Trying

by Joanna McClelland Glass

Trying
Rebecca Mozo, Alan Mandell


Director
Set Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Properties Design
Production Stage Manager
Casting
Assistant to Director
Marketing/Public Relations
Set Construction
Master Electrician
Lighting Crew



Scenic Artists

Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Stage Crew


Cover Art
Photography

Cameron Watson
Victoria Profitt
A. Jeffrey Schoenberg
Jared A. Sayeg
Cricket Myers
MacAndME
Brianne Levine
Lisa Soltau
Michael Carnow
David Elzer/Demand PR
Pro Sets West, Inc.
Jeremy Bryden
Watson Bradshaw
Sean Kozma
Geronimo Guzman
Carter Williams
Nakita Bleeker
Karen Jordon
Watson Bradshaw
Sean Kozma
Andrea Dean
Kathryn Horan
M.E. McElveney
Ricky Vodka
Michael Lamont

CAST
(in order of appearance)

Sarah Schorr
Francis Biddle


Act I

Scene 1:
Scene 2:
Scene 3:

November, 1967
The following day
Two weeks later

Act II

Scene 1:
Scene 2:
Scene 3:

Early January, 1968
Mid-April, 1968
June, 1968


Place

Georgetown, Washington D.C


From the Playwright

Speak, Memory
By Joanna McClelland Glass

In the autumn of 1967, in Washington, D.C., I began work as a secretary to Francis Biddle. He was 81 at the time. He had been Attorney General under Franklin Roosevelt, 1941-1945. In 1946, Harry Truman appointed him to be Chief American Judge of the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials. On my first day of employment he told me, quite emphatically, that he was certain he was in his final year of life. He died in October of 1968.

Judge Biddle was a "Main Line Philadelphia" Biddle, a man whose family came to the colonies from England in 1681. Upon arriving, his first American ancestor, William Biddle, purchased 43,000 acres of what is now New Jersey from William Penn. I was a green young girl from the Canadian prairie. My native city, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was incorporated in 1906. In 1906 the young Francis Biddle was an undergraduate at Harvard, soon to enter Harvard Law. We spent our months together "trying" to negotiate and span our enormous differences of youth and age, of class and culture.

We worked in an office that was located atop a garage, an aerie that had once been a hayloft. The garage was approximately 150 feet across the yard from the Judge and Mrs. Biddle's Georgetown house. The trek from the house to the garage was a chore for him; the ensuing climb of a dozen stairs left him winded. And although his physical discomfort angered him, he reserved his deepest rage for the way in which his once-brilliant mind now betrayed him. He fluctuated between "lucidity and senility," as he says in my play. Occasionally he confused me with a secretary who had started a fire in the office after leaving the gas heaters on. Always a vigilant grammarian, occasionally he resorted to tirades against my use of split infinitives. Occasionally he drove me to tears, but I knew that I was witnessing a man of great intellectual stature doing battle, fiercely, with his mortality. And as our sometimes comical, sometimes argumentative days together passed, my fondness for him grew.

My first awkward stab at playwriting was Santacqua, produced in December of 1969 at Herbert Berghof's Playwright's Unit on Bank Street in Greenwich Village. A year later I wrote the first version of Trying, in the form of a one-act play. I sent it to Herbert, requesting an opinion. He replied enthusiastically and insisted that I send the play to his old friend, Alfred Lunt. And so it happened, in April of 1971, that the then 78-year-old actor called me from "Ten Chimneys," his Wisconsin farm. It was an unusually warm spring day in Detroit. I was mixing a pitcher of Kool Aid and was surrounded by, and overwhelmed by, my three noisy children when the phone rang. (I had three kids in two years, due to twins.) Mr. Lunt said that he found the contradictions in Biddle--the "radical patrician" aspects of him--fascinating, and went on to say that he would very much like to play the part. And then, sadly, he said, "But I'm afraid I can't play anymore because I'm going blind, and I bump into things." I put the play away but the image of Biddle fending off the Grim Reaper lingered with me across almost four decades.

Four years ago I returned to the material to write a full-length play. I struggled with many drafts because it seemed, at first, that the only appropriate "homage" would be to depict the man at the height of his powers. To portray him arguing with Henry Stimson, Secretary of War, in Roosevelt's Cabinet, or in a German courtroom confronting Goering or Hess or Speer or Ribbentrop. But all attempts at historical biography ran aground on the shoals of "research." That is, I could not make information lifted from Biddle's own, autobiographical accounts, work on the stage. It resisted fluid dramatization. Every attempt lacked the ring of truth; every attempt had about it a dull aura of removed, lifted information.

Finally, I went back to the 45-minute one-act play and found that I had recorded there what I consider to be the essentials of the Judge's final year. He was, much of the time, utterly frustrated with the naiveté of my youthful convictions and pronouncements. He was frequently in a state of aggravation over articles, journals and files that had been destroyed in the fire. He was obsessed with the two deaths that forever changed his life. (His father had died when Judge Biddle was only six years old, and one of his sons, Garrison Chapin Biddle, had died when only seven years old.) And he deeply regretted, in his mind, his heart and all of his written correspondence, his role as Attorney General during the internment of 125,000 Japanese-American citizens during World War II. It is on these basic essentials that I strove to construct the full-length, two-hour play now playing at The Colony.

Special Thanks

Derek Bjornson, Brad Brown, Chriss Garr, Sharon Estep - Burbank Airport Marriott,
Barbara Hogenson, Lyssa Jacobsen, Charlie Nappi, Lucy Quigley, Nocole Verity, Tobey Wheeler, Carol Wolf