2023 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘Tender’ by David John Preece

Three literary legends — Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda Fitzgerald — converge on an evening of emotional upheaval.

By David John Preece

Editor’s note: Tickets are now on sale for the 2023 Capital Fringe Festival (July 12 to 23), and DC Theater Arts has offered space to ten Fringe producers to describe their shows in their own words. Check back for more 2023 Capital Fringe previews!

In my play Tender, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda Fitzgerald converge in a Paris apartment one evening, resulting in emotional upheaval and turmoil.

Fitzgerald was a novelist, essayist, and short-story writer. Achieving popular success and fortune in the 1920s, he is best known for his novels depicting the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age. He is now widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

Zelda was a socialite and later a painter and novelist whose audacious spirit captivated those around her. She was a muse for much of her husband’s literary work.

Hemingway was a novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. His economical and understated writing style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction.

Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre in 1918 when he was 22 and she was just 18. He was in the army, and she was the wild child of a prominent southern judge. Their attraction was instant.

As Fitzgerald settled into New York to write, Zelda quickly became his main inspiration. Fitzgerald explicitly and intentionally based several early characters on Zelda, most notably Rosalind, in his first novel, This Side of Paradise. Zelda and Fitzgerald’s relationship with her became an increasing focus of his fiction.

That first novel, 1920’s This Side of Paradise, was an instant hit and bestseller, which allowed him to marry Zelda and become a celebrity at 23. The young couple reveled in their notoriety and their newfound wealth.

They immediately began living beyond their means. Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, was also a bestseller, allowing them to keep up their new lifestyle.

Even at the height of their fame and success, Fitzgerald struggled with money, spending it faster than it came in, and had to write short stories to bring in extra income.

Fitzgerald and Hemingway met in Paris after Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby. They formed a fast friendship over a mutual love of drinking and writing. Fitzgerald was already a successful author, while Hemingway was a freelancing journalist.

Fitzgerald was enamored with Hemingway for his artistic capabilities, adventurous spirit, and archetypical masculinity. Both men were seemingly opposite to each other in personality. Hemingway was a brash, egocentric man who loved adventure.

At the same time, Fitzgerald was a social striver who prided himself on his budding elitism and loved the finer things in life. Fitzgerald was more effeminate and introspective.
Zelda loathed Hemingway as much as Fitzgerald liked him.

Zelda believed her husband’s friend was “bogus.” Likewise, Hemingway felt little affection for Zelda because he thought she was keeping Fitzgerald from doing his best work.

My play Tender, about these three literary legends, was written through historical research and autobiographical anecdotes and created a probable evening where the combustion of their interaction explodes, exposing the painful truth of their lives.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

Tender by David John Preece plays at Sour – 2nd Floor – 1050 Thomas Jefferson as follows: July 13 at 7:30 pm, July 15 at 11:15 am, July 16 at 8:30 pm, July 20 at 8:00 pm, and July 22 at 4:45 pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online.

Director: Carl Randolph
Performers: Brenna Horner, Chad Tyler, and Adian Chapman

David John Preece is a New Hampshire resident and award-winning playwright best known for his plays and screenplays, including Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories (winner of Best Play by the New Hampshire Theatre Awards 2008), The Picture of Dorian Gray (winner of ten
New Hampshire Theatre Awards 2011 nominations, including Best Original Play), The House of the Seven Gables (winner of the Best Original Play by the New Hampshire Theatre Awards (2009), and Tender (nominated for Best New Play by the Los Angeles Weekly 2004 and (winner of Best New Play by the New Hampshire Theatre Awards 2007). Besides being a produced and published playwright, he has had several scripts optioned over several years. His short film, Lunch with Eddie, which he wrote, directed, and produced, was shown at over 30 international film festivals and won several awards, including Best Short Film and Best Director. He has received education and theater/film training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California – Los Angeles.

The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.

SEE ALSO: 2023 Capital Fringe Festival to pop up in Georgetown and Dupont (news story, April 28, 2023)


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