Kurt Vonnegut Collaboration with Thomas Power

Kurt Vonnegut Collaboration with Thomas Power

Kurt Vonnegut Collaboration

In 1981 Power produced Happy Birthday Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. for the University of Southern Maine’s fall production.  A week before the show went into technical rehearsal, Power became convinced that the final scene in the play could be improved and with the help of an old friend, sent Mr. Vonnegut a letter describing his concern and concept. 

A few days later his home phone rang and teenaged son, Matthew, a devout Vonnegut fan, answered and to his dismay heard the iconic voice of Vonnegut asking for his father.  “Dad, Kurt Vonnegut for you.”  Incredibly it was and they talked about the idea for the ending.  Vonnegut admitted that he never was pleased with the original ending and welcomed a new approach.  He went on to say that he’d work on it immediately and send a fresh scene via overnight mail for Power to approve.

The next day the new typewritten script arrived in the post and Power read it immediately but discovered that it didn’t quite do the job. Vonnegut called back and asked for his reaction and when hearing that there were still problems, he suggested that Power write his own ending and send it by return mail to Vonnegut for approval.

So, Power did just that and the new ten-page final scene went to the actors and became the new ending for Happy Birthday Wanda June.

In the months following this successful collaboration, Vonnegut sent new works to Power for consideration and one found both favor and interest which led to a televised premiere of Make Up Your Mind.   Power’s former student and friend, Tony Shalhoub came from NYC following a run of Neil Simon’s new version of The Odd Couple and along with other actor friends, staged Vonnegut’s new script under Power’s direction.

Over the years, Vonnegut and Power remained in contact–sharing reactions and advice on new scripts, including Grannia the musical, which was one of Vonnegut’s favorite.