Long Wharf Theatre has posted on its website an essay by me called “From Page to Stage.” I wrote it for the program of the New Haven transfer
of Satchmo at the Waldorf, which begins previews at Long Wharf on October 3:
Satchmo at the Waldorf takes place in March of 1971 in a dressing room backstage at the Empire Room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, where Armstrong performed in public for the last time four months before his death. Much of what he and Glaser say in the play derives from things that they said in real life, and the way in which both men talk on stage is an accurate portrayal of their habits of speech, right down to the last four-letter word. But the play is still a work of fiction, albeit one that is freely based on fact. It’s an attempt to suggest the nature of their personal relationship, which was so fraught with tension that no mere biographer, obliged as he is to stick to the factual record, could hope to do more than hint at its endless subtleties. Fictionalizing that relationship has freed me to speculate about things that I cannot know for sure but have good reason to suspect. Gordon Edelstein told me that Satchmo at the Waldorf is about “love–and betrayal.” As soon as he said it, I knew that he understood what I was trying to do….
Read the whole thing here.