In Upper Ely Place, Dublin, May of 1902…

…writer George Moore, 50, is excited about the upcoming production of The Tinker and the Fairy, a play based on Irish folk tales by his new friend, founder of the Gaelic League, Douglas Hyde, 42.

Moore is the one who suggested staging it in his own back garden, as a one-off special event, with Hyde playing the lead role of the Tinker, followed by a posh, invitation-only reception for 300 special guests,

Upper Ely Place, Dublin

Upper Ely Place, Dublin

As Moore had hoped, this is turning in to THE event of the Dublin social season—and it is all his baby. He and Hyde agreed on a translator to produce an English version of the play, from the original Irish. But it was Moore who edited it, made major changes in the script, and has directed the whole production. Hyde might have gotten tired of his constant letters of instruction, but even he would have to admit that the play is stronger.

Moore’s purpose is to bring his native Irish culture into the mainstream by working these folk stories from the people into plays by Hyde and his other friends in the Irish National Theatre Society. And everyone in Ireland will know that it is all because of him, Moore, and his efforts.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

George Moore, charcoal drawing

George Moore, charcoal drawing

In Dublin, in the summer of 1904…

Lady Augusta Gregory, 52, is critically watching the rehearsal of A Pot of Broth, a little comedy she wrote a few years ago with William Butler Yeats, 39, for their theatre.

The actors are doing well. But Yeats is driving them nuts. As one of the theatre’s staff related later,

Lady Gregory was the very opposite to…Yeats in sitting quietly and giving direction in quiet, almost apologetic tones”

Augusta is thinking that, after the rehearsal, she’ll invite everyone over to her room at the nearby Nassau Hotel to re-hash the performances and make suggestions.

Earlier this evening she’d had dinner with Yeats and John Quinn, 34, the handsome Irish-American lawyer from New York. He’s been coming over to Ireland in the summers to uncover his Irish roots, and spending more time with her here in Dublin and at her western Ireland home, Coole Park. Quinn has been talking to one of the other theatre principals, Douglas Hyde, 44, about arranging an American lecture tour to raise funds for Hyde’s Gaelic League..

But tomorrow, Quinn will be off to London and Augusta will head back to Coole. She’s thinking it would be great to bring the theatre over to New York for a tour sometime soon.

Lady Augusta Gregory, c. 1904

Lady Augusta Gregory, c. 1904

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Craughwell, County Galway, August 31, 1902…

…everyone is enjoying the Raftery feis.

Poet William Butler Yeats, 37, is there with his father and brother, both painters, to support his friend Lady Augusta Gregory, 50, who has been planning this event for the past two years.

Yeats in 1903

Yeats in 1903

In her research into Irish folklore, Augusta had discovered Raftery, the legendary 18th century blind Gaelic poet. Upset to learn that his grave here in Craughwell was unmarked, she organized a ceremony a few years ago to set up a stone cross. Now that she’s bought a real headstone, a whole festival is being held to celebrate it.

There’s quite a crowd. Have they come to honor Raftery or for the singing, dancing, flute playing and prizes? Yeats has come so as not to disappoint Augusta.

Ever the hostess, Lady Gregory is inviting some of the festival goers over to hers, nearby Coole Park, for some play-reading. Mostly those involved in their Irish theatre project, such as Yeats and Gaelic League president Douglas Hyde, 42. And an American tourist she’s been chatting up, lawyer John Quinn, 32, who is on his first trip to Ireland, searching for his roots.

Raftery's grave

Raftery’s grave

Ninety years later, in August of 1992, I visited Ireland and went to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Dublin for Irish music and dancing. Met my husband, Tony Dixon. To all Irish-Americans seeking your roots in Ireland, beware…

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In the west of Ireland, outside Gort, Summer, 1897…

…poet William Butler Yeats, just turned 32, traveling with a friend, visits a mutual acquaintance, amateur playwright Edward Martyn, 38, at the Martyn family home, Tullira.

Tullira today, in private hands

Tullira today, in private hands

Lady Augusta Gregory, 45, a friend of Edward who lives a few miles away, stops by.

Willie and Augusta [OMG! That’s our cats!] have met before in her London apartment where, as wife of an MP, she held salons for the Irish Protestants living there. But this is the first time the two have had a chance to get to know each other.

To continue the conversation, Augusta invites Willie and Edward over to hers, the nearby Coole Park, family home of her late husband, MP Sir William Gregory.

Coole House, which is no longer standing, located in Coole Park which is open to the public.

Coole House, which is no longer standing, located in Coole Park which is open to the public.

As Lady Gregory writes later:

Though I had never been at all interested in theatres, our talk turned on plays…I said it was a pity we had no Irish theatre where such plays [as Martyn’s] could be given. Mr. Yeats said that it had always been a dream of his, but he had of late thought it an impossible one, for it could not at first pay its way, and there was no money to be found for such a thing in Ireland …We went on talking about it, and things seemed to grow possible as we talked, and before the end of the afternoon we had made our plan.”

As Yeats marches around the drawing room dictating, Lady Gregory types, and they draft letters to send to her wealthy and influential friends, asking for money to start their theatre.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Saint-Nazaire, Brittany, late June, 1917…

…newlywed New Yorkers Heywood Broun, 28, and Ruth Hale, 30, have just arrived on their honeymoon. He’s reporting on the war for the New York Tribune, and she’s covering it for the Chicago Tribune. They have landed with the first convoy of American troops.

Broun manages to get a great quote from the first soldier off the ship:

Do they allow enlisted men in the saloons in this town?”

But the big brass are sitting on it. Journalists aren’t allowed to report any negative news or comments from the war. Heywood is working out how to make a case to the boss that his interview adds human interest.

Hale wrote for the New York Times and Vogue back in New York; in order to follow her new husband to the front, she wangled this post from the Chicago Trib. But she has made it clear to them—and Broun—that she is Ruth Hale. The only ‘Mrs. Broun’ who will ever be in their household will be the dog.

They’re both looking forward to the adventure of war reporting, and moving on to Paris, but want to start a family. Well, Broun does. Hale has told him, in no uncertain terms, one. Just one.

Journalist Ruth Hale

Journalist Ruth Hale

Journalist Heywood Broun

Journalist Heywood Broun

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Manhattan in mid-summer of 1915…

…New York Tribune writer FPA [Franklin P. Adams, 33] is searching for material for his daily column, “The Conning Tower.”

It appears that his loyal readers stuck with him after he got kicked off The Evening Mail last year—after a decade of building up one of the largest audiences in New York–when it was bought by a pro-German syndicate. The new owners managed to get rid of most of their Jewish writers, including one of FPA’s proteges, George S Kaufman, 25. So he’d brought Kaufman with him to the Trib.

Now FPA’s thinking of giving one of his other young writer friends a mention, Heywood Broun, 27. He has just moved from sports reporter to drama critic at the Trib. And has told FPA that he’s fallen madly in love with a Russian ballerina, Lydia Lopokova, 23, and is determined to marry her. FPA writes for tomorrow’s issue,

Heywood Broun, the critic, I hear hath become engaged to Mistress Lydia Lopokova, the pretty play actress and dancer. He did introduce her to me last night and she seemed a merry elf.’

Lydia Lopokova, c. 1915

Lydia Lopokova, c. 1915

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Manhattan, November, 1918…

…novice playwright George S Kaufman, born 29 years ago in Pittsburgh, PA, is thrilled to see a good review of his Broadway debut play, Some One in the House, in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine.

Unfortunately, the play closed last month. After only 32 performances.

Kaufman and his collaborator had written it as a melodrama, based on a magazine story. But their first venture into legitimate theatre had the misfortune to premier during the outbreak of the flu epidemic in New York, severely limiting the number of people going out for the evening. The authorities were advising people to stay away from large groups. So Kaufman had taken an ad,

Avoid the Crowds…See Some One in the House.’

And now, here is a good review. In Vanity Fair, no less…

Somehow, I have heard very little excitement about Some One in the House. It slipped unobtrusively into the Knickerbocker Theatre…All I knew about it was what I could glean from the billboards—that it was a “melodramatic comedy”—whatever that might be…And then I went to see the thing, they completely sold me on it. It wasn’t so much the melodramatic part that intrigued me…No, it’s the comedy that got me. It’s the best time I have had in, lo, these many weeks—ever since the current theatrical season opened, to be perfectly accurate. And the thing is done so perfectly, too….Lynn Fontanne [30], in a part that is a perfect dramatization of [New York columnist FPA’s, 36, character Dulcinea, does] the best bits of characterization that have been seen in these parts in many a day…You could go right down the cast that way and never find an error.’

Kaufman is encouraged. Vanity Fair is known for its usually acerbic reviews, by the only woman theatre critic in New York City, Dorothy Parker, 25. He decides he’d like to meet her some day and thank her.

Vanity Fair, November 1918

Vanity Fair, November 1918

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In San Francisco, August 17, 1915…

Call & Post reporter Harold Ross, 22, is reading about the lynching of Jewish businessman Leo Frank, 31, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ross had covered the story of Frank’s trial back at the Atlanta Journal in the hot summer of 1913. The Journal was in fierce competition with the Atlanta Georgian, owned by the Hearst syndicate.

But Ross had managed to be with Frank when the police took him to the morgue to see the body of the victim, one of his employees, 14-year old Mary Phagan, and he had interviewed the accused afterwards. Ross wrote later,

Without making the assertion that Frank is innocent, it may be said that his conduct from the outset was that of an innocent man.

After Frank was convicted, Ross had moved on to New York City, back home to Salt Lake City, and then back here to San Francisco where he is in his old job at Hearst’s Call & Post.  He has also returned to his addictive hobbies of poker and cribbage and is now enjoying driving around in a Stutz roadster.

1915_Stutz_H.C.S._Roadster

This past June, when the outgoing Georgia governor commuted Frank’s sentence, Ross had written an article for the Call, “The Leo M. Frank Case by a Reporter Who Covered the Tragedy”:

If juries convict men upon [such] evidence…and judges uphold them, no man is absolutely safe from paying the penalty for a crime he did not commit…The police did what they always do in Georgia—arrested a Negro…But this time the public—always excitable in the South—was not satisfied…So they arrested more Negros. But this did not stop the clamor…The murder of Mary Phagan must be paid for with blood. And a Negro’s blood would not suffice …There was a strong religious prejudice against [Jewish] Frank. The atmosphere in the courtroom was obviously hostile.

And now, a few months later, a lynching. A group of more than 20 prominent Atlanta businessmen, calling themselves The Knights of Mary Phagan, kidnapped Frank from prison, drove him to a town near where Phagan grew up, and hung him. The crowd that gathered took pictures to turn into postcards. Some popular publications cheered the lynching, saying that the voice of the people had been heard.

The Leo Frank lynching as reported by the Atlanta Journal

The Leo Frank lynching as reported by the Atlanta Journal

Ross can see what is coming. Some members of the lynch mob were also charter members of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan and now would be encouraged to revive their old club…

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

At the Globe Theatre in Manhattan, September 30th, 1916…

Marc Connelly, 25, is angry.

The producers have just announced that The Amber Empress, the operetta for which he has been credited with both books and lyrics, will close tonight. After just 15 performances.

Connelly had been working on the musical since last year, but actually a lot of his hard work hadn’t made it into the final production. The Amber Empress, about a Hollywood movie crew filming in Italy, hadn’t gotten many good reviews; some singled out the score:

The music of the piece…has little to commend it, few of the numbers rising above mediocrity.

When Connelly had first moved to New York from Pittsburgh in 1915, he had worked on some additional lyrics for a musical revue, Hip! Hip! Hooray! and that had run more than eight months at the Hippodrome.

Hippodrome Theatre, New York City, 1915

Hippodrome Theatre, New York City, 1915

But it might be time to reconsider. Connelly’s widowed mom is struggling back in Pennsylvania, and maybe he isn’t cut out for this writing stuff anyway.

He has been selling some short pieces to Life magazine, and the Morning Telegraph just told him that he could have a Broadway column. Besides–he doesn’t have the bus fare back to Pittsburgh.

Connelly decides to stay.

Marc Connelly

Marc Connelly

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Manhattan, in early 1917,…

…they finally caved. New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, just turned 30, has been banned from any theatre owned by the all-powerful Shubert organization for the past two years. Woollcott’s punishment was retaliation for his bad review of the Shubert production, Taking Chances, calling it:

Tedious [and] not vastly amusing…Not much energy and ingenuity…quite absurd and little more than that.

Woollcott had defied the ban by showing up at Shubert theatres with orchestra tickets, ‘flanked on either side by lawyers in silk hats,’ as he later described it. When he was turned away, the Times sued under the New York State Civil Rights Act and won.

Shubert Theatre entrance, 221 West 44th Street, New York City, 1917.

Shubert Theatre entrance, 221 West 44th Street, New York City, 1917.

But on appeal the Court decided that, as Woollcott had not been discriminated against because of his race, color or creed, the Shuberts could legally keep him out of their theatres. Rather than continue to fight in court, the Times took a different approach: They banned the Shuberts. Nothing relating to their productions would appear in their newspaper: No reviews, no mentions in gossip columns, not even their highly lucrative advertising. So there. But now, two years later, the Shuberts have caved. The banning has made Woollcott a celebrity and now they want him back. As he wrote later,

Yes, they threw me out, and now I’m basking in the fierce white light that beats upon the thrown.’

So he and the Times have won. But who cares? Woollcott has decided to enlist in the Army anyway. That’ll show ‘em. Off to Europe!

Alexander Woollcott and Times reporter Jane Grant in France during World War I

Alexander Woollcott and Times reporter Jane Grant in France during World War I

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.