The Kennedy Center

George Abbott


George Abbott
(director; playwright; born June 25, 1887, Forestville, New York; died January 31, 1995)

Without George Abbott, Broadway might have been without those Three Men on a Horse,The Boys From Syracuse, Pal Joey, Brother Rat, that New Girl in Town, those Damn Yankees, Too Many Girls, Fiorello!, Me and Juliet, and Flora, the Red Menace. Theater-goers would have never known The Pajama Game, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This legendary record has earned him the title, "Dean of Broadway showmen."

George Francis Abbott was born on June 25, 1887, in Forestville, NY, and moved shortly after to Salamanca, NY, where his grandparents set up his father in a wholesale tailoring business. Abbott attended Hamburg High School in New York and later went on to the University of Rochester. Although he considered journalistm for two years, Abbott soon turned his attention to playwriting.

Following his graduation from Rochester in 1911, Abbott studied playwriting under George Pierce Baker at Harvard. During that time, he wrote a one-act play, The Man in the Manhole, which won a $100 prize in a play contest sponsored by the Bijou Theater in Boston. After less than a year of working as a combination author, office-boy, and actor at the Boston theater, Abbott headed to the Big Apple to seek work as an actor with writing still his long-range goal.

He continued to act, but also worked in the office of producer John Golden, as he developed as a writer and director. His first major creation as a writer was The Fall Guy, a play he created with James Gleason in 1925. The following year he co-wrote and directed Broadway and Love 'Em and Leave 'Em and directed Chicago and Cowboy Crazy. He enjoyed continued success on Broadway with Damn Yankees, On Your Toes, The Pajama Game, and Flora, the Red Menace.

Abbott received Tony Awards for his writing contributions to The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees in 1955 and 1956, respectively, and for his writing and directing of Fiorello!, in 1959. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for Fiorello! and a Tony for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Abbott continued working well into his 90s. The same year he received the Kennedy Center Honor, he also collaborated with George Balanchine on a revival of On Your Toes, which opened at the Kennedy Center on December 14, 1982. Abbott died on January 31, 1995 at the age of 107.

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