The success of my first three plays did not prepare me for the struggle to write a naturalistic comedy. My subject was the pregnancy of two women who become friends in ante-natal class. I won a place at the Mid-West Playwrights’ Conference with this play, and a Massachusetts’ Playwriting Fellowship, which resulted in a production at The People’s Theatre, Cambridge, Mass. Directed by David Moore who I later learned was a descendent of Pulitzer himself. A couple of years after the production of Having A Life, a musical with exactly the same plot made it onto Broadway, collapsing my chances of doing the same. That play also had trouble with the resolution. It wasn’t until later, when I was writing a screenplay and using that play that I went deeper into the women’s lives by killing off Ruth’s husband. You Can’t Leave Half-Way Through, the screenplay, made it to Viacom but only to be rejected in favor of Mary Reilly. A woman who was Jack the Ripper’s housekeeper.
One Act Plays
Founding the PLAYWRIGHT’S PLATFORM ONE-ACT PLAY FESTIVAL, gave me a forum for my one-acts and of course the work my many talented playwright friends, Geralyn Horton, Rosana Alfaro, Rae Edelson. We were all grateful to the directors who took on our plays and made them come alive. Below is TONY ALICATA, who directed my one-act THE ACCIDENT, which he encouraged me to expand to a full-length, THE RIGHT DECISION, and took to New York City, where it played at the 18th Street Theatre.
DECISION, my first play to be seen in New York City, Starring Judith
Elaine, Anthony Inneo and Anthony St. Martin. ( Three Tonys!) at the
Eighteenth Street Theatre, which was managed by a fierce lady of the
theatre who had just lost her son to the AIDS Epidemic. It was my
first introduction to the gruesome reality which decimated the off-off-
Broadway theatre, which perhaps has never quite recovered.
I was persuaded to develop The Accident into a full-length play, The Right Decision which was produced ay 18th Street Theatre, NYC where it was well received. Not a big enough production to get The New York Times reviewer but I was lucky to have Tony Alicata direct. Also an actor, he came up with a sterling cast, Anthony Inneo, Judith Elaine, Anthony St.Martin, Joel Rooks and Jean Anderson.
The Boston playwrights at Playwright’s Platform were supported by the talented actors and directors who donated their time free of charge to developing our plays, some of these directors are well known, Daivd Wheeler, Ted Kazanoff and Mimi Huntingdon. Annette Miller did several readings of Angela Hitler for me. The group could not have survived without this kind of support, which continues today. Playwrights Platform is an ongoing group in the Boston area. But we performed our plays in Churches and College Auditoriums, until Marco Zarattini arrived from Italy. He established a bijoux theatre in the North End, the Italian district of Boston, called Nucleo Eclettico. www.NucleoEclettico.com
He single-handedly helped playwrights in Boston by staging their plays and directing them, almost every week of the year for twenty years. He went rewarded for this mammoth contribution to American Theater, maybe because he was Italian, but we will never forget his soulful directing of Devour The Snow, and the log cabin he constructed for the purpose.
I entered a local competition called Playwrights As Thinkers and took the subject The Origin of Prejudice. I wrote a one-act play called Aunty and Adolf about Hitler’s childhood, inspired by Alice Miller’s Prisoner’s of Childhood. I did not realize this was going to be the start of a ten year project
After winning the Playwrights As Thinkers prize I was doubly disappointed to discover a Swedish playwright had also read the Alice Miller book and produced an almost identical one-act play which premiered off-off-Broadway. Standing under the lights in Times Square I cursed my luck but on the train back to Boston, fired by reading the actual type-script of Bridget Hitler’s memoirs in the New York City Library, I decided to write on about that dysfunctional family. Bridget Hitler was an Irish woman who married Alois, the elder brother. When I first told the family’s story, I was accused of making the whole thing up. Evidence for William Patrick Hitler’s American citizenship (and subsequent name change) is history but my play focused on Angela Hitler, the elder sister, whose daughter died at twenty-three. She was Hitler’s first but not his last victim. Including Aunty and Adolph, Angela Hitler and Visit to Munich, I wrote three plays on the subject. I was much encouraged by winning a place at the O’Neill Theatre Conference in Waterford, Conn. Twelve playwrights are picked each year out of three thousand entries. I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot about theatre.
Angela Hitler won me a place at the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Theatre Conference in Waterford, Connecticut, where George White and Lloyd Richards ‘mothered’ playwrights. Their most notable success was August Wilson. That calling card landed me my first Playwright Residency with Double Image Theatre in New York City, founded by the actress Helen Warren Meyer. She changed the title to The Housekeeper but gave me an off-Broadway production and once more I narrowly missed a review from the Times.
The next production of ANGELA HITLER (title re-instated) was at the Bridge Lane Theatre, Battersea. This theatre no longer stands but Terry Adams, Artistic Director for many years will be remembered for his dedication to theatre.