Despite having appeared on the stage throughout his career, Vincent Price's greatest theatrical triumph was undoubtedly his one-man show, Diversions and Delights, in which he played the playwright and author Oscar Wilde.
Written by dramatist John Gay (allegedly while waiting out the famed Writers Guild of America strike), the play is set in a Parisian concert hall on the Rue de la Pepinier in 1899 - about a year before Wilde's death, at the age of 46. In an attempt to earn some much-needed money, Wilde is speaking to the audience about his life, his works and, in Act Two, about his love for Lord Alfred Douglas.
A Note: On the condition of Mr Wilde for this performance. Mr Wilde is suffering from an infection of the inner ear as well as other maladies and the management hopes this will be taken into consideration.
When Diversions and Delights opened in San Francisco at the Marine's Memorial Theatre on July 11, 1977, critics raved over Price's performance.
'A delight, witty and moving' (Clive Barnes, New York Post)
'Vincent Price is a master' (Wall Street Journal)
'Wonderfully moving' (Washington Post)
'A virtuoso performance' (New York Post)
"Vincent Price is a 'Wilde' delight" (Variety)
Over the next three years, Vincent would go on to give 800 performances in 300 cities, both in the US and as far away as Perth, Western Australia (where I had the chance to see it in August of 1980) - click on the photo below to hear a 22 second TV ad. And remember you can also download an entire performance from 1982 by going to
The original tour was a success in every city it played, except New York City, where its Broadway run at the Eugene O'Neill theatre lasted only 13 performances in April 1978. But the show was better suited to intimate venues in which 'Price's magnetism and Wilde's tragedy could touch audiences on a personal level.'
In the summer of 1979 he performed the show at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Coloradoon the same stage that Wilde had spoken to the miners about art some 96 years before.
There are very few famous men or women whose character, humanity, humor or even tragedy can survive the scrutiny of 'a one man show'Š by that I mean author, actor and audience scrutiny.
Oscar Wilde is the ideal personage to be examined by all this revealing kind of theatre presentation. The fame of his wit is enough justification, but underneath the brilliant facade is a very human being, vulnerable to his own fame, his own strengths and weaknesses, and a being who inspires a kind of very real and identifiable admiration and appreciation.
For the actor, the assumption of such a volatile personality is not only challenging but thrilling, by the very nature of this audience identification.
Wilde, and through his genius, the actor seems to have something to say to everyone. He becomes almost lovable in his self-conscious avoidance of love-ability. He is admirable for his ability to admire his own talent and to make it so especially his own. He is unique and that one-of-a-kindness quality, perhaps more than anything else, makes him qualify for this form of theatrical revelation.
Wilde is a joy to play. For his personal tragedy is as universally appealing as his private-public wit is individually enchanting.
Price on Price (in 1992)
I believe my role as Oscar Wilde was my greatest achievement as an actor. It was really extraordinary. It was the only time ever in my whole life when I really, completely fell into the character. I was really able to escape into the wit and brilliance of the man. A divine feeling.
Written byJohn Gay
Directed by Joseph Hardy
Produced by Roger Berlind, Frank R. Levy and Mike Wise
Scenic Design by H. R. Poindexter; Costume Design by Noel Taylor; Lighting Design by H. R. Poindexter; Lighting Executed by Barry Arnold; Wig Design by Renata
General Press Representative: Seymour Krawitz; Press Representative: Patricia McLean Krawitz; Photographer: Martha Swope
Originally presented by the American Conservatory Theatre of San Francisco
Program designed by Toddy Gelfand