, Amish Acres Round Barn Theatre’s perennial production has surpassed 2,000 performances and played before over a quarter of a million patrons. This stage has become the national home of Plain and Fancy.
Upon his visit to Amish Acres in 1995 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Plain and Fancy, Mr. Stein was taken by the beauty of this structure, the dedication and talent of its company, and the emphasis placed on telling the story of two cultures. He gently insisted that there were more shows to produce in this environment. With his encouragement, we entered the world of repertory musical theatre in 1996. This inaugural season included Stein’s masterpiece, Fiddler on the Roof. Now at his suggestion, The Baker’s Wife has become reality tonight. With the scheduling of Zorba in 1998, Rags in 1999. and Fiddler... for the millennium, this stage has become a virtual Stein theatre festival. This dedication is appropriate because perhaps no other playwright of the Golden Era of American Musical Theatre has better contrasted our cultural differences to prove that they never outweigh our human commonalties. Amish Acres mission is to interpret one society to many others. Joseph Stein epitomizes this connection among people of all origins, backgrounds and faiths, and is the beacon the historic farm and repertory theatre keeps in its sights.
Continuing a tradition begun with our first performance of Plain and Fancy in 1987 through The Baker’s Wife, every future production will be presented with the care of the storyteller, the humor of mankind, the joy of community, and the music of the ages under the guiding light of Joseph Stein. Mr. Stein, this is now your stage. As you have seen, you will be looking down on every performance on this stage. You will please let me know whenever brush up rehearsals are in order? To commemorate the records you’ve broken here at Amish Acres, I present you with the broken gobo that shattered in the light fixture on opening night. Your modesty continues to prevail over all else.
Upon our request, Stein recommended Scott Schwartz to direct this newly revised version of The Baker’s Wife. Perhaps no one is more acquainted with the play, its music and message than Scott, with the exception of the show’s creators: Joseph Stein and his father, Stephen Schwartz.
To conclude this second dedication, I wish to present you with the key to the City of Nappanee from Mayor Larry Thompson who has, with these proclamations, declared today Joseph Stein Day in Nappanee. Your return to Amish Acres has enriched our community again and we invite you to keep coming back. I’d like to present you these red roses for your lovely wife Elisa.
Joseph Stein Biography
Joseph Stein (May 30, 1912 – October 24, 2010) was an American playwright best known for writing the books for such musicals as Fiddler on the Roof and Zorba. Born in New York City to Jewish parents, Charles and Emma (Rosenblum) Stein, who had emigrated from Poland, Stein grew up in the Bronx. He graduated in 1935 from CCNY, with a B.S. degree, then earned a Master of Social Work degree from Columbia University in 1937. He began his career as a psychiatric social worker from 1939 until 1945, while writing comedy on the side. A chance encounter with Zero Mostel led him to start writing for radio personalities, including Henry Morgan, Hildegarde, Tallulah Bankhead, Phil Silvers, and Jackie Gleason. He later started working in television for Sid Caesar when he joined the writing team of Your Show of Shows that included Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Larry Gelbart.
Stein made his Broadway debut contributing sketches written with Will Glickman to the 1948 revue Lend an Ear. H7is first book musical came about when Richard Kollmar, husband of columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, asked him to write a musical about Pennsylvania that would promote the state as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! had its namesake. Stein and his writing partner Will Glickman were drawn to the Amish community of Lancaster County. They purchased a 50-cent tourist book filled with Pennsylvania Dutch slang and returned to New York to write Plain and Fancy, which opened on Broadway on January 27, 1955 and ran for 461 performances. It was an "old-fashioned, low-pressure alternative set among the Pennsylvania Dutch. It was pleasant and certainly suitable for the family trade." The musical has been playing at The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana annually since 1986, and surpassed 3,000 performances as of 2010. Richard Pletcher, founder and producer, dedicated The Round Barn Theatre stage to Stein in 1997 during its production of The Baker's Wife. The theatre has produced eight of Stein's musicals since then.
His greatest success came from writing the book for the 1964 musical play Fiddler on the Roof, for which he won three major awards, including two Tonys. He later wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. Stein's additional Broadway credits include Alive and Kicking, Mr. Wonderful, The Body Beautiful, Juno, Take Me Along, Irene, Carmelina, The Baker's Wife, Rags, Enter Laughing and its musical adaptation, So Long, 174th Street. He also wrote the plays Mrs. Gibbons' Boys and Before the Dawn. He co-wrote, with Carl Reiner, the screenplay for the film adaptation of Enter Laughing. The Baker's Wife, written with Stephen Schwartz, was directed by Trevor Nunn in London in 1989 where it was nominated for an Olivier Award for Musical of the Year. Stein wrote the book for the musical All About Us, with a score by Kander and Ebb, based on The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder. It premiered at the Westport Country Playhouse in April 2007.
The York Theatre featured Stein's Take Me Along, Carmelina, and Plain and Fancy as its 2006 "Musicals in Mufti" staged concert series. Stein revised Carmelina reducing it to a cast of seven from its original Broadway version for the York reading. Its 2007 series featured four additional Stein musicals, Zorba, Enter Laughing: The Musical (renamed from So Long, 174th Street), The Body Beautiful, and The Baker's Wife. The readings are presented in concert format in mufti, in street clothes without scenery or props. Under Artistic Director James Morgan, the York Theatre went on to produce a critically acclaimed fully staged off-Broadway production of Enter Laughing: The Musical from September 3, 2008 through October 12, starring Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker. It was nominated for a 2009 Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding revival. A Broadway transfer has been announced.
Victoria Clark starred in the City Center Encores! Production of Marc Blitzstein and Joseph Stein’s Juno. Directed by Garry Hynes, with guest music direction by Eric Stern and musical staging by Warren Carlyle, Juno played for five performances, from March 27 – 30, 2008 at New York City Center and was the first presentation since the original Broadway staging in 1959 to use the original orchestration by Blitzstein, Hershey Kay and Robert Russell Bennett. Juno, with music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein and book by Joseph Stein is based on the 1924 play Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey. It originally opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater on March 9, 1959, starring Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglas and played a total of sixteen performances. Songs include "I Wish It So", "We’re Alive", and "One Kind Word".
Photo Courtesy of Broadwayworld.com
In January 2008, Joseph Stein was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. He was honored by The Dramatists Guild of America with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 and by the York Theatre with the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre in 2007. Joseph Stein was awarded the prestigious York Theatre Company's Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre in 2007 Other organizations to honor Mr. Stein include Writers and Artists for Peace in the Middle East, which gave him a Distinguished Achievement Award; the Walnut Street Theatre, which gave him the Edwin Forrest Award for outstanding contributions to the theatre in 2001; the Alumni Association of City College, which awarded him the Townshend Harris Medal in 2004; and Encompass New Opera Theatre, which honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
See a complete listing of Joseph Stein's work
1965 Tony Award for Best Musical – Fiddler on the Roof
1965 Tony Award for Best Author of a Musical – Fiddler on the Roof
1965 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical – Fiddler on the Roof
1965 Newspaper Guild of New York Page One Award – "Fiddler on the Roof"
1960 Tony Award for Best Musical – Take Me Along
1969 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical – Zorba
1969 Tony Award for Best Musical – Zorba
1971 Writers Guild of America Screen Writers' Annual Award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium – Fiddler on the Roof
1987 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical – Rags