Blog Archives

William Hanley, Playwright and TV Writer, Dies at 80


William Hanley, who received critical acclaim as a Broadway and Off Broadway playwright in the 1960s and who later won Emmys for television scripts, died on May 25 at his home in Ridgefield, Conn. He was 80.

The cause was complications of a fall, his daughter Nell Hanley said.

“Remember the name William Hanley,” Howard Taubman wrote in The New York Times in 1962, declaring Mr. Hanley “an uncommonly gifted writer.”

Mr. Taubman was reviewing two Off Broadway one-act plays by the playwright: “Whisper Into My Good Ear,” a portrait of two old men who share their loneliness living in a fleabag hotel and plan to commit suicide together; and “Mrs. Dally Has a Lover,” about a married woman and her romance with a teenager.

“His style is lean and laconic, shading almost shyly and unexpectedly into tenderness and poetry,” Mr. Taubman wrote. “His perception of character is fresh and individual.”

Those plays would earn a Drama Desk Award for Mr. Hanley in 1963. A year later his “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” opened on Broadway. Set in a shabby luncheonette in a desolate factory district in Brooklyn, “Slow Dance” tells of three strangers who bare their wounds over several hours: the storekeeper, who is a non-Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany; a schizophrenic black youth, who has an I.Q. of 187; and a teenage girl, who is searching for an abortionist.

“Slow Dance on the Killing Ground,” The New York Journal-American wrote in a profile of Mr. Hanley, “has been received by critics with the enthusiasm usually reserved for a Mary Martin musical.” But the accolades, and a Tony nomination, did not provide commercial success. “Slow Dance” ran for 88 performances; the Off Broadway plays had closed within a month.

– NY Times

The Tonys are tomorrow night and I’m curious…

… about which of the songs in “The Book of Mormon are safe enough to present as the sample from the best nominated Musicals. Mormon is up for 14 Tonys, and although it probably won’t win them all, as the Drama Desk Awards showed last week, it is sure to take SOMETHING home.

I’ve been playing the album over and over on my iPhone and I think the piece that stands the best chance is the opening number “Hello,” yet that doesn’t show the experience in Uganda which makes up the body of the work. The songs in Uganda pose the biggest problems for television which cannot easily take “fuck you, God” or any and all the messages about the clitoris, or even the closing scene, which is a variation on “Hello” also full of the F word.

I must sat, I love the score and the story, however. I wish I was in New York so I could go see it (where apparently, it is frequently sold out.) It’s going to be a long time, if ever, before this gets to the Community Theatre market.

Drama Desk Awards Announced…

From Stage Directions magazine:

Outstanding Play: War Horse by Nick Stafford
Outstanding Musical: The Book of Mormon
Outstanding Revival of a Play: The Normal Heart
Outstanding Revival of a Musical:    Anything Goes
Outstanding Actor in a Play Bobby Cannavale (The Motherf**ker With the Hat)
Outstanding Actress in a Play: Frances McDormand (Good People)
Outstanding Actor in a Musical: Norbert Leo Butz  (Catch Me If You Can)
Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Sutton Foster (Anything Goes)
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play: Brian Bedford (The Importance of Being Earnest)
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: Edie Falco (The House of Blue Leaves)
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical: John Larroquette (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying)
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical: Laura Benanti (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)
Outstanding Director of a Play: Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe (The Normal Heart)
Outstanding Director of a Musical: Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker (The Book of Mormon)
Outstanding Choreography: Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes)
Outstanding Music: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez & Matt Stone (The Book of Mormon)
Outstanding Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez & Matt Stone (The Book of Mormon)
Outstanding Book of a Musical Adam Mathias (See Rock City & Other Destinations)
Outstanding Orchestrations: Larry Hochman & Stephen Oremus (The Book of Mormon)
Outstanding Musical Revue: Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway
Outstanding Music in a Play: Wayne Barker (Peter and the Starcatcher)
Outstanding Set Design: Derek McLane  (Anything Goes)
Outstanding Costume Design: Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardiner (Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical)
Outstanding Lighting Design: David Lander (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo)
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical: Brian Ronan (Anything Goes)
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play: Acme Sound Partners and Cricket S. Myers (Bengal Tiger at Baghdad Zoo)
Outstanding Solo Performance: John Leguizamo (Ghetto Klown)
Unique Theatrical Experience: Sleep No More

The Drama Desk ( was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theatre and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theatre in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955 and it is the only critics organization to honor achievement in the theatre with competition between Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions in the same categories.