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PHILIP GOES FORTH tells the story of a young man who rebels against his father and a career in the family business and ventures to New York to write plays. He leaves home without his father’s support or blessing, but with this warning: “Don’t imagine, whenever you get tired floating around up there in the clouds that you can drop right back into your place down here;—that isn’t the way things go—”

PHILIP GOES FORTH made its debut at the Biltmore Theater on Broadway in January of 1931. George Kelly’s comedy has some discouraging words for its title character—and this rubbed a few critics the wrong way. The Times’ Brooks Atkinson was especially disgruntled. “To discourage the neophytes about coming to New York and trying their fortune with the arts is to accept considerable responsibility,” Atkinson proclaimed, while missing the point of the play. Kelly was so disappointed by the lack of critical perception that he gave up writing for the theater for the next five years.

Our 2013 production—the play’s first in 82 years—finally garnered the critical perception it deserves. “It’s a gem,” hailed Terry Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, “mounted with the company’s accustomed skill and resourcefulness.”1 Joe Dziemianowicz of The New York Daily News wrote “PHILIP GOES FORTHisn’t about shattering dreams of aspiring writers, but about knowing who you are, what you’re not and what really matters. All three of those themes are worth writing home about.”2

Pulitzer Prize-winner George Kelly wrote ten full-length plays during a distinguished career in the New York theatre. Kelly crafted indelible American types in his classic “plays of character” The Torch Bearers, The Show-Off, and Craig’s Wife, as well as underappreciated
works like Philip Goes Forth.

George Edward Kelly was born on January 16th, 1887 in Schuykill Falls, Pennsylvania, the eighth of ten children born to the remarkable Irish-Catholic family known as the “Philadelphia Kellys.” George’s siblings included Walter C. Kelly, a vaudevillian famous for his dialect comedy as “The Virginia Judge.” After early training as a draftsman,
the shy but stage-struck George followed Walter into the theatre, where, beginning in 1911, he acted in touring companies and vaudeville sketches. After serving in France during World War I, Kelly began to write his own one-act plays for the Keith-Orpheum circuit, where he found success with his comedies Finders Keepers (1916)
and The Flattering Word (1918), the first of numerous plays with theatrical subjects.

The early 1920s lifted Kelly to the height of popular and critical acclaim, with plays that he both wrote and directed. While 1922’s The Torch Bearers convulsed audiences with its “travesty on the amateur actor,” 1924’s The Show-Off was hailed as a masterwork by many critics, including Heywood Broun, who called it “the best
comedy which has yet been written by an American.” Although Kelly decried the Twenties as “The Vulgar Age,” the era’s go-getting business spirit satirically fueled The Show-Off, whose title character Aubrey Piper became a synonym for a blustering braggart. Kelly created another American archetype in the obsessive, destructive housewife of his next play, the 1925 psychological drama Craig’s Wife, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize. By this time, notes Foster Hirsch, “a new play (by Kelly) was as keenly anticipated as a new one by Eugene O’Neill.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout recently observed (in reviewing the Westport Country Playhouse’s June 2013 revival of The Show-Off), “If any of Mr. Kelly’s other plays….are as good as this, then he’s definitely ripe for revaluation.” Indeed, the twenty-first century seems poised, once again, to bear the torch for this theatrical master. Mint Theater is thrilled to allow George Kelly’s PHILIP to crusade once more—presenting the play’s first New York revival in 82 years.

By Maya Cantu



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  • Cliff Bemis
  • Teddy Bergman
  • Bernardo Cubría
  • Jennifer Harmon / Kathryn Kates
  • Carole Healey
  • Christine Toy Johnson
  • Natalie Kuhn
  • Brian Keith MacDonald
  • Jennifer McVey
  • Rachel Moulton


  • Sets Steven C. Kemp
  • Costumes Carisa Kelly
  • Lights Christian DeAngelis
  • Sound Toby Algya
  • Props Joshua Yocom
  • Casting Judy Bowman
  • Production Manager Sherri Kotimsky
  • Production Stage Manager Michael Block
  • Assistant Stage Manager Laura Kathryne Gomez
  • Illustration Stefano Imbert
  • Graphics Hey Jude Design, Inc.
  • Advertising The Pekoe Group
  • Press David Gersten & Associates
  • Assistant Production Manager Wayne Yeager
  • Assistant Costume Designer Begonia Berges
  • Assistant Lighting Designer/Light Board Programmer Chris D’Angelo
  • Board Operator Adam Schofield-Bodt
  • Wardrobe Supervisor Ryan Hanson / Ray Kiely
  • Production Assistant Aldora Neal
  • Deck Crew Nicole Madar / Kathryn Armstrong /
    Andrew Hendrick
  • Set Construction Carlo Adinolfi


Foster Hirsch, George Kelly biographer and Professor of Film at Brooklyn College, will discuss the playwright, his life and work. He is the author of sixteen books on subjects related to theatre and movies. A native of California, Hirsch received his B.A. from Stanford University, and holds M.F.A, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University. Hirsch joined the English Department of Brooklyn College in 1967, and in 1973 became one of the first professors to join the school’s newly established Film Department.

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PHILIP GOES FORTH depicts the life of a few young artists living in a rooming house in New York in the 1930’s. Dr. Caldwell will help to put the play into a social and historical context. He is the author ofNew York Night: The Mystique and Its History (2005). Other books by Caldwell include: The Prose of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke (1987); The Last Crusade: America’s War on Consumption, 1862-1954 (1988), Saranac Lake: Pioneer Health Resort (1993), A Short History of Rudeness: Manners, Morals, and Misbehavior in Modern America (1999)

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The 1920s saw George Kelly’s greatest success as a playwright. His three most popular plays—The Torchbearers (1922), The Show-Off (1924) and the Pulitzer Prize winning Craig’s Wife (1925) were all financial and critical triumphs of the era. Professor Kolb will discuss Kelly’s signifi cant place in the American theater at this time. A teacher of theatre history and dramatic literature since 1969, Kolb is co-editor (with Arthur Gewirtz) of Experimenters, Rebels, and Disparate Voices: The Theatre of the 1920s Celebrates American Diversity (2003) and Art, Glitter, and Glitz: Mainstream Playwrights and Popular Theatre in 1920s America (2004).


George Kelly began his career in vaudeville as an actor and sketch writer. His brother—Walter C. Kelly—was also famous on the circuit for his dialect comedy as “The Virginia Judge.” Trav S.D. will discuss the Kelly brothers’ place in the famous American tradition of vaudeville. Performer, writer and producer Trav S.D. is the author of over 100 plays, 300 published articles, and two books. He has contributed to The New York Times, American Theater, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, The Villager, Downtown Express, Chelsea Now, and many others. He has also presented many of New York’s top variety acts through his American Vaudeville Theatre.