Monday, June 24, 2013


Touring across the US with an interracial theater company in 1961-62 was a constant revelation to me. This was prior to the Civil Rights movement and, coming from Britain, I had no idea how revolutionary this play was. This is from the National Tour of Shelagh Delaney’s “A Taste Of Honey,” produced by David Merrick, directed by Tony Richardson, and starring Hermione Baddeley, Robert Hooks, Harvey Jason and Ed Claymore.  We endured many incidents of racial prejudice as we toured and here is just one that Actors Equity recently chose to print in their monthly newspaper. (From: "Black & White in America" - a memoir)

EQUITY NEWS, March 2013,  Letters to The Editor. Page 12


Dear Editor:
    Congratulation on AEA’s 100 years fighting for Human Rights.
In 1961, when on tour with A Taste of Honey, we played Ford’s Theatre in Baltimore. Robert Hooks told us that, the year before, the cast of the National Tour of A Raisin in the Sun had been refused service at famous seafood restaurant, Millers. After the Wednesday matinee, 14 members of our company went to Millers for dinner. As Robert reached the entrance first, a waiter rushed to the doors and, to stop us from entering, put his arm through the inside handles. Other personnel inside gathered behind him, arms waving “no” and “go away.”
    From within, an official looking man signaled the waiter to remove his arm, then calmly and methodically locked the door from inside. He waved contemptuously to us to go away and disappeared out of our line of vision, taking his lackeys with him.
    Our Equity representative made a full report to Equity, which sent a directive to their entire membership not to patronize Millers. Two years later Millers closed down.
Morna Murphy Martell

Friday, June 14, 2013


Note: This is the show where three actors claim to perform all 37 plays in 90 minutes. It's been a huge success worldwide for 25 years but this was my first viewing. I actually enjoyed the show and, just for fun, wrote a satirical review by Will who, while admitting the audience loved it, was not amused. Turns out a lot of the people who read the review took it literally and thought I was saying the show was bad. I took it off my theater reviews blog but, hoping readers of my personal blog are more sophisticated, moved it here. So, you decide if Shakespeare's being over-sensitive or I'm being pretentious!  MMM


In the year 1987, three young chaps from the brave New World, Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, made too much of a good thing when they played fast and loose with my entire canon. Well, according to the groundlings sitting around me last Sunday, laughing themselves into stitches at this latest revival, they obviously succeeded hilariously. This eyesore has been a roaring success for 26 years - my works a mere 400+ - but I suspect many of their contemporary references, e.g. to the Royal Kardashians, must have been added more recently. 
        Some of it went by so fast it set my teeth on edge and I could barely recognize my own plots or characters. They must think I’m a blinking idiot, then, to believe they covered ALL my comedies at one fell swoop? And I suspect foul play because my Royal Kings, in Battle for the Football Crown, was clearly pandering to an American fool’s paradise. The long and short of it is, they even mocked my tragedies – Othello, Macbeth and, stony-hearted villains, my masterpiece, Hamlet!
        This is written more in sorrow than in anger. However, where was the respect for my genius? How dare they make me a laughing stock, mock my work without rhyme or reason. Do they wish I was dead as a doornail? By Jove, it pierced my soul with regret that I ever left my manuscripts lying about the Globe dressing rooms so those damn actors, John Hemings and Henry Condell, could gather them up and publish them, thereby making them vulnerable to centuries of bad productions, weird concepts and now this bloody-minded farce.
         However, it is high time that I make corrections: I am not bald – I have a fringe. I never plagiarized, I merely improved on a lot of crap. It was bad enough that Richard Burbage and all those actors in The King’s Men fucked up my lines – now I have to suffer this mockery. They say I wrote 37 plays but really, have they never heard of The Two Noble Kinsman? How about The Reign of King Edward the Third? Even better, The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle and A Yorkshire Tragedy.*

The Murder of Julius Caesar!

The actors Lucas Kwan Peterson, Eric Bloom and Mike Niedzwicki, all refuse to stand on ceremony as they bid me good riddance, and the director, Sarah Gurfield, makes a virtue of necessity as she sends me packing

But what the dickens, it is all one to me. I return to my grave. The rest is silence...

Produced By Bart Petty for Santa Monica Repertory Theater, At The Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, through June 30.
Tickets: (213) 268-1454 or

*For verification and enlightment go to and my illustrious friend Paul Sugarman, of The Instant Shakespeare Company, will fill you in on further discoveries.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Some stars show you the way.  Muhammad Ali and a rising star, Phoenix, Arizona



I first saw this Louis Vuitton ad on the back of the New Yorker in October, 2012, and, after weeks of being horrified by it, I mailed it to the publisher with a scribbled note of protest. Then it showed up in Vanity Fair (yeah, I subscribe to both) and I wrote to them on Guy Fawkes Day. Here is the text of my letter to Vanity Fair.

November 5, 2012

To the Editor:

The full page ad, with Muhammad Ali, on page 77 of the October issue is very disturbing. To see a brain damaged ex-boxer smiling as he observes a child about to follow in his footsteps is horrible. This is child abuse. What it has to do with luggage escapes me. I protested when this ad ran on the back cover of The New Yorker for 5 weeks. Now it turns up in your magazine. Please ask the ad agency for Louis Vuitton to find a better way to feature "the greatest" (who was as beautiful as this child once) without applauding the cruel sport that I blame for his present condition.


Morna Murphy Martell
Formerly NY Bureau Chief and Broadway Critic
for The Hollywood Reporter

Even though I never received a reply, I'm happy to report the ad no longer runs in either of these magazines.


     This was an article in a weekly Los Angeles magazine I love to read, The Jewish Journal, that has a fair and many-sided editorial stance on today's controversial topics.

     After they printed a laudatory article on this show, I sent them the following letter and they printed it in their next issue.

     Okay, I know everyone who's seen Book of Mormon loved it but, being an opinionated Brit, here's what I thought. It's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Tribe Media Corp.
3580 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1510
Los Angeles, CA 90010

LETTERS: To The Editor
(published September 20, 2012)

An Insult to Mormons
    I disagree with actor Jared Gertner’s comment that “The Book of Mormon” doesn't disrespect any religion. (“Actor Feeds Off ‘Mormon’s’ Racy Humor” Sept. 7). When a badly costumed Prophet Moroni gives the sacred text to a gormless Joseph Smith, it mocks the Mormon religion.  I forgave the show when the two young Mormon's set off on their mission - they are a charming Duo - until they landed in a poor African village.  Here was the worst stereotype of the vacuous black savages of that continent, and we were supposed to find them funny! (e.g., Villager: "I have maggots in my scrotum." Elder Price: "Maybe you should see a doctor about that.”  Villager: "I am the doctor!)." 
    In the article, Naomi Pfefferman writes, "One of the musicals most hilarious (and scandalous) moments comes when a tribesman... declares that he's off to copulate with an infant to cure his AIDS.”  I also didn’t find the big musical number, "Hasa Diga Eebowai” (“Fuck You, God") amusing, even though the audience roared. 
    If this is, to quote The New York Times, "the best musical of this century," and is part of a plan to bring young audiences to Broadway, good luck to them.  Gertner says, "People shriek and gasp and laugh because it’s affecting them in such a visceral way.  But there's so much joy behind it."  Guess I missed the joy part as I fled at intermission. 
Morna Murphy Martell