Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Mystery of George Spelvin

I received a call from a longtime patron of ours the other day, a representative of George Spelvin. She wanted to renew his subscription for the upcoming 2011-12 season.

Now, this probably doesn’t seem odd, but I was in the middle of reading a scene, from Strike Up the Band, between George Spelvin and Horace J. Fletcher.

“What an odd coincidence,” I thought.

George Spelvin
Do you know who George Spelvin is? He is a man of particular mystery in the Kaufman script. And here he has a representative calling on his behalf, somewhat mysterious in and of itself.

I began to do a little digging (not hard with Google and Wikipedia) and discovered what many of you may already know, but just in case you don’t….

George Spelvin is 125 years old. He has been in more plays than any other actor in history. Most importantly… he doesn’t exist.

It is a pseudonym used in the theatre (mostly American) for a number of reasons, but generally always to stand in for the name of an actor.
Spelvin has stood in for actors playing dual roles; union actors wishing to remain anonymous when performing in non-union theaters; and often when there is literally no actor at all. For instance, when the director doesn’t want the audience to know a character will not actually appear on stage, such as in a mystery or melodrama. I’m sure there has been a production or two of Harvey, where Harvey is played by George Spelvin.

He has also appeared as the name of a character in Strike Up the Band, Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare, in an episode of Fibber McGee and Molly, and the I Love Lucy episode, “Don Juan is Shelved.”

Benjamin Knoll
Spelvin comes from an illustrious family that also includes, Alan Smithee (cousin according to the IMDB), and his English relatives Walter Plinge and David Agnew. Can you tell me who these gentlemen are?

Do you have any favorite pseudonyms? Do you have a pseudonym that you have ever used?

Oh, and to find out why our George Spelvin, played by the devilishly charming Benjamin Knoll, is so mysterious, come to the Eureka Theatre April 6-24 for George & Ira Gershwin and George S. Kaufman’s Strike Up the Band. For tickets click here or call (415) 255 -8207.

1 comment:

Theotoks said...

I have heard that IRS agents take pseudonyms to keep anonymity and intimidate the public. "Mr. Hammer," for example. When I got a call one day for a minor SS# issue, the guy said his name was "Mr. Hyde."