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Born Mayer Ellis Abrahamson in Philadelphia in 1917, Mike Ellis was a professional magician, a Broadway producer, a stage manager, and an actor in regional theaters. Ellis was first brought to Bucks County by the New Hope native and Broadway musical arranger, Donald Walker. When previous Playhouse producer Theron Bamberger's tenure ran out, Ellis bought a large quantity of stocks in the Playhouse and became its owner.
Ellis owned and operated the Bucks County Playhouse from 1954 to 1964. In his first season, he scheduled twenty-one plays, eight of which were world premieres. He produced a total of forty-five world premieres while at the Playhouse, perhaps most notable being Neil Simon's play Nobody Loves Me, starring Louise Fletcher and Robert Redford. On Broadway, it became Barefoot in the Park (1963) and S.J. Perelman's The Beauty Part (1961). Ellis is particularly well remembered for having brought many famous, or later to become famous, actors to the Bucks County Playhouse, including Alan Alda, Liza Minelli, Robert Redford, Dick Van Dyke, Walter Mathau, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., George C. Scott, Bea Arthur, and Merv Griffin.
Mike Ellis at the Bucks County Playhouse during the 1955 flood, 1955. James A. Michener Art Museum. The Mike Ellis Collection. Gift of Mike Ellis.
Education and Training
Wyoming Seminary, Kingston, Pennsylvania, 1930-1935
Certificate, University of Grenoble, Grenoble, Switzerland, 1937
Certificate, Sorbonne, Paris, France, 1937-1938
B.A., Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, 1939
M.A., Drew University, English,Madison, New Jersey, 1973
Teachers and Influences
James Russo, Gilbert Miller, William Hammerstein, Brooks Atkinson, Bette Davis, St. John Terrell
Connection to Bucks County
Mike Ellis was first brought to Bucks County by the New Hope native and Broadway musical arranger, Donald Walker. Ellis owned and operated the Bucks County Playhouse from 1954 to 1964.
In Ellis' opinion, The Bucks County Playhouse and St. John Terrell's Music Circus in Lambertville complemented each other by bringing first rate performers to the Bucks County area.
Ellis was married to actress Neva Patterson from 1953 to 1956. Him and his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Walker, lived on Windy Brook Farm at Windy Bush Road just outside New Hope. Ellis lived in Bucks County until 1971 when the family moved to Florida.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Kenyon Nicholson, John D. Hess, S.J. Perelman, Patricia Scott, Mary Ellis (wife), Claude Rains, Ezra Stone, Anna Russell, Donald Walker, James A. Michener, Moss Hart, Jerome Choderow, St. John Terrell, Tom Ewell, Cheldon Cheney, Glenway Wescott, and Budd Schulberg.
Ellis explains, "Everybody knew everybody-that was the point. The writers, the actors and the painters, they were all part of the community."
Major Theater Performances
The Last Dance, 1948
Jenny Kissed Me, 1949
The Play's The Thing, 1949
Courtin' Time, 1952
Two's Company, a musical review starring Bette Davis (in one of her few appearances in a musical review) and lyrics by Ogden Nath, 1953
Come Blow your Horn, with William Hammerstein, written by Neil Simon, 1961
The Beauty Part by S.J. Perelman, 1962
The Advocate, with William Hammerstein, 1963
The Absence of a Cello, with Jeff Britton, 1964
The Paisley Convertible, 1967
The Girl in the Freudian Slip, 1967
Broadway Stage Manager
The Body Beautiful, with William Hammerstien, 1958
Sweet Eros and Witness, 1968
Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, 1969
Who's Happy Now?, with Samuel Brownstein, 1969
Bucks County Playhouse Productions (Pre-Broadway)
The Champagne Complex, 1954
Mask and Gown, 1957
The Advocate, 1960
The Beauty Part by S.J. Perelman, 1961
Come Blow Your Horn, 1962
The Absence of a Cello, 1963
Nobody Loves Me (Barefoot in the Park), 1963
Bucks County Playhouse (1954-1964)
The Cocktail Party, Dame Nature, Picnic, The Magnificent Yankee, Tea and Sympathy, The Rainmaker, Witness for the Prosecution, Boston Love Story, Tiger at the Gates, Mask and Gown, Compulsion, Candide, Cradle and All, Who was That Lady I Saw You With?, Twelve Angry Men, State of the Union, A Raisin in the Sun, Come Blow Your Horn, The Advocate, The Miracle Worker, A View from the Bridge, Nobody Loves Me, The Beauty Part, The Absence of a Cello, A Thousand Clowns, Our Town
Mike Ellis Photography Collection
Playbill collection, 1954-1964, Bucks County Play House, James A. Michener Art Museum