Category Archives: Comedy

Modern Subdivision Zoning in the Present Day

My comedy monologue, Modern Subdivision Zoning in the Present Day, will be performed as part of “Tales from the Script Festival” from Darkhorse Dramatists, on November 1 and 2, at 8:00 p.m., at the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center, in Owega, New York.

Adam Ruff performs the monologue, directed by Cat Robinson.

http://www.tiahwaga.com

Cincinnati audiences will get a chance to see it on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, when the Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative presents my play, Lily Blossoms, or Modern Subdivision Zoning in the Present Day, at the Fifth Third Bank Theater in the Aronoff Center. More details on that to come.

 

modern sub

What’s Going On?

Hi everyone.  We had a great summer.  My play, The Ten Minute Play (with a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter), played to great response at the Drama Workshop in Cheviot, Ohio (my hometown, or close to it in Cincinnati) in June.  I also directed a play, Lessons by Teri Foltz, that was well-received.  I wrote at length about these two plays in an earlier blog post.

Since then, I’ve been busy.  I’ve written another play, The Sequel to Citizen Kane.  The play is about an agent and a director who think they have the sequel rights to the greatest film ever made.  It’s a comedy one-act.

I should have some news soon about a production of another play of mine coming up in November.  I can’t reveal anything yet, but, New York State, lookout.

I can say that my play, Lily Blossoms, or Modern Subdivision Zoning in the Present Day, will have a staged reading on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at the  Aronoff Center’s Fifth Third Theater, in Downtown Cincinnati.  Also on the bill is The Ghost Girl by Ariel Rodgers.  I’ll have more info on this as we get closer to show date.

Early fall is the time when playwrights submit to every playwriting festival, calls for submissions and any opportunity to get the work out there.  That in and of itself is a full-time job, especially for playwrights that don’t have an agent (most of us, I think).  But, it’s a necessity, so you do it.  Thankfully, we do support each other with our writing communities on social media, so that helps.

If you’re a new visitor to my page, thank you for checking it out.  Let me know if you need anything.  Sign up for alerts.  I think it’s going to be a busy season.

Greg

Tickets Now On Sale!

Tickets are now on sale for The Drama Workshop’s Home Brew Theater show June 7, 8 and 9, at TDW in Cheviot. This show consists of ten 10 minute plays. I have a play I wrote in it called The Ten Minute Play (with a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter) and I’m directing The Lesson by Teri Foltz. This is going to be a fun evening, so I hope to see many of you there.

 

Home Brew

The Gingerbread Lady

I will be directing the play, Lessons, by Teri Foltz, for The Drama Workshop’s Home Brew Festival, featuring productions of short plays by local authors. The show dates are June 7, 8 and 9 at the Glenmore Playhouse in Cheviot.

My own play, The Ten Minute Play (with a Nice Picture of Jimmy Carter), will also be part of the festival.

In the Summer of 1974, I directed my first full-length play, The Gingerbread Lady by Neil Simon. One of Simon’s more dark comedies, TGL is the story of Evy, a singer, whose career and life is destroyed by her drinking.

During the Spring of 1974, I was a student at Northern Kentucky University, as a theater major. I had had a lot of fun directing Edward Albee’s The Sandbox and a few scenes form other plays in classes, including a great version of the closing scene of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Jennifer Burkhart was one of the best actresses at NKU and frustrated because she couldn’t find a part that she wanted to play. She brought me a copy of the play and asked if I would look at it and, if I liked it, we could go to the theater head, Bill Parsons, and see if we could do it as summer show. I did like it and pitched it to Dr. Parsons, who agreed to give us a little money to put it on.

So, I was part of great group of friends with theater sound, lighting, props and production experience, so there was no doubt that they were going work on it. This was going to be the first totally student produced show at in NKU’s history. In Nunn Hall, there was a small theater, holding around 150, so after Spring semester was out, we moved in and began to work on the show.

I don’t even think we had auditions. Jennifer was going to be Evy, after all, it was her idea. I cast friends in the other roles. Greg Carstens as Jimmy, Frankie Banta as Polly, Susan Rogers as Tory, Mike Salzman as Manuel and Jerry Helm as Lou.

Mike, Jerry, Debby Wolff and me practically lived in that theater for the two months leading up to the show. Debby was our props mistress and we had a great looking set, designed by Jerry. We even had running water in the set kitchen.

We had some anxieties throughout the rehearsals. Nerves came out. It was a big show, after all, with nuances that I don’t know if we were successful in presenting, but we had fun, that I do remember.

A Recommendation for My New Play

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. 

If you see this post and know a theatrical producer, please pass this along.  Hopefully, a company will like the play and decide to produce it.

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.

Play Reading of The Great Stalinski

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.

Some Nice Words About My Ten Minute Play.

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:

2 Oct. 2018
 I think every writer, but especially those of ten minute plays, can relate to this ten minute play about ten minute plays and writing in general. From explaining what a ten minute play is, to thinking that what we’ve crafted is the best ten minute play ever. sing a picture of Jimmy Carter seems to be about the most ten minute play thing ever. Did I mention this is a ten minute play about ten minute plays? Because it is and I think it might be slightly brilliant. 

 

2 Oct. 2018
 Irreverently funny, Greg Hatfield strikes the right tone with a two-hander reminiscent of the style of May/Nichols. 
Thank you, Everett and Robert.  I really appreciate it.
Everett is hailed as “one of our best new children’s authors” by Heartland Play Publishers, Everett Robert is an award winning author, playwright, actor, and director with over 20 years of experience.  His website is:  http://www.emergencyroomproductions.com
Robert is a playwright with many productions under his belt.
Both men are members of the New Play Exchange.  I had the opportunity to meet both men at the Midwest Dramatists Conference recently, where our plays were given a reading, and their plays stood out among the group.
Thanks again, guys.

What’s New?

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.

Fatty Goes to Frisco: A Review of Room 1219 and Comments

The silent film era is riddled with contradiction, confusion and the loss of thousands of the films made before 1927.  As studios began making films, having discovered there was an audience for it, and more importantly, profits to be made, they began cranking them out at an enormous rate.  Making it up as they went along, the early filmmakers had no blueprint or guide to show them how to make films.  They were learning on the job.  Contradiction came in the form of filming technique, story structure and acting styles.  The confusion was determining what the audiences wanted to see, although in the very early days it was such a novelty that practically anything filmed was worthy of the price of admission.

But audiences soon let the early studios know what they liked, as they sought out the studios and filmmakers, like D.W. Griffith at Biograph, because they knew they were getting good entertainment.  These audiences soon became enamored of certain actors and actresses, seeking out films with their favorites.  As actors weren’t given screen credit, they became known by their roles associated with the studios for which they worked.  In 1908, actress Florence Lawrence became known as “The Biograph Girl” and is regarded as the first movie star.  Audience flocked to the films she was in and she soon became in demand for other studios at a higher salary.  (At Biograph, Lawrence was replaced by Mary Pickford.)

Florence Lawrence, The Biograph Girl

With the star system now entrenched, personalities were driving the medium.  Audiences couldn’t get enough of “Little Mary” Pickford, Mary Miles Minter, Wallace Reid, Mabel Normand and Douglas Fairbanks. Comedies were the overall favorite and Charles Chaplin was the most popular star in the world with his Little Tramp character.

Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford

Mary Miles Minter

Mary Miles Minter

Wallace Reid

Wallace Reid

Mabel Normand

Mabel Normand

Douglas Fairbanks

Douglas Fairbanks

Chaplin began in British vaudeville before being discovered by Mack Sennett, who offered him a job at his Keystone Studios.  Chaplin accepted and began working with Mabel Normand, who was the reigning queen of comedy at the time.  Also working at Keystone was a young, rotund comedian named Roscoe Arbuckle.

Roscoe Arbuckle

Roscoe Arbuckle

After Chaplin left Keystone Studios, Sennett, who had great success with the Keystone Kops, began pairing Normand with Arbuckle.  Billed as “Fatty” (a name he hated), Arbuckle played mischievous and naïve hayseed, or appeared in drag.  As he started headlining his own films, he quickly became the second most popular film comedian.  Paramount Studios offered him a three-year, $3,000,000 contract in 1918 (about $46,000,000 today).

Roscoe and Mabe

Roscoe and Mabel

418px-Fatty_Arbuckle_The_Hayseed_Film_Daily_1919

Arbuckle lived lavishly openly.  He bought a mansion, he bought cars, he threw parties.  Of course he wasn’t alone. This first generation of movie stars, who had grown up in abject poverty, didn’t really know what to do with the buckets of money that came their way.  Prohibition was in effect, but that didn’t stop them from becoming alcoholics.  Drugs, including cocaine, morphine and heroin, were in plentiful supply, often supplied by people who worked for the studios.  It was the era of the casting couch, as hundreds of young women were lured to Hollywood only to find that once they were used, they were discarded quickly.

Roscoe's Pierce-Arrow

Roscoe’s Pierce-Arrow

The studios had people that tried to control all elements of the press and presented only the best face to the public.  But, you can’t keep good gossip away, and there was plenty to talk about.  While it seemed Hollywood was playing, many in America became concerned and there was some grass-roots movements beginning to form with the sole purpose of cleaning up the movies.

Greg Merritt’s new book, Room 1219:  The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood (September, 2013, Chicago Review Press) is the account of sensational accusations and subsequent trials of Roscoe Arbuckle, following a party held Labor Day weekend in San Francisco.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1613747926/ref=as_li_ss_il?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1613747926&linkCode=as2&tag=greghatfrumi-20

It would seem there is a small renaissance today in the lives of silent film stars.  New biographies are being published of the bigger stars (John Gilbert and Mae Murray) and more obscure film actors (Peg Entwistle and Mary Wickes).  There remains huge interest in silent stars such as Harlow and Garbo (who made the transition into sound), Chaplin, Pickford, director William Desmond Taylor, Mabel Normand, Laurel and Hardy and several others.

The life of Roscoe Arbuckle falls into an odd category.  On one hand, his films have now become relegated to the pile of silent films that seem to end up in bargain bins of DVDs for $1.00, even while becoming easier to view (YouTube).

His story isn’t of his success as a comedian and silent film star; it’s the story of his being accused, initially of murder, and subsequently, manslaughter, and the salaciousness that followed.  The story of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle is legend.  It’s the nagging details that are muddled.

Thankfully, Merritt’s book takes a close look at all the evidence, all the while putting Arbuckle’s place in history in perspective.  Merritt reviews autopsy reports, trial transcripts, police and coroner testimony, newspaper articles and never before published interviews to give a very balanced analysis of what could have happened that Labor Day of 1921.

Here’s the story in brief:  By 1921, Arbuckle was big box office.  His films were popular all over America and the world.  He was loved by everyone; on screen he was one of us.  Arbuckle had just completed the film, Freight Prepaid, for Paramount and was working on his next feature film.  He needed a break and took a small entourage to San Francisco, where they would have a party in the suites of the Hotel St. Francis.

Hotel St. Francis.  Roscoe's bank of suites were at the top left in the first building.

Hotel St. Francis. Roscoe’s bank of suites were at the top left in the first building.

Room 1219 today

Room 1219 today

Throughout the weekend, people would come and go.  There was alcohol and plenty of it.  On Monday, an actress whom Arbuckle knew slightly, Virginia Rappe, came up to the party and after a few drinks, began talking to Arbuckle.

Virginia Rappe

Virginia Rappe

One of the strengths of Room 1219 is its most thorough biography of Virginia Rappe.  Previous books on the Arbuckle case portray her as a desperate actress or prostitute.  Merritt shows she actually had some success in Hollywood and had other opportunities.  When she was talking to Arbuckle, it would make sense that she would ask him for work.

She was also pretty, Arbuckle was flirty, drinks were being served, it was a party.  The two of them slipped away into Room 1219.

What followed changed the lives of both of them.  Rappe was injured, her bladder ruptured.  No one at the time knew how serious it was.  Arbuckle left her in the care of others and the party broke up.

Rappe died four days later.  Based on the testimony of others at the party, including Rappe companion Maude Delmont who never testified in open court, Arbuckle was arrested for the murder in an attempt to perpetrate rape of Virginia Rappe.

images

Roscoe's Mug Shot

Roscoe’s Mug Shot

The charge was eventually reduced to manslaughter and the trial of the century was on and on and on.  There would be three trials in all.  Merritt breaks down each one, showing the lame attempts by the show-boating prosecution to introduce hearsay evidence, twisted testimony and wild speculation.  Of course, the defense did Arbuckle no favors, at least during the first two trials. They seemed unprepared at times, believing that no jury could find it in them to convict one of America’s greatest clowns.  Merritt provides the pertinent transcripts of the trials, showing where the evidence is favorable to Arbuckle, but also shows the holes in his alibi.

The first trial

The first trial

The Prosecution, Roscoe and the Defense Team

The Prosecution, Roscoe and the Defense Team

This was the era of newspapers and Arbuckle was front page news for months, at least until the third trial. By then, other Hollywood stories had grabbed the headlines:  the suicide of Olive Thomas (married to Jack Pickford, brother of Mary) in Paris, the murder of William Desmond Taylor (still unsolved to this day) and the death of matinee idol and drug addict Wallace Reid.

images (3)

At the third trial, Arbuckle was acquitted in less than 10 minutes.  But the damage had already been done.  His career was over.  His films were still banned practically all over the country.  Will Hays had been appointed head of the new Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, which, basically, was a self-serving reform group.  Hays was the puppet of the studio heads and one of his first edicts was to ban Arbuckle permanently from working in any studio in Hollywood.

images (5)

Room 1219 also details Arbuckle’s exile from Hollywood;   Hays’ reversal; and Arbuckle’s subsequent comeback as a director, stage performer and, ultimately, his return to acting in film.  Using all the evidence put into place in the book, Merritt provides a good, logical theory on what really happened that day in San Francisco.  It was an event that should have ended differently.  The lives of two people were ruined that day.  Rappe lost her life and Arbuckle lost everything.

Room 1219 will be welcomed by all film buffs as the most complete account of the Arbuckle trials.  It’s hard to believe 92 years later, there is still new evidence being discovered and new theories advanced.  Fascinating and full of new information about the case, its participants and victims, Room 1219 engages the reader from start to finish with no happy endings in sight.

Virginia Rappe Grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetary

Virginia Rappe Grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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Dorothy Parker: “I do not care what is written about me so long as it is not true.”

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 my favorite, Dorothy Parker.  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

Dorothy Parker:  “I do not care what is written about me so long as it is not true.”

When Dorothy Parker died on June 7, 1967, her death surprised many people.  After reading her obituary in the New York Times, they shook their heads in disbelief.  They thought she had died years ago.  Indeed, death came much too late in life for Mrs. Parker.  The famed literary wit of the 1920’s had, after all, attempted suicide on at least three different occasions.  After her second attempt, her friend, the humorist Robert Benchley warned her that if she wasn’t careful she was “likely to make herself sick.”   On her 70th birthday, she said if she had any manners, she “should be dead by now.  All of my friends are.”

Mrs. Parker and Mr. Benchley

Alone and forgotten at her death, Dottie had lived the last years of her life in her beloved New York, where she had made her biggest contribution.  She was the darling of the Algonquin Round Table, whose ranks included the most famous drama critic of the day Alexander Woollcott;  widely read newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams (from whose poetry style of light verse Dottie borrowed heavily);  award-winning playwright George S. Kaufman;  and the New Yorker founder Harold Ross.  Ironically, she outlived all but two of its members.

File:Algrt.jpg

The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld

Dottie was one of the original staffers at Ross’ new magazine, the New Yorker, where she is credited with creating the prototypical “New Yorker Short Story,” that is a story under 7000 words, urbane, witty and well-written.  But her biggest success came from her poetry;  short, humorous poems, usually about suicide or failed relationships, that she called “trifles,” never taking it seriously, but nonetheless knowing its popularity among her readers.  In the early days of the struggling magazine, Ross scolded her for turning in an article late.  “Sorry,” she said, “someone else was using the pencil.”

The New Yorker’s first issue, 1925
Mrs. Parker, Benchley and Woollcott were all on the “advisory” staff

“I hate writing.  I love having written.”

She published seven books during her lifetime, collections of her short stories and poetry, including Enough Rope (1926), Sunset Gun (1927), Death and Taxes (1931) and After Such Pleasures (1933).  She won the O. Henry Prize for “Outstanding Short Story” in 1939 for her story, Big BlondeA collection from her entire body of work, The Portable Dorothy Parker, was first published in 1944 and remains in print today, bringing thousands of new readers every year.  As she grew older, she and her then-husband Alan Campbell moved to Hollywood, where they worked on screenplays.  Dottie, Alan and Robert Carson were nominated for an Academy Award for their screenplay for the 1937 film, A Star is Born.

Always a champion for social causes, upon her death Mrs. Parker left her entire estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Upon his assassination, the rights reverted to the NAACP.  Author Lillian Hellman was the executor of Dottie’s estate, but never claimed her ashes for burial, after finding out, and getting angry, that Dottie hadn’t left her the rights to her literary works.  Mrs. Parker’s ashes languished in a box in an attorney’s office for over fifteen years before the NAACP took Dottie’s remains and interred them in a memorial garden at their national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.  Dorothy had her own suggestion for her epitaph:

“Excuse my dust.”

Sidebar:

The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with her likeness, as part of the Literary Arts series on August 22, 1992, on what would have been Mrs. Parker’s 99th birthday.

Mrs. Parker isn’t the only Round Table member to be commemorated on a postage stamp.  Others include:

Artist Neysa McMein

Author Edna Ferber

Playwright Moss Hart

A film of her life, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, directed by Alan Rudolph and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, was released in 1994 and released on DVD in 2006.

See the trailer here:

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1621950745/