Courting Mae West

The play "COURTING MAE WEST: Sex, Censorship & Secrets" is based on true events during the 1920s when actress MAE WEST was arrested and jailed in New York City for trying to stage two gay plays on Broadway. Maybe she broke the law - - but the LAW couldn't break HER!

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mae West: Diamond's Ira

In 1928, MAE WEST approached Ira Hands to stage her latest play "Diamond Lil" at the Royale Theatre on Broadway.
• • Born on 24 June 1872 in Geneva, Illinois, Ira A. Hards aspired to be an actor. After a round of performances, touring in regional theatres, the personable 29-year-old made his Broadway debut in "Don Caesar's Return" [1901]. He began keeping company with Ina Hammer, who was also getting cast in mainstage productions in Times Square, and the theatre couple married. In between starring in an acclaimed silent film version of "King Lear" and on Broadway, busy Ina Hammer branched out as a stage director and soon took on another role: as a real-life mother with a sweet newborn daughter.
• • In September 1928, as things were winding down in Manhattan for the beauteous Bowery queen Diamond Lil, Ira Hands escorted his daughter Ina Isola Hards down the aisle when she wed Lieutenant Gordon Philip Saville of the Army Air Corps. Things were going well for the versatile theatre pro, who had developed new skills: directing, dialogue coaching, and producing.
• • Booth Tarkington [1869 — 1946] was especially indebted to Ira Hands for directing his Broadway plays "Magnolia" [1923] and "The Intimate Strangers" [1921]. After Mae's arrest in 1927, Booth Tarkington was commisioned to write an article — — and "When Is It Dirt?" [published in Collier's, The National Weekly, on 14 May 1927] discussed the issue of censorship and government intervention.
• • Ira Hards did well enough to maintain a residence in Manhattan and a country house in Connecticut. He found time to establish his own stock company at the Westchester Playhouse in Mount Kisco, New York, and devoted himself to a group called Young Actors' Development.
• • Among the many highlights of his busy three decades long career in the theatre world, Ira Hards directed and staged the original 1927 production of "Dracula" (starring Bela Lugosi) that ran for 261 performances at the Fulton Theatre on West 46th Street. Coincidentally, Hards's Stage Manager for "Dracula" was Carl Reed, who became Mae West's producer for the ill-fated Broadway run of "Pleasure Man" (1928) at the Biltmore Theatre.
• • When Ira Hards died in Norwalk, Connecticut in the month of May — — on 2 May 1938 — — The New York Times referred to the 65-year-old as a retired producer who presented many Broadway plays. His wife Ina passed away 15 years later in 1953.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • The serious-minded comedy "Courting Mae West" by Greenwich Village playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo, set during 1926 1932, explores Mae West's legal woes surrounding "The Drag" and "Sex." Scenes in Act I dramatize Mae's interactions with her drag queen cast, the police raid on 9 February 1927, and the tense aftermath at Jefferson Market Police Court. Scenes in Act II depict Mae's involvement with "Diamond Lil," "Pleasure Man," and her ensuing legal turmoil.
• • Using fictional elements, the text is anchored by true events and has several characters who are based on real people: actress Mae West; Beverly West; Jim Timony; Texas Guinan; a news seller on Sixth Avenue and West 9th Street; and Sara Starr, based on the Greenwich Village flapper Starr Faithfull, whose death inspired John O'Hara's novel "Butterfield 8" and a dozen other books.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" has attracted the attention of a theatre owner and Is now seeking a co-producer for a for-profit production.

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• • Photo: Mae West
• • April 1928 • •

Mae West.

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