Who invented television? That is the subject of "The Farnsworth Invention," a new Broadway play based on a true story. Star Hank Azaria (furthest left on the stage) knows from television; he voices characters in "The Simpsons" and played the lead in "Huff." On stage at the Music Box theater, he is playing David Sarnoff, head of RCA and founder of NBC -- who did NOT invent television.
Azaria joins the play's author, Aaron Sorkin, on opening night, December 3, 2007. Sorkin is best-known as the creator of the television series "The West Wing" and (less successfully) of "Sports Night" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip". His last play on Broadway, "A Few Good Men," was 18 years ago, at the Music Box, the same theater in which "The Farnsworth Invention" is being performed.
TV Encounters Of The Theater Kind
Among those attending opening night at the Music Box was Steven Spielberg, holding a Playbill for the show, and standing next to the play's director, Des McAnuff, who also directed the hit Broadway musical "Jersey Boys." Spielberg is involved in the production of the play; officially, "The Farnsworth Invention" is being "presented by" the celebrated film director.
In A Huff
Also at the opening was Oliver Platt, who co-starred with him in "Huff." They have known each other since college. Other notables attending the opening included...
...comedian Bob Saget, best-known for his roles in two TV shows, "Full House", and as host of "America's Funniest Home Videos" (Saget is scheduled to appear in the Broadway musical "The Drowsy Chaperone" for a few months)....
...ABC News anchor Lynn Shearer...
...Jean Kennedy Smith, one-time ambassador to Ireland and sister to John, Robert and Edward
In "The Farnsworth Invention," Azaria's real-life character David Sarnoff gets the upper hand with a boy genius inventor with the unlikely name of Philo T. Farnsworth, played by Jimmi Simpson. In 1927, Farnsworth, then 21, broadcast a glowing blue line on a screen the size of a postage stamp -- the first television transmission.
Simpson plays Farnsworth, an engineering whiz kid who fought bitterly with RCA to get credit for having come up with the innovations that made television workable. In real life, Farnsworth died penniless and unheralded in 1971, having suffered through bankruptcy, depression, and alcoholism. The only time he had appeared on TV was in 1957, on CBS's "I've Got A Secret" in 1957. The panelists could not guess his secret.
Aaron Sorkin, the playwright of "The Farnsworth Invention," stands in-between Hank Azaria on the left, and Jimmi Simpson on the right.
Hank Azaria (second from right) and Jimmi Simpson (far right) take their bow with the rest of the cast on stage at the end of the 'Farnsworth Invention' at the Music Box theater December 3, 2007