Famous playwright Booth Tarkington may have hailed from Indianapolis, but he didn’t write out Kokomo as the conclusive and happy destination in his 1908 play, “The Man from Home.” It's a tale of a lawyer who leaves his home in Kokomo to visit Italy and, ultimately, returns happily ever after to his Hoosier roots. The play was turned into a drama film, first in 1914 by Cecil B. DeMille, and again in 1922 with Alfred Hitchcock listed as the title designer of the play-turned-film. While DeMille’s version remains in the Library of Congress, Hitchcock’s version is rumored to be a “lost film.” However, both films’ plots drastically differ from Tarkington’s perspective of the play and on the silver screen the Kokomo reference is eliminated. Regardless of Kokomo’s elimination when the play went Hollywood, local thespians say they believe in Kokomo’s early ties to the arts.Steve Hughes, Kokomo Civic Theatre executive director, said knowing Kokomo had a presence in the performing arts so long ago might inspire someone to revisit the theatrical writings of that era.
“It’s interesting for Kokomo to take a look at [a play] that has references to Kokomo,” Hughes said. “It shows how we fit in the arts and literature; it may be worthwhile for us to look into doing [the play] or do a reading of [the play] to let Kokomo know we’re mentioned.”Joann Kaiser, a lecturer in communication arts at Indiana University Kokomo, said Kokomo references in the arts, especially in plays, give students a deeper connection to their crafts.“[Being able to act or study in a play that references Kokomo] would encourage [students] to know that their lives, no matter how ordinary or simple it might be, could have a spark of interest with other people if they’d look at it in a creative way,” Kaiser said.Hughes said Kokomo’s pop culture references are representative of what Kokomo has to offer, and has always had to offer. “I think it is good to know that some substantial works of theater have come from Indiana,” Hughes said. “The writings aren’t just from East Coast or West Coast, but Indiana has a history of involvement in literature and so does Kokomo.”