I have a new play. It’s called Lily Blossoms or Modern Subdivision Zoning for the Present Day. It’s a one-act comedy. Recently, a playwright/reader on New Play Exchange, a website where playwrights can upload their plays and theatre managers, artistic directors, etc., can find new plays to produce.
The play is set in 1954, in New York, and features writers Lily Palmer and Theodore Barkley, who work for Manhattan magazine. But, things will change once Barkley gets an offer from a movie studio and has to move to California.
This is the season when theatre companies ask for submissions and I wanted to have a new play ready to submit. I worked on this play in November and December and finished it early January. I like it. It’s funny and the characters are among my favorites. I even got to name drop a favorite character from one of my other plays.
This recommendation is from Steven G. Martin, a fellow playwright:
“ Sophisticated humor — through wit, wordplay, and charm — infuse this light, one-act comedy set in 1950s New York. Hatfield clearly understands and enjoys the high-brow charm of shows of this period, and has created a group of characters — world wearing magazine writers, a misled wife, and a tortured editor — that fits right in. Stylish and enchanting. ”
2018 was a good year for me, professionally. Two of my plays, The Great Stalinski and The Ten Minute Play (With a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter), received readings. in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, respectively. Another play, Mundy Tuesday Friday, was a finalist for a theatre company in Virginia.
2019 is off to a good start, too. I’ll have some news a bit later on about some theatrical work I’m doing in Cincinnati.
My play, The Great Stalinski, will be given a reading by the Pittsburgh New Works Reading Series, on Monday, November 5.
The Reading Series will be be held at Higher Voice Studios, 144 E Main St, Carnegie, PA 15106, at 7:00 p.m. Their website is https://pittsburghnewworks.org/reading-series/
The Great Stalinski was selected as a finalist for the Pittsburgh New Works Festival in 2018, but just didn’t make the final cut of 18 produced plays. Out of hundreds of submissions, my play and about 39 others were finalists. The Reading Series is taking the plays that didn’t make it and giving them a reading over the course of the winter with local actors.
Of course I’m thrilled to be included.
The Great Stalinski is a personal favorite of my plays, as it started what I call “The Cabot Trilogy.” Let me explain: The play is about the third generation of Cabot actors who are gathered together for the funeral the “World’s Greatest Shakespearean Actor,” Gregor Stalinski. Brothers Jack and Monty and sister Veronica Cabot were close to Stalinski (especially Veronica) and they meet up at Jack’s theater to travel together to the funeral. The Cabots are theater royalty and the play is really a fun piece about theater history and fame.
So after writing it, that got me to thinking about the other generations of Cabots and I wrote a play about Jack, Monty and Veronica’s parents called Three Sisters in Repertory. I love that play. The characters are great. We meet Charles Cabot, their father, and three sisters, Virginia, Eve and Roz Fleming. I’m guessing that one of them becomes their mother. Again, theater history is evident as scenes are played from Pygmalion, Hamlet and The Importance of Being Earnest.
So I had to write a play about the First Generation of Cabots and I wrote the first act of what would become The Cabots of Broadway, where we meet Kate and John Cabot, who start the whole family on a theatrical career.
Act Two is Three Sister in Repertory and Act Three is The Great Stalinski. I’m really proud of this play and have been sending it out religiously.
As always, my plays are on New Play Exchange. I’m sorry more of you can’t see or read the plays just yet, but I’m working on it. It’s hard work.
So, if you’re a fan of my blog (and maybe you should be), I’ve discovered that earlier in the month a couple of playwrights on the New Play Exchange, where I host my plays hoping that someone will read them and want to produce them, have read my play, The Ten Minute Play (with a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter).
I am thrilled to say that both liked the play very much and have written some wonderful comments about that are posted on my New Play Exchange profile.
Here’s what they said:
My play, The Ten Minute Play (with a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter), had a reading at the Midwest Dramatists Conference, near Kansas City, on Saturday, September 29. The conference gave me a chance to hob-nob with theater folk and just talk about plays for a few days. Playwright Sean Grennan and agent Beth Blickers were there all weekend giving feedback to playwrights as the plays were being presented.
It went great. Lots of laughs (which is good, since it is a comedy) and positive feedback from the judges. My actors were great. Brie Henderson as Gwen and Curtis Smith as Peter delivered the lines perfectly. Thanks to those two for wonderful performances.
I’m glad I went to the conference. The organizers were very good. I’ve done a few conferences in my career and I know how hard it could be. They took very good care of us. David Hanson, Vicki Vodrey, Lindsay Adams were all really really nice people. (David Hanson directed my play, too.
I met other playwrights from all over the country who attended and talked to them about their work and how they approached getting their stuff out there. I was happy to meet Tim Toepel (who had worked with Steve Allen), Morgan Trant Kinnally, Linda Paul, Sharon Goldner, and many others.
I was impressed with the actors the conference had for the readings. There was about 15-18 actors doing almost 50 plays and they were very good. It’s really an actor’s dream to have so many different parts to play. Shoutouts to Brie and Curtis (in my play, but good in others, too). Laura Jacobs and Nicole Hall were great, and I mean great, in everything they did over the weekend. I’ve got parts for both of them in a couple of plays of mine.
So now, we move on to other things. Thanks for reading. If you’re a member, all of my plays are on New Play Exchange under my name.
So, writing plays is pretty cool. My one-act play, The Ten Minute Play (With a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter) has been selected for a reading at the Midwest Dramatist Conference in late September, in Kansas City. I’ll be attending and participating in panels and see my play being performed.
Another one-act play, Mundy Tuesday Friday, was selected over the summer as a Finalist by the Shakespeare in the Burg theater company in Middleburg, Virginia. Of course, it would have been nice to have the play actually produced, but the director of the company is very nice. I’ve received several nice rejections for this play from other companies. One day, somebody’s going to pick this up and stage it.
The biggest news (and I know I’m burying the lede) is that I just finished a full-length play called The Cabots of Broadway. It’s a comedy about three generations of actors. Each act is about one generation and how they became the First Family of the Theater. I’ve been submitting it to theater festivals around the country in the hopes that someone loves it and wants to do it. I love it. It’s my best work so far.
All of my plays ( I have several) are available on New Play Exchange (https://newplayexchange.org/users/14397/greg-hatfield) under my name.
So there you have it. Updates. While you’re here, go ahead and read some of the older posts. The Crosby post is good, as is the Grace Metalious post. I’m also fond of the Harpo and Dorothy Parker posts. And if you want to cry a little, The Day the Sheriff Shot My Dog is up your alley.
Thanks for reading.
Like many music fans, I was introduced to Joy Williams when she was in the group, the Civil Wars, with John Paul White, in 2008. The story goes they met at a songwriting camp, meshed and decided to go from there. They exemplified the term Americana music, that hybrid of folk and country, with acoustic and sparse arrangements, lyrics that were deep and dark and mournful, with wonderful harmonies. Their songs reminded me of some of the Band’s work, in that they were dynamically paired, like any combination of Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, and could complement each other’s songs, wistfully harmonizing around the edges, adding layers and extra texture that captivated the listener.
Their first album, Barton Hollow, was very successful, with multiple award recognitions, including Grammys, and the band seemed on their way. But, with great success often comes discord. For whatever reason, the duo began internally fighting. Much like Cream, which Clapton broke up after three albums, the Civil Wars released their second album, The Civil Wars, in 2013. The tension within the songs seemed to make the songs stronger, giving them a power that was lacking from the first album. The harmonies and arrangements were there, but the underlying thought that this was a band in transition was evident.
How similar their situation was to Richard and Linda Thompson. They met during their time in Fairport Convention. He was a shy guitarslinger and songwriter. She had a beautiful voice that expressed deep felt emotion and brought a joy to countermand Richard’s often dark and somber lyrics. Richard and Linda were together a lot longer than Joy and John Paul, but trouble was just around the corner. In 1982, Richard and Linda’s Shoot Out the Lights was released, but the couple had separated before that. Their songs on that album captured the animosity between them, with strong images of loss. It was powerful and, at the same time, sad, much like The Civil Wars.
When discussing women in popular music today, the conversation inevitably turns to power pop stars, like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, etc., and the resurgence of women in country. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to hear the singing of a mature woman, in the tradition of Dusty Springfield, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Someone with the chops, who lets her experiences break through and can express her life’s choices. Joy Williams has done that with her album, Venus.
Technically, her sixth solo album, Venus is her first album since the Civil Wars’ breakup and her first on the radar since her massive success with that group. This is very age appropriate, with Williams connecting to her audience as a strong woman, musically and lyrically. Even the album title pays tribute to the Roman Goddess of love, sexuality, fertility, desire.
The first thing you notice is that voice. Powerful and haunting, comparisons to Emmylou Harris are fair, I think, though Emmylou’s approach is more straightforward. Joy’s voice seems to wrap around the music, punching in the air, darting in and out of the melody, expressive and, at times, explosive. As a songwriter, Joy Williams isn’t afraid to share her life, making this album very personal.
The best songs, Before I Sleep, One Day I Will, Not Good Enough, The Dying Kind, and Welcome Home embrace Williams’ strengths as that singer who wears her heart on her sleeve and as a listener, you connect to it immediately and are taken deep into the song.
The songs, Woman (Oh Mama) and What a Good Woman Does reflect the maturity Joy has embraced over the years, with Woman (Oh Mama) the obvious hit single, courtesy of a driving drum beat and powerful message. (Watch Joy perform this song of Seth Meyer’s Late Show. http://www.nbc.com/late-night-with-seth-meyers/video/joy-williams-performance-woman-oh-mama/2865267?onid=146956#vc146956=1)
The production of the album is solid. The arrangements, though a bit more complex than the Civil Wars’ songs, do not get in the way of Williams’ voice and provide a nice gateway to letting Joy weave in and out of the songs.
If I had one or two minor quibbles over the album, it would be: One, the album is too short; it clocks in at around 38 minutes, and two, I would have liked to have had a couple of songs that were more raucous and up-tempo. Joy can really excel on that type of song and by having it on Venus would have really given the album some breathing room in between the mid-tempo/slow songs.
Venus is a terrific album and Joy Williams keeps the momentum going for strong women making music on their terms. Really, Florence Welch, Brittany Howard, Lady Gaga, Roseann Cash, Shawn Colvin, Diana Krall and, probably, Beyonce are the first women that come to mind when I think in those terms. I miss the days of Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Mary Travers, Sandy Denny, later career Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton who brought their unique perspective to music. If we keep getting stellar efforts from Joy and many of her contemporaries, the gender gap will close significantly.
I feel like I’m close to finishing some of the essays I’ve been working on. Just to give you a preview of what is in store for my readers, I have the following in various stages of completion:
A Short History of the Dublin Gate Theater, featuring the founders, Hilton Edwards and Michael MacLiammoir. This has been all-consuming lately, with the reasons detailed in my essay. Founded in 1928, in Dublin, Ireland, the Gate is one of the longest-consecutive running theaters in the world. It’s difficult writing about productions and actors you’ve never personally seen (except maybe in filmed clips), but I hope to get across the passion and brilliance of both Edwards and MacLiammoir, and all the paths that lead to them.
What Moss Hart Means to Me. Playwright and director Moss Hart was a very talented man, known for being George S. Kaufman’s most successful collaborator. He certainly influenced my life and Hart has seen a bit of a renaissance lately with the production of his autobiography, Act One, on Broadway, so I’ll take a look at his career and life.
I’m trying to figure out a couple of stories about, well, me. I’d like to write about a play I directed in college, Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady, because it was memorable and interesting, I think. I might also write about my time in comedy, starting with The Act, my duo with Scott Levy. I may also publish some unpublished work, including parts of my novel The Dick Beaks Show, or sketches that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.
This is all part of the bigger picture leading to my memoirs called Scrap Heap.
In the meantime, it’s the start of the holiday season, so my timeless Bing Crosby article gets shoved to the front.
See you soon.
Der Bingle: A Short Appreciation of Bing Crosby
He was once the most popular singer ever.
He recorded over 1600 songs over a 58 year recording career. His records have sold over one billion copies. He had 38 number one hits, including the most popular song ever.
He appeared on about 4000 radio programs.
His television show regularly was watched by over 50 million people weekly.
He appeared in 83 movies and sold over one billion tickets, which puts him third overall on the most popular actor category, behind Clark Gable and John Wayne. He was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won one, and introduced fourteen Oscar nominated songs in these films, which won four.
He is largely forgotten, with the exception of this time of year, where his music is rotated liberally and his name is synonymous with the holiday season.
He is Bing Crosby whose life and legacy still live on among those of us who cherish popular singing.
And that’s what he was, a popular singer, singing songs of every type and genre, with an easy-going style that belied his immense talent. Bing made it look easy and everyone, from all walks of life, would enjoy his music. And man, that voice, that incomparable voice; that deep baritone that takes every musical phrase seriously and glides it to its musical height. Jazz, ballads, blues, cowboy songs, hymns, show tunes – he sang practically everything, captivating his audience with those full, rich notes. They clung to every word, every syllable, as Bing invented what became the crooner. Many tried to imitate. Sinatra started out as a Bing clone.
What made me start thinking of Crosby was the programming of local radio. Several stations here in Cincinnati – as I am sure other cities have done the same thing — have begun playing Christmas music 24/7. I had the occasion to listen to a large block of that programming one night and noticed that, roughly, one out of six songs were songs by Crosby, including at least two versions of White Christmas, the aforementioned most popular song ever, with sales of over 100 million.
I thought about that. I thought about how much I like Crosby’s music and mused sadly that this is probably the only time of the year in which Crosby is played on mainstream radio. SiriusXM radio even has a channel devoted this time of year called “Bing Crosby Christmas Radio”. To be fair, you can listen to Crosby songs on Sirius’ 40’s channel and Pandora and Spotify also program Crosby music into your specific playlists.
TMC does show the occasional Crosby film, Going My Way being the most popular. Sometimes a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” picture pops up, but these are mostly dated comedies and, as much as I love Bob Hope, his humor is very topical and era-specific.
Yes, Bing Crosby has some skeletons in his closet. He could be aloof and dismissive. He probably wasn’t the greatest father to his four sons by his first marriage, but apparently redeemed himself by his second marriage, with three children.
(There’s a biography of Bing called The Hollow Man, which presents a less than flattering portrait of him. For years, during my friends and my annual White Elephant Christmas party, we gave away the same copy of this book each year to some unsuspecting recipient, who was obliged to give it away the following year.
My friend, Rick Simms, né Clem Coffee, said that if “One fifth of what was written in that book is true, Bing Crosby was the most despicable man who ever lived.” And Clem liked Bing Crosby.
A better biography is Gary Giddins’ Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years 1903-1940. This came out in 2001, with a promised second volume that is taking some time to see print.
So, this holiday season, when you hear Bing Crosby sing those delightful Christmas carols that can make the other ones seem lame, pause and reflect just one minute that the man you’re listening to is a superstar in the world of popular music. And if you have Pandora or Spotify, give a listen to some of his other non-holiday music. I’ll bet you’ll end up liking it and wanting more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on my vinyl copy of Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings.
A while back, I presented a book proposal on the deaths of famous writers. An editor suggested it for me and I sketched out some rough outlines of Poe, Hemingway and Dorothy Parker (Mrs. Parker’s entry is here on the blog, and I’m sure the Poe entry will show up sooner or later. Since I’m terribly late in posting my latest story, I’m filling in with this chestnut, complete now with visuals. I hope you enjoy it. — Hat
Ernest Hemingway: A Short Overview with No Insights into His Writing, Life or Otherwise
On the morning of July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway, quite possibly the finest writer America has ever produced, selected a shotgun he had bought from Abercrombie & Fitch from his gun cabinet, fired once, and blew his head off. He was just two weeks shy of his 62nd birthday.
At the time of his suicide, Hemingway was just a shell of his former self, both physically and mentally. He had suffered severe injuries, including a skull fracture, internal organs ruptured and spinal damage during a plane crash on safari in Uganda in 1954. More recently, Hemingway had undergone a series of electroshock treatments at the Mayo Clinic to help him with his bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies. The treatments, subsequently, erased his memories and Hemingway lost his ability to write. He became even more paranoid and depressed and drank up to a quart of liquor a day, which affected his mood.
It’s hard to measure the impact Hemingway has had on American literature. There have been many imitators, but few could match his prowess. His prose was distinctively his own voice, simple and direct, with a journalist’s eye for capturing detail. His heroes are all masculine, a “man’s man” and the public relished reading about activities that they could only dream about — bullfighting in Spain, African safaris, wild nights of drinking.
He was lauded as the finest writer of the 20th Century for his novels, The Sun Also Rises (which influenced a generation of “Beat” writers), A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea (which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953). Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
Orson Welles remembered: “I saw Hemingway after he got the Nobel Prize, which Ordoñez, the bullfighter, used to call “the Swedish prize.” I don’t know why that always struck me as a funny name for it. Well, when Ernest got the Swedish Prize—not in his official speech, but to the press when he arrived—he said, “You shouldn’t have given it to me—you should have given it to Isak Dinesen.” There he was in Scandinavia, so it was very nice for her. I didn’t know how nice until I mentioned it to him one day in Paris. He flew into a rage. It seems he hated her. The old Baron Blixen—her husband—was Hemingway’s great pal out of Africa, and (Dinesen) had left him for another man. Finch Hatton, wasn’t it? The white hunter.”
(These are First Edition Covers. I will gladly take any off your hands.)
Leaving Cuba during Castro’s military coup, Hemingway and his fourth wife, Mary, made their home in Ketchum, Idaho. In the immediate aftermath of Hemingway’s suicide, Mary claimed the gun accidentally discharged and said Hemingway had left no note. President Kennedy called Hemingway one of America’s greatest authors and “one of the great citizens of the world.” Hemingway is buried in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho.
His father, a brother and a sister, and his granddaughter, the model and celebrity Margaux, all committed suicide.
Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, died a transsexual by the name of Gloria in a cell at a women’s jail in 2001.