Porgy is a novel written by DuBose Heyward in 1925, as well as a play Dorothy Heyward helped him to write which debuted in 1927.
Even before the play had been fully written, Heyward was in discussions with George Gershwin for an operatic version of his novel, which debuted in 1935 as Porgy and Bess (renamed to distinguish it from the play).
The novel tells the story of Porgy, a crippled street-beggar in the black tenements of Charleston, South Carolina
in the 1920s. The character was based on the real-life Charlestonian Samuel Smalls. The novel features passages which have the characters speaking in the Gullah language
DuBose Heyward's wife, Dorothy Heyward, began working on a staged adaptation of her husband's novel soon after it was published in 1925. Some elements of the storyline in the play differ considerably from those in the novel. George
and Ira Gershwin
, along with DuBose Heyward, based the libretto of their opera version, Porgy and Bess
, not on the original novel, but on the play. (In the novel, after Bess leaves Porgy and goes to New York, he merely returns, disillusioned, to being a beggar. At the end of both the play and the opera, he goes to New York, hoping to find her.)
Porgy debuted on Broadway at the Guild Theatre (today's Virginia Theatre) on October 10, 1927 and ran for 367 performances. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
A 1929 revival was less successful, opening on September 13, 1929 and closing one month later after only 34 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre (today's Al Hirschfeld Theatre).