Stephenson Tales

Lucy Chase Chastises a Star

There are still alive some who habitually address me as "JB."

The reason for that is, not only that it is the initials of my name, it was the title of a VERY popular verse drama in a modern setting of the Book of Job, by Archibald Macleish. It opened in New York in 1958 and had a run of 364 performances.

Lucy Chase and I often tried to get to New York to "see the shows," and in the spring of our first year at Kansas State University, Lucy Chase took off from Manhattan Kansas to do just that, and one of the plays she saw was JB. The play was a tour de force for the two leading actors: Raymond Massey and Christopher Plummer. In order that they might keep their performances fresh, they often exchanged roles: the character of God (Zuss) and the Devil (Nickles)!

On the night that Lucy Chase saw the show, Plummer was playing Nickles and Massey was playing Zuss. During one of their heated conversations, Plummer "cue-bit" Zuss's line and talked over the last couple of words of the cue speech. The result was that the end of Zuss' speech and the beginning of Nickles' speech were delivered simultaneusly and no one could understand what had been said. Lucy Chase asked (sotto voce) her next-seat neighbors on both sides what had been said--and no one knew.

After the performance she went to the stage door where a lot of giggly girls were waiting for the stars to come out to get their autographs. Eventually Plummer strode out ready to receive the acclaims of the gathered crowd. Lucy Chase held back until all the gasping girls had their prized autographs. As she approached, he held out his hand for the inevitable paper and pencil, but she said,

"I didn't come back for your autograph, Mr. Plummer. My husband teaches acting and theatre courses at Kansas State University--I have a suggestion for you."

The Great Man looked startled and slightly piqued. "Yes?"

"You remember the scene in which"...and she described to the moment to recall it to his mind...

"Of course."

"Well you cue-bit Zuss's speech and no one could understand what was said."

Christopher PlummerHe looked at her with loathing. "I did NOT."

"Pardon me, but you did. I checked with the people on both sides of me and no one had understood what had been said."


I am sure he wanted to scalp her or at least put a devilish curse on her for her audacity. He looked at her for long minute and finally said,

"Very well! Henceforth, I will give it TWO BEATS!" and strode off into the night.

I'll bet he never came to that spot in the script again without remembering that smart-mouthed woman from Kansas!

Written August 15, 2010, © Jim Bob Stephenson 2010

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