Connecticut Voice

Your LGBTQ+ Voice

On With the Show: Summer Reading Edition

If your idea of a relaxing summer activity is kicking back with a book, or idly leafing through pages and looking at pictures, we’ve got you some ideas for you. Particularly, if you love the inside story on show business and the theater, for summer 2023, we’ve got you covered. (Pun intended.)

Check out these titles, and get ready to be entertained. When it comes to books, you might say that this is your summer stock…up.


The American Theatre 1962-2002 as Seen by Hirschfeld

Brilliant Printing $60

Anyone who loves theatre knows the work of iconic caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Over a 75-year career, he captured the plays and the people of Broadway in his instantly recognizable works, not to mention an obsession with looking for “Ninas.” (Hirschfeld hid the name of his new daughter in the lines of one of his drawings as a joke, and it became a trademark with the number following his signature indicating how many were in each drawing.)

This gorgeous book, which follows the second half of the artist’s career includes more than 300 drawings from last sixty years, including productions such as Hello Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, Cabaret, Annie, Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables, Fences, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Rent, Angels in America, and Hairspray. and portraits including Stephen Sondheim, Neil Simon, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, Tom Stoppard, and Hal Prince.

Leave this book out for your guests to find—and they’ll happily entertain themselves for hours.


Sex, Drugs and Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director

By Joel Thurm

Bear Manor Media $32

We’ve spent the last weeks mopping up all the tea that’s been spilled by noted casting agent Joel Thurm in his highly readable, delightfully dishy book about the ins and outs of Broadway and Hollywood. Thrum was instrumental in starting the careers of Tom Cruise, Ted Danson, Madonna, and many more. Thurm’s breezy writing, and great stories include inside looks at the “sausage-making” process of The Golden Girls and Seinfeld. We particularly loved how he convinced Broadway legend Ethel Merman to take a cameo role in the movie Airplane, and that’s just for starters.

Thurm was also openly gay in a business when at the time career survival depended on staying deep in the closet. He was the first to bring his partner to industry events. Though he has a gimlet-eyed view of all the goings on, Thurm is a humble storyteller, and like the best casting directors and producers knows how to make the stars shine.


The Star Dressing Room: Portrait of an Actor

By Alan Shayne

Rand-Smith $32.00

At age 97, actor/executive Alan Shayne has written a wonderful theatre memoir. He starts out as a struggling actor—as so many do. Although financially struggling, he tried his best…only to be upstaged by no less than Marlon Brando in early acting classes. For fans of theater from the 1940s and 1950s—a kind of golden age—the stories about Gertrude Lawrence, Katharine Cornell, Maureen Stapleton, Greta Garbo, Lotte Lenya, and Elaine Stritch are engaging and border on the kind of show biz gossip this type of book is noted for. The title comes from an anecdote about one night when he went on for Ricardo Montalban opposite Lena Horne in Jamaica…and got the star dressing room.

Shayne, however, has a deeply personal approach. He writes feelingly about his search for love and wanting one person to love, struggles with his bisexuality, even a marriage of convenience (as they were called at the time) until finally coming out as gay. In later life, he became a casting director and president of Warner Bros. Television, racking up Emmy Awards and writing books with his partner Norman Sunshine.

This is a wonderful look into a bygone era, and a top pick for a summer read.


A Man of Much Importance: 

The Live and Art of Terrence McNally

By Christopher Byrne

Applause $34.99

Yes, this was written by the same Christopher Byrne who edits this publication. Over many years of knowing and interviewing Terrence, in 2015, he was talking to him, and Terrence said he had decided not to write an autobiography. Chris said, “Can I write the book?” And Terrence said, “sure.”

The book is based on lengthy conversations with Terrence prior to his death in 2020, as well as interviews with such boldface names as Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, and many others onstage and behind the scenes, many of whom credit their careers to their early (and often ongoing) work with Terrence.

It’s also the story of a gay man who was never able to be in the closet. First, Terrence abhorred denying an essential part of himself, and since his first play And Things that Go Bump in the Night featured a gay character, he felt he never had the choice.

Throughout his life, Terrence wrote fearlessly, fought for his beliefs, broke barriers, and became one of the most important playwrights of the second half of the 20th century. The doors Terrence opened and the legacy he created changed the theater forever.

You can find these books on Amazon, and some discounts are available.