Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut

On November 11, 1922, a peephole opened quite suddenly in Indianapolis.  Light and sound poured in, and the wisp of undifferentiated nothingness we now know as Kurt Vonnegut came into the world.  Happy Birthday, Kurt!

Wheelhouse Theater Company continues its lively revival of Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday, Wanda June at New York’s The Duke on 42nd Street.  Tickets are still available through November 29.  Purchase them here.

For more on Wanda June, check out the following from The New York Times.

“Kurt Vonnegut’s Vietnam-Era Play Lands with a Gasp.”

For those who missed it, here’s The Daily Vonnegut‘s interview with Wheelhouse founding members Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington.

“Wheelhouse Theater Company presents Happy Birthday, Wanda June – An Interview with Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington.”

Thinking about celebrating Kurt’s birthday with a tattoo?  There’s no shortage of Vonnegut-inspired tattoos on display online.  Here’s one featuring a classic Vonnegut quote.

Tattoo 2

Finally, a quote from Kurt’s Aunt Irma, from Charles J. Shields’s Vonnegut biography, And So It Goes.  Aunt Irma (Kurt Sr.’s sister), describing baby Kurt:

“A beautiful boy with curly hair–an exceptionally beautiful child, really.”

Wheelhouse Theater Company presents Happy Birthday, Wanda June – An Interview with Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington

In December 1970, Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his friend, fellow novelist Jose Donoso, “…The adventure of having a play produced was harrowing…But I had to begin my theatrical career with something—and now I have in fact begun. I’ve written six novels. Now I want to write six plays.” (Kurt Vonnegut Letters, Delacorte Press, 2012 p. 165.)

Vonnegut’s adventure was the New York debut of Happy Birthday, Wanda June, the only full-length play Vonnegut published in his career. Hard to find in print, and rarely performed, Wanda June is among Vonnegut’s lesser known works, but that may change with the upcoming production by New York’s Wheelhouse Theater Company at The Duke on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Tickets are now available for this limited run beginning October 18th through November 29th.  Purchase tickets here.

Wanda June

Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington, Founding Members of the Company, shared their thoughts on the play in a recent interview with The Daily Vonnegut. In the current production Matt plays the role of Dr. Norbert Woodley while Jeff is the play’s Director.

Q: What inspired you to stage “Happy Birthday, Wanda June?” It’s not among Vonnegut’s most well-known works?

Matt: Yeah, it’s definitely not among his known works, and the most common response I get when I talk about it with people is “Wait, Vonnegut wrote a play?” I had seen a production that some friends of mine from college did about twelve years ago now, and it stuck with me. We were trying to put out heads together and think about our next production, and it kind of floated back into my mind. I found a copy of it, and I remembered that it was compelling; I remembered that it was funny and provocative, but then when I started reading it I thought, “Oh shit, this is so much more relevant and topical and compelling for a contemporary audience than I even remembered it being.

Read the full interview:

Jeffrey Wise and Matt Harrington – Wheelhouse Theater Company presents Happy Birthday, Wanda June.

Cat’s Cradle, Common Decency, and The Return of Wanda June

Yes, The Daily Vonnegut became unstuck in time for a bit, but is back this week with another question.

Q: In Cat’s Cradle, what is the name of the book that the narrator is writing about what famous people were doing the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima?

a) Ka-Boom!

b) Canary in a Coal Mine

c) The Day The World Ended

d) A Pillar of Salt

Check back next week for the answer, or better yet, pick up Cat’s Cradle and find the answer on page 1.

As part of its Lonesome No More initiative exploring the issue of mental health, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library published a blog post featuring comments by Kurt’s son, Dr. Mark Vonnegut, who addresses the topic of his famous father’s suicide attempt.  Follow the link for the full post:

Common Decency in Friendships with Mark Vonnegut and Madeline Zielinski

The Wheelhouse Theater Company is presenting a revival of Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday, Wanda June from October 18 through November 29 at The Duke on 42nd Street in New York.  Tickets are now on sale.  For more, visit the Wheelhouse Theater website:

Happy Birthday, Wanda June

For more, here’s a 1998 appearance by Vonnegut and writer Lee Stringer, who collaborated on 1999’s Like Shaking Hands with God.

Back To School

It’s back to school time, and what better way to begin the new school year than with this classic Vonnegut cameo from Back to School.

The answer to our last trivia question was A – Cheers, which Vonnegut referred to as television’s one comic masterpiece.

The Daily Vonnegut returns next week with more trivia.

Vonnegut trivia, 13 Fascinating Facts, and Vonnegut’s advice to high school students

This week’s trivia question is about Vonnegut and television.

Q: In 1991, while promoting the Showtime series Welcome to the Monkey House,  Kurt Vonnegut praised which popular sitcom, calling it television’s one comic masterpiece?

a) Cheers

b) Seinfeld

c) M*A*S*H

d) The Dick Van Dyke Show

Check back next week for the answer, or you can find it sooner at “Thirteen Fascinating Facts About Kurt Vonnegut.”

Thirteen Fascinating Facts About Kurt Vonnegut   

The correct response to last week’s question was B – In Slaughterhouse-Five, Edgar Derby is reading The Red Badge of Courage.

In the following clip, a teacher reads a letter of advise to high school students written by Kurt toward the end of his life.  His advice: make your soul grow.

Vonnegut trivia, a tribute to Jane, and Kurt’s warning about the future

This week’s question is from Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Q: What book does Edgar Derby start reading in the infirmary while watching over Billy Pilgrim?

a) A Farewell to Arms

b) The Red Badge of Courage

c) Johnny Got His Gun

d) The Brothers Karamazov     

Check back next week for the answer.  The correct response to our previous question was A – Steven Paul directed the film adaptation of Slapstick.   

Kurt often wrote of his first wife Jane with great respect and affection.  In the following piece by Ginger Strand in The New Yorker,  the author explores how Jane helped Kurt develop as a writer.

“How Jane Vonnegut Made Kurt Vonnegut a Writer.”   

For more from Ginger Strand, read her interview with The Daily Vonnegut here:

The Brothers Vonnegut – An Interview with Ginger Strand

Finally, here’s a 1987 appearance in which Kurt wonders what might happen to society when “the excrement hits the air conditioning.”

Vonnegut 2020?

After a brief hiatus, The Daily Vonnegut will return this Sunday with new trivia and some Vonnegut video.  Until then, here’s a quote from Vonnegut friend (and former student), novelist John Irving, from a 1986 interview in The Paris Review.

“I tell you, Kurt Vonnegut would be a better president than any president we’ve had since I’ve been voting.”

Hi Ho!