Remembrance of Playwright Past

Everyone remembers people and events that shaped and changed their lives.  Long after they leave the world’s stage, these individuals and events inform and direct us through memory.  That’s how I feel about Neil Simon’s plays; they are touchstones from my childhood. That’s reasonable: when I was young he was the King of Broadway. His movies set some of my first standards for comedy.  But, that was a long time ago and Mr. Simon hasn’t had a hit play in years. So, I’ve been reading plays by other authors.  Still, when I heard of his death, I did something I haven’t done for a while: I read something Neil Simon wrote.  Not his plays this time, but his memoirs.  And I’m still thinking about what I read. Rewrites Rewrites is Simon’s memoir of the first half of his life, and to some extent, it’s like his early plays.  This book covered his early, energetic years as a writer when hope was built on promise and potential.  The book is a charmer, and it confirmed two things I guessed but didn’t know before.  First, Simon’s stories all have strong autobiographical elements and that the art of plays is in the re-writing. According to…

A Life in American Theatre.
I know a Good Story / January 6, 2016

If you go to any college orientation, it’s easy to pick out the theatre major wannabes.  While the business majors are making contacts and the proto-engineers are using their smartphones to game and/or calculate maximum spillage in their latest prank, the theatre majors are busy being theatrical.  Other students wear clothes; the theatricals show up in layers. Layers and layers of rehearsal outfits which can be removed or rearranged as needed, along with an overly large carrier of some kind that also looks like a refugee from the consignment store.  Once inside, it’s hard to get theatre majors out the door again.  They aren’t friendly during interviews, they are effusive (or moribund, if they’re channeling a Method Actor).  An English Major is ten minutes late for class; the Theatre Major appears just before he/she is declared dead.  It’s the nature of the beast.  And, concealed into the folds of rehearsal layers or tucked into the overlarge carrier are the proto-drama major’s tools of the trade: their Starbucks card, a few B&W headshots, a book on acting by Stella Adler (read), another by O’Neill on masks (not read) and Moss Hart’s autobiography, Act One.   When you see one of these young and…

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