2015 Capital Fringe Preview #27: ‘American Lit’ by James F. Bruns

Dropping out of college, I went to live in a trailer in Key West, Florida. I had great ambitions to try and finish a novel or screenplay, short story, or a poem or anything actually. And not having a car or a bicycle, I did alot of walking around the island. And many nights coming back from Duval Street I’d pass the cottage on Duncan Street that Tennessee Williams lived in. The cottage hidden behind green tropical growth seemed dark and forbidding.

Then one afternoon while walking to Smathers Beach, I heard a car coming up behind me honking with the passengers hooting and hollering at me. I turned to give them the finger and then saw sitting perched in the backseat rollicking in laughter, Tennessee Williams. In a flash my scowling face turned to wild eyed surprise and my middle finger into a wave of joy and I yelled, Yeah! Hey Man! That made the passengers roar with laughter and they all waved goodbye as the car sped away down Flagler Avenue. So why mention this now? Because that was winter of 1979 and even though I had seen our greatest playwright in person, (sorta) it wasn’t until just 4 years ago that I even gave a single thought to writing a play or being a playwright. Well, fast forward to today, I now have a collection of 5 short plays called American Lit in the Capital Fringe Festival to be performed by the Lights, Theatre, Action! players.

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Norman Mailer once wrote that American Literature started with Ernest Hemingway. At least for the men, he added. And that is where our play begins. Hemingway: The Arkansas Years shows the the world famous writer and sportsman meeting the in-laws for the first time in Piggot, Arkansas. After divorcing the first wife in Paris, Hemingway and his second wife Pauline, give up the expatriate life and return to America. Although wary of him, the Pfeiffer family wants their daughter to stay close by so the plan is to build Ernest a writing studio. In the barn.

The second play is The Cain Scrutiny. It scrutinizes the motives behind why the most famous author and screenwriter in America, James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity) and his wife Florence suddenly leave Hollywood to move to of all places, Hyattsville, Maryland. This story takes place not far from where our playhouse theater is at W.S. Jenks & Son 910 Bladensburg Road, NE. A building Cain no doubt drove past many times in his life. I wonder if he ever imagined this hardware store the site of the only play written about him, the inventor of noir fiction.

The third play is called The Writers’ Colony and tells the story of Lowney Handy the passionate lady who single-handedly tried to build a utopian artists colony in the corn fields of Illinois. Of course her first student James Jones, (From Here to Eternity) would be her only success, but that doesn’t stop young Marty from joining the Handy colony to write his version of the Great American Novel.

The next play Going to Meet the Man returns us to Key West. To the backyard garden at 1431 Duncan Street. It tells of the time Gore Vidal came a calling and invited Tennessee Williams to drive up to Palm Beach to meet JFK. This invitation naturally excites Tenn who starts to sweat and hyper-ventilate and triggers an emotional memory for him of once meeting another famous man.

The last play is The Last Bullfighter and takes place at a literary party in Norman Mailer’s West Side apartment on the 13th floor. As the invited writers, critics and his second wife Adele Morales are about to find out it is the worst night of Norman Mailer’s life.

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W.S. Jenks & Son – 910 Bladensburg Road, NE

Friday, July 10th at 6:00 PM

Sunday, July 12th at 2:00 PM   

Wednesday, July 15th at 9:50 PM

Tuesday, July 21st at 8:30 PM

Sunday, July 26th at 1:20 PM  




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