Making it in America

SVCT’s ‘Act One’ tale of Broadway success

LIFELONG TALE ‘Act One’ stars—the young Moss Hart (Austin Vandecoevering) and Aunt Kate (Adrianne Wilkinson) on SVCT stage. Photo: Elizabeth Mandel
Nearly every American has one—a story of coming to America, a story of survival, a story of defeating the odds—a story of achieving the American Dream.

If not their own, then it’s the story of their parent or grandparent they carry with them—each generation more successful than the last.

That’s the story of Moss Hart—son of impoverished English-born Jewish immigrants living the dark tenements of New York.

Adapted from a 1959 biography, “Act One” features an older Moss Hart reflecting back on his life from his poor upbringing in the Bronx to his rise to fame on Broadway.

Even with a life of poverty as new immigrants in a new country, young Hart (Austin Vandecoevering) was exposed, through his aunt Kate (Adrianne Wilkinson), to plays and theater. Aunt Kate was dumped on the family and left with a little money. But, Aunt Kate only opened her coin purse for theater outings, to which she used to take young Hart.

The play is a bit of a time travel with more than four dozen characters in a range of ages.

“What I was looking for this year was just a play that had visual interest in how we had to present the play,” says executive board president Peter Mandel. “Doing a play with over 50 characters with well over 30 different scenes and we wanted to step up to that challenge.” Mandel, who also plays an older Hart in the performance says they developed a multi-story turntable set to make this play come alive.

Like the elaborate and engaging set design at South Valley Civic Theatre, Moss Hart’s life was varied in application, but held one direction—to be part of the theater.

“He always had a love for the theater,” says producer Rebecca Garcia. “You know how young kids always go and play games. After the aunt would tell them about a play. Moss would take those to the schoolyard.”

Like many stories of immigrants searching for success in America, Hart’s determination to create a better life is what motivates his success.

“We have a lot of the same issues today with immigrants coming into this country,” she says. “It’s what drives immigrants and brings them to this country is the desire to do better and to have a better life.”

Garcia says this story resonated with her. “I’m a wife of an immigrant and I’ve seen his hunger and his drive and what it’s gotten him,” says Garcia.

Mandel says it’s particularly timely now given all of the controversy with Trump and the government. “The United States is a nation of immigrants and Moss Hart is a version of that story,” says Mandel. “Most of us living in the U.S. come from immigrants and all of us want each generation to do better than the previous. Moss hart is probably a story that is vivid to just about everyone in this country. And of course if you enjoy the theater you’ll enjoy seeing how a new production happens.”


South Valley Civic Theater presents ‘Act One’ based on the story of Moss Hart. Performances run Nov. 19-Dec. 9. For more information, visit

Debra Eskinazi
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About Debra Eskinazi
Debra Eskinazi is the editor of South Valley magazine.