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Colorful Characters

Some time after completing this issue’s cover-story interview with outgoing music impresario Bruce Montgomery, Samuel Hughes, our senior editor, e-mailed that he was having second thoughts about the title.
    After playing around, inevitably, with several variations on The Full Monty, we had settled on “Monty in Full,” which now seemed “presumptuous,” Sam wrote. “Obviously, no feature—especially one that is mostly a Q&A-style
interview—is ever going to capture anyone in full, let alone an accomplished and complex character like Monty. But while I can’t fill in all the gaps, a few things that didn’t get into my feature want mentioning.” A good place, he suggested, would be this column.

    “In August, Monty and the Gilbert & Sullivan Players of Philadelphia will take his revival of the half-missing G & S opera, Thespis, to the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in England; for that one, he wrote an entire score, à la Sullivan, to accompany W.S. Gilbert’s lyrics. After his 1963 “Irish folk opera,” Spindrift, was performed by the Penn Singers and the Penn Players, some Broadway-types like Harold Prince C’48 Hon’71 encouraged him to write another musical. The result was The Amorous Flea, which opened off-Broadway in 1964, and is still being performed sporadically in theaters around the world. In 1972, he wrote An Orpheus Triptych for the Orpheus Club of Philadelphia, a choral setting based on poems to Orpheus by Apollonius Rhodius, Shakespeare—and Monty. And of course he has done many other works on commission, including his “Academic Festive Anthem” for Penn. How he gets so much accomplished given all his Penn responsibilities I don’t know, but I do know that he usually works until about five in the morning, and at 72 is still almost impossibly energetic.
    “Since I’ve already blown my cover of journalistic detachment, I’ll just end with this: I don’t know when I’ve met someone who combines such class, wit and flair with such an amazingly positive, generous spirit.”
    With that buildup, then, turn to page 30 to learn—if not all, then something at least—about Monty.
    Dr. Nina Auerbach, the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History and Literature, shares with Montgomery a taste for the outrageous, a larger-than-life, theatrical quality. A leading Victorian scholar and writer on topics from George Eliot to vampires, Auerbach was the subject of an exhaustive profile in the Gazette a dozen years ago, in which she was described as “a highly complex system of contradictions.” For this article, writer Beth Kephart C’82 visited Auerbach in her Rittenhouse Square apartment to discuss her latest, surprising publishing project—a highly personal appreciation of once-popular British writer Daphne du Maurier, now best remembered for the movies Alfred Hitchcock made from her work, Rebecca and The Birds. The book inaugurates a series from the University of Pennsylvania Press called Personal Takes. (This is the first Gazette appearance for Kephart, author of the National Book Award-nominated memoir, A Slant of Sun; we were so pleased to have her in the magazine that we asked her to write a book review, too.)
    Then there are areas in which a little less color would be helpful, where the extremes have largely taken over the stage. One is the highly polarized debate pitting animal-rights advocates against scientific researchers and the food industry. Stepping into this fray is the veterinary school’s fledgling Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society. In “Saving the Animal Planet,” assistant editor Susan Lonkevich writes of the ambitious, not to say quixotic, efforts of the center—which currently consists of director Dr. James Serpell and a post-doctoral assistant—to create a space for reasoned dialogue on a subject where protesters in pig costumes stalking the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile passes for a healthy exchange of views.

—John Prendergast C’80


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