Our Own Hall of Fame
ACTOR SINCE AGE 10
DaCosta Picked Up Scar And Four Broadway Hits
DAYTON DAILY NEWS MARCH 4, 1961
BY MARY ELLEN LYNCH
Daily News Staff Writer
Morton DaCosta has five things that most people don’t—four Broadway hits and a dueling scar.
He picked up the latter at the hands of Maurice Evans in “Hamlet.” The former—“Plain and Fancy” (’55), “No Time For Sergeants” (55), “Auntie Mame” (’56) and “Music Man” (57)—came fast after 20 years of slow slogging up the theatrical ladder.
Some of those early, beans-and-bologna years were spent in Dayton.
An actor since he was 10, DaCosta majored in education at Temple university, then chucked a teaching career to join a traveling children’s theater.
(He got the job by fibbing about his ability to drive a truck, ended up playing bears and tigers and stage managing).
A YEAR later he organized a stock company in Erie, Pa., then came to Dayton to head a repertoire company first called the Phoenix Players and, later, the Dayton Civic Theater.
Theater members lived in an old mansion next door to the Art Institute (in later years DaCosta recalled it a “ a mad house”) and put on shows at the institute.
That was in 1938 and the community theater flourished. DaCosta also broadcast over WHIO in a historical series called “Great Days in Dayton”.
But by 1942, most of his available actors had been drafted. Turned down himself because of “general neuralgia and a host of other ailments” DaCosta carried on the Phoenix tradition briefly at a summer theater located over the police station in a tiny Wisconsin fishing village.
THEN “Teek” (a nickname derived form his real last name, Tekoskey) tackled New York. He understudied Montgomery Clift in “The Skin Of Our Teeth” (for 356 performances), then had brief stints in a series of flops.
DaCosta toured in “Man and Superman” and in 1951 was the first American director imported to Italy to direct an Italian stage company.
He later reported that the management of the Italian production, “Dream Girl,” called for: A ball point pen, a Trouperette spotlight and Morton DaCosta. In that order.
A year later, DaCosta had his own flop on Broadway—something called “The Green Eyed People” that ran for five performances.
HE DIRECTED a few plays at the New York City center and then got “Plain and Fancy” after a dozen other directors had turned it down as hopeless.
It ran 470-odd performances, and DaCosta was on the way to becoming one of the most sought after directors in the theater.
Now a youthful-looking 46, with sandy hair turned to silver, DaCosta has a reputation for being knowledgeable, articulate and fun to work for.
He runs a happy ship rather than a taut one, plays mother, father, brother and sister to his casts during arduous rehearsal periods.
Last year, he directed, authored and co-produced the ill-fated “Saratoga” that had only a brief Broadway run.
BUT HIS first try in Hollywood, the movie version of “Auntie Mame,” was nominated for an Academy Award. He is presently directing the film version of “Music Man.”
Says DaCosta: “It’s terribly difficult to talk about the future except to say that I’m happy to know that apparently I have one.
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