A funny and inspiring behind-the-scenes perspective on the bright lights of Broadway.




A Midwestern boy grows up to be the ultimate New York theater insider in this debut memoir.

From his early days in Indiana and Michigan, Poland was fascinated with show business. He started a Judy Garland fan club as a young man in the mid-1950s and even met the legendary star backstage. After a stint in college to appease his parents, the author moved to New York City with a friend, came out as gay, and transitioned from small roles in summer stock to a more lucrative career backstage. Poland began work as both a producer and general manager, booking college tours of the Off Broadway hit The Fantasticks and forming a relationship with New York’s avant-garde Café La MaMa troupe. This work, essential to any professional production, was occasionally glamorous—spending evenings at Studio 54 and rubbing shoulders with theatrical legends like Lucille Lortel and Sam Shepard—but always demanding, requiring late nights of crunching numbers, securing funding, and ensuring each show got the press coverage it deserved. As the edgy theater of the ’60s gave way to the more sanitized Broadway of the early aughts, Poland battled with the changing performance scene and his own alcoholism. He watched friends perish during the AIDS crisis of the ’80s and introduced the scrappy dynamic of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company to a nationwide audience and the Tony Awards by bringing its adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to the Great White Way. Though the author retired in 2007, his memories are fresh and his voice as a writer is vivid, with amusing anecdotes about everyone from Vanessa Redgrave (who had her own unique set of demands while playing Mary in Eugene O’Neill’s classic Long Day’s Journey Into Night) to Hugh Jackman (whose star turn as song-and-dance man Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz took Broadway by storm). But more than a series of dropped names, Poland’s fast-paced memoir offers theater history, an in-depth chronicle of everything from counterculture-driven, low-budget spectacles to today’s star-studded New York stages.

A funny and inspiring behind-the-scenes perspective on the bright lights of Broadway.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73393-450-3

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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