The following are playwright Stephen Fife’s program notes for Savage World, opening at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 18 (previews begin October 15):
A Persistent Sense of Persistence
Savage World arose from the experience I had as a young reporter in 1979, when I was the only journalist to interview ex-boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in maximum security prison after his reconviction for triple murder. Rubin is a fascinating man, and I was able to meet with him for 21 hours over the course of four different visits. (Just as fascinating was the chance to roam around Trenton State Prison; if you don’t believe we’re a racist society, try taking that tour someday.) I wrote up my interview for the New York Times Magazine, where it was bought but for various reasons never published. For a time I wanted to write a book about the case, but this too didn’t happen, mostly because Rubin refused to cooperate. (He had been released and wanted to write his own book.) I had interviewed all the major players in the case except one, I had lived with the case for several months, but there was no payoff, no outlet for the feelings I had about the people I’d encountered, especially one reporter I knew whose life had been deeply effected by his association with Carter. I started to feel haunted by his story, almost obsessed.
The first draft of Savage World came out in a rush over a three day period in the summer of 1993 while I was at the Shenandoah Playwrights Retreat in rural Virginia. The staged readings at the Retreat and at the Kennedy Center Lab were very well-received. The play was almost immediately taken up by a nonprofit Off-Broadway theatre in NYC, who gave it a star-studded reading that gave rise to a great deal of buzz. I had meetings all over town, from the Shubert Organization to New Line to HBO. The play was chosen as the First Alternate by the National Playwrights Conference. A Broadway producer with deep pockets confided that it was “the best play I’ve read in five years, better than anything August Wilson has written” (her words, not mine). But no one produced it. There were so many close calls—regional theatres, nonprofits, even one of the producers of Wicked. The play was optioned a few times, never produced. No, it would be 7 more years until Paul Koslo of the Met Theatre, being a true maverick and unreconstructed iconoclast, read the play & immediately started working to make this production happen.
So what is the morale of the story? (Besides give Paul Koslo your unproduced play.) Never give up? Nah, sometimes it’s better to toss the pages into the ocean and move on. Never stop believing in yourself? Well, yeah, but that has nothing to do with any particular play or screenplay or book. If it does, then you don’t stand much of a chance in this world. Then what?
Late in this play, Sol Eisner says, “You know me, I’m persistent.” And yes, it’s true, so am I. This is not always a good thing—it has kept me in some doomed relationships too long, and it has caused me to beat my head too many times against the same brick wall. Yet without it, this play expires a long time ago. So is the morale Accept yourself for better or worse? Well, maybe, but I’d put it differently. Play your hand the best way you can, because it is the only hand you have to play.
Yes, I can live with that. Hope you can too.
–Steve Fife, 2008
The Met Theatre and Stealfire Productions present
The World Premiere
a play by Stephen Fife
directed by L. Flint Esquerra
Tom Badal, Roger Bridges, Gary Colon, Darin Dahms, John Del Regno,
Nate Geez, Ernest Harden Jr., Eileen Grubba, Caryl Ingersoll, Erik Passoja
Elain Rinehart, Latarsha Rose, Barry Shay, Kathryn J. Taylor, Vincent Ward
Paul Koslo and Caryl Ingersoll
Casting Direct or -Eileen Grubba
Video Consultant -Stephen Goetsch
Production Stage Manager -Lloyd Reese
Costume Designer -Dawn Worrall
Lighting Consultant-Mark Baker
Postcard Design -Erik Passoja
Public Relations -Phil Sokoloff
Previews October 15th and 16th at 8pm
Opening Night Friday, October 17, 2008 at 8pm
Runs Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm through November 23
Tickets: $15 Previews $20 Run *Discounts for Students and Seniors*
For reservations and group sales call 323.960.7788
The Met Theatre
1089 North Oxford Ave Los Angeles, CA 90029
Parking available at the Earl Scheib Lot
1/2 block East of theatre on Santa Monica Blvd
Synopsis: In 1975, Sol Eisner was a young journalist determined to prove the innocence of the African-American boxer Calvin “Savage" James, convicted eight years earlier of killing a Jewish couple during the riots in Newark. The outcome of these events was so life-shattering that 30 years later Sol and his family are still reeling from the effects.
Stephen Fife’s work is anthologized in One on One: The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century and the upcoming 2009 title DUO!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century (both from Applause). He is also the author of: Best Revenge Mpn: How Theater Saved My Life and Has Been Killing Me Ever Since—with Appearances . . . Joseph Chaikin, Sholem Asch, and Sam Shepard (Cune Press).