What the Butler Saw>Production Info
Theatre Banshee produced What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton
November 1-December 21 of 2003
at the Gene Bua Theatre in Burbank, California.

Dr. Prentice Matt Foyer
Geraldine Carolyn A. Palmer
Mrs. Prentice McKerrin Kelly
Nick Josh Thoemke
Dr. Rance Noah Wagner
Sgt. Match John Jabaley
Production Team
Producers Sean Branney, Leslie Baldwin
Director Sean Branney
Stage Manager Katherine Trottier
Scenic Design Arthur MacBride
Costume Design Laura Brody
Lighting Design Bobby Richard
Props & Furniture Andrew H. Leman
Sound Design Erik Hockman

Joe Orton (Playwright)
Joe Orton was born in Leicester, England in 1933. He attended a secretarial school where he did rather poorly before discovering his love for the theatre. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts as an actor; Orton quit after two years saying, “It was complete rubbish”. At RADA he met Kenneth Halliwell who went on to be his long-time lover. Orton wrote the short plays: The Ruffian on the Stair, The Good and Faithful Servant, The Erpinham Camp and Funeral Games. He wrote only three full-length plays, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw. At thirty four years old and at the height of his career, Orton was murdered by Halliwell. Orton’s plays did not earn major critical recognition until they were revived in 1975.

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Program (Adobe PDF file)

Director's Notes

Theatre Banshee has been looking to produce a comedy for some time. Red Noses finally brought in a few good laughs— followed by a horrifying string of deaths. No, we needed a real comedy, something to bring the year to a close with a laugh. And after a protracted search we settled on the British farceur, Joe Orton.

Joe Orton was not your typical playwright. He defaced library books for fun. He and his lover Kenneth Halliwell would from time to time insert obscene pictures into library books, return the books to the library, and then hide out and watch the looks of horror on the faces of library patrons as they stumbled upon the prank. His notion of a good laugh landed him a year in prison.

Orton was simultaneously amused and appalled by the discrepancy between the prim proper façade which Britons are famed for and their decidedly improper goings-on behind closed doors. To him, the pretentiousness of the aristocracy was a mask in dire need of being ripped off. His short career as a playwright showed a clear commitment to that goal.

The question inevitably arises why is this play called What the Butler Saw when it in fact does not feature any butlers or even fleeting references to butlers. At the turn of the century one of the first nickelodeon shows was titled What the Butler Saw. Passerbys could step up to the machine and for a nickel (or a shilling) they’d be treated to a peek at the private lives of society’s upper crust. They would see a slightly racy glimpse of the behind-closeddoors behavior of fine ladies and gentlemen. Orton sought to provide the same thing: a peek into the crazed private lives of elite London physicians. Of course Orton pumped up the raciness to cross the line of acceptability; even in the progressive 1960s outraged audiences shouted “Filth!” at the play’s opening. The play succeeded in providing more than a titillating view of society with its pants down. He gives us a classic farce with an absolutely preposterous sequence of comings and goings, well-crafted schtick and a dry wit that would have made Oscar Wilde chuckle. Orton has a good laugh even at himself, wrapping up the play with an ending as intrinsically silly and improbable as any Shakespeare comedy. It’s all a bloody fine joke to him.Joe Orton’s career was on the rise. He had just finished writing What the Butler Saw and The Beatles were talking to him about writing a screenplay for them. Jealous of his success, Halliwell murdered Orton with a hammer on August 10, 1967. His biographer, John Lahr, said, “Nobody came closer than Orton to reviving on the English stage the outrageous and violent prankster’s spirit of comedy and creating the purest (and rarest) of drama’s by-products: joy. In showing us how we destroy ourselves, Orton’s plays are themselves a survival tactic.”

On a personal level and an artistic level we felt the time was right for a liberal dose of silliness. Medieval scholar St. Thomas Aquinas said, “As man sometimes needs to give his body rest from labors, so also he sometimes needs to rest his soul from mental strain that ensues from his application to serious affairs. This is done by amusement.” We hope you enjoy What the Butler Saw in the spirit of joy with which it was created and is presented.

Special Thanks
Gene and Toni Bull Bua
Erik Hockman
Artistry Entertainment
Erika Zucker & Hannah Rose Jabaley
Kevin Wright
Bryan Moore & Heather Saenz
Arkham Studios
Veterans Administration Hospital
Brad Brusavich
Sharon & Ken Baldwin
Keith & Christina Reynolds
KCCS, Inc.
Jay Bonnar
Aidan Branney
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