This Wonderful Life Study Guide

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Study guide for the stage adaptation of the movie "its a wonderful life" by Steve Murray

Transcript of This Wonderful Life Study Guide

  • For more information contact Karen Altree Piemme, Director of Outreach, 408.367.7291

    By Steve MurrayBy Steve Murray

    Conceived by Mark SetlockConceived by Mark Setlock Directed by Kirsten BrandtDirected by Kirsten Brandt

    A Study Guide Presented by

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    By Steve MurrayBy Steve Murray Conceived by Mark SetlockConceived by Mark Setlock

    Directed by Kirsten BrandtDirected by Kirsten Brandt

    The award-winning playwright Steve Murray has created a delightfully clever stage adaptation of the perennially popular holiday film, Its a Won-derful Life. This one-man tour de force delivers a witty and moving story that is sure to capture your heart and captivate your spirit. Theres the family man George Bailey; evil and miserly Mr. Potter; Clarence, the dotty angel in waiting; devoted Mary, and Zuzu with her petals. But we cant for-get the image of a man standing alone on a bridge

    on Christmas Eve...the story of how he got there, and how he found his way back home. This Wonderful Life reminds us of the power of per-spective, friendship and family...the perfect holiday gifts.

    SUPERBLY ADAPTED FROM THE MOST IRRESISTIBLE AND ENTERTAINING WHAT IF STORY OF ALL TIME.

    Kirsten Brandt is the Associate Artistic Director at San Jose Rep. Prior to joining the Rep, Brandt was the Artistic Director of Sledgehammer Theatre from 1999-2005 where she mounted 23 productions, includ-ing nine world premieres and five west coast premieres. During her tenure, she directed 15 productions including: A Dream Play, Macbeth, A Knife in the Heart, Richard III, Furious Blood, Sweet Charity (Backstage West Garland Award), she wrote and directed The Franken-stein Project and NU: Parts I & III. Her play Berzerkergang received a KPBS Patte Award for outstanding production in 2003. Other credits include: Hold Please, Christmas on Mars, Lobby Hero and The Intelli-gent Design of Jenny Chow (San Diego Critics Circle Award) for The Old Globe; A Christmas Carol 1941 for San Diego Rep; The Burning Deck for La Jolla Playhouse; Bird and the Waterfall in Vancouver BC; and The Laramie Project for Sierra Rep. Ms. Brandt has directed for UCSDs MFA program, UCSC, The Fritz, Diversionary Theatre, Play-wrights Project, New Dramatists, NYU Tisch School of Drama and ASK Theatre Projects. She studied playwrighting at the University of Bir-mingham, England and directing at UC San Diego and has trained with the SITI Company. She is the recipient of the San Diego Critics Circle Award for Creative Achievement in 2003.

    TTTABLEABLEABLE OFOFOF C C CONTENTSONTENTSONTENTS

    SYNOPSIS & DIRECTION.2 ITS CHRISTMAS TIME AGAIN..3 HISTORY...4 FILM PREMIERE..5 CHRONOLOGY...6 CAST LIST & ARTISTS.7 GUARDIAN ANGELS...8 INTERNATIONAL HOLIDAYS...9-10 HOLIDAY BLUES..11 CHRISTMAS TRADITION12 WHO IS ST. NICK?...........13 TWAS THE NIGHT...14 TRADITION IN SAN JOSE15 PRE-SHOW QUESTIONS16 POST-SHOW QUESTIONS..17 FURTHER RESEARCH..18

    AAABOUTBOUTBOUT THETHETHE D D DIRECTORIRECTORIRECTOR

    SSSYNOPSISYNOPSISYNOPSIS

    With the exception of the artwork, all photos are screen-shots from the film, Its a Wonderful Life.

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    Christmas time means many different things to many different people. We associate the holiday season with giving, family and good cheer. So when did the ritual of watching the same Christmas movies each year get woven into tradition? Every holiday season Frank Capras classic Its a Wonderful Life plays over and over again on network television, and each

    year many Americans make it a prior-ity to re-live George Baileys personal journey in discovering the sweetness of what is important in life. Holiday television programs and movies could be compared to the tradition of sing-ing the same Christmas carols each year: there is a certain magic those traditional melodies bring to each holiday season, which is what Christ-mas is all about anyway. Its the time of year when hearts grow bigger, we abandon selfish needs and wake up to that Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, or that other thing you simply had to have that year. For others it may not be so much

    about the material items, but rather a time for re-arranging lifes priorities. Whether you relate to the Grinchs heart that is two sizes too small, Ebenezer

    Scrooge or Ralphie from A Christmas Story, Christmas touches each and every one of us through its magic. With each year that passes we find new personal meanings for our Christmas tradition, which may be why Its a Wonderful Life, and our other holiday favorites, never seem to get old.

    George Bailey (James Stewart), Mary Bailey (Donna Reed) and their youngest child Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes).

    IIITSTSTS C C CHRISTMASHRISTMASHRISTMAS T T TIMEIMEIME A A AGAINGAINGAIN.........

    Ralphie from A Christmas Story.

    IT'S CHRISTMAS EVE, IT'S THE ONE NIGHT OF THE YEAR WHERE WE ALL ACT A LITTLE NICER, WE SMILE A LITTLE EAS-

    IER, WE CHEER A LITTLE MORE...FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS OUT OF THE WHOLE YEAR WE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT WE ALWAYS

    HOPED WE WOULD BE. IT'S A MIRACLE, IT'S REALLY SORT OF A MIRACLE, BECAUSE IT HAPPENS EVERY CHRISTMAS EVE

    ---BBBILLILLILL M M MURRAYURRAYURRAY, , , SSSCROOGEDCROOGEDCROOGED

    TTTRADITIONALRADITIONALRADITIONAL ANDANDAND CCCONTEMPORARYONTEMPORARYONTEMPORARY HHHOLIDAYOLIDAYOLIDAY F F FILMSILMSILMS

    Its a Wonderful LifeIts a Wonderful LifeIts a Wonderful Life

    How the Grinch Stole How the Grinch Stole How the Grinch Stole ChristmasChristmasChristmas

    A Charlie Brown A Charlie Brown A Charlie Brown ChristmasChristmasChristmas

    Santa Claus is Santa Claus is Santa Claus is Comin to TownComin to TownComin to Town

    Rudolph the Red Rudolph the Red Rudolph the Red Nosed ReindeerNosed ReindeerNosed Reindeer

    Frosty the SnowmanFrosty the SnowmanFrosty the Snowman The Year Without a The Year Without a The Year Without a

    Santa ClausSanta ClausSanta Claus PrancerPrancerPrancer

    The Little Drummer The Little Drummer The Little Drummer BoyBoyBoy

    The Nightmare The Nightmare The Nightmare Before Christmas Before Christmas Before Christmas

    A Christmas StoryA Christmas StoryA Christmas Story ScroogedScroogedScrooged

    Miracle on 34th Miracle on 34th Miracle on 34th StreetStreetStreet

    The Santa Clause The Santa Clause The Santa Clause (I, II & III)(I, II & III)(I, II & III)

    ElfElfElf A Christmas CarolA Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol

    Love, ActuallyLove, ActuallyLove, Actually Fred ClausFred ClausFred Claus

    RRREMEMBEREMEMBEREMEMBER, , , IFIFIF C C CHRISTMASHRISTMASHRISTMAS ISNISNISN'''TTT FOUNDFOUNDFOUND INININ YOURYOURYOUR HEARTHEARTHEART, , , YOUYOUYOU WONWONWON'''TTT FINDFINDFIND ITITIT UN-UN-UN-DERDERDER AAA TREETREETREE." ." ." ------ C C CHARLOTTEHARLOTTEHARLOTTE C C CARPENTERARPENTERARPENTER

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    TTTHEHEHE H H HISTORYISTORYISTORY OFOFOF IIITTTSSS AAA W W WONDERFULONDERFULONDERFUL L L LIFEIFEIFE

    Perhaps one of the most recognizable holiday films, Its a Wonderful Life has captivated audiences for generations. Voted the #1 Inspirational Film of All Time by the American Film Institute, Its a Wonderful Life is a staple in American cinema. The story of how Its a Wonderful Life came to be is, in and of itself, a Hollywood tale In 1943, Philip Van Doren Stern, an author and Civil War historian, printed 200 copies of a short story and sent it to all of his friends as a Christmas card. The story was called The Greatest Gift, and Van Doren Stern had spent the year attempting to get it published to no avail. The story is about a bank clerk who is about to throw away his life, or his greatest gift, by committing suicide, when he is visited by a strange man who shows him what life would be like if he had never been born. One of the Christmas card copies found its way into the hands of Cary Grants agents who saw it as a vehicle for the star. RKO pur-chased the rights to the story for $10,000 and began crafting it for Grant. But RKO had trouble turning the story into an appro-priate film treatment - even with talented writers like Clifford Odets and Dalton Trumbo writ-ing versions. In 1945, director, writer, pro-ducer Frank Capra had just re-turned from World War II. His desire to pursue ar-tistic independence from the major studios led him to form Liberty Pictures. Capra was looking for an ideal property for his first film; The Greatest Gift was it. RKO was so happy to unload the property to Capra, who bought it for $10,000, that they threw in the failed screenplays for free. Capra brought the hus-band and wife writing team of Albert Hackett and

    Frances Goodrich on board, and together they crafted what would be called Its A Wonderful Life. For the lead, Capra had only one man in mind to play George Bailey: James Stewart. The Capra-Stewart relationship was solid prior to the war with You Cant Take it With You and Mr. Smith Goes to Wash-ington already under their belts. Stewart had been away from the camera for a long time and was a bit nervous about his abilities. He was serving in WWII

    as a pilot where he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in combat and was also awarded the Croix de Guerre. Stewart told re-porters, Id decided some time be-fore coming back to Hollywood that if I could, Id make my first picture with Capra. Capra would amass an amazing ar-ray of Hollywood talent: Lionel Bar-rymore as Mr. Potter, Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy, Henry Travers as Clarence, Samuel Hinds as Mr. Bailey, Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Bai-ley, and H.B. Warner as Mr. Gower. The question remained as to who wou