By David Walters
For twenty-two years.
For twenty-two years Food for Thought Theatre Company has been doing readings of one-act plays both to hear them and to develop them. For twenty-two years they have worked to deepen the short play format to its own art form. The artists they have brought in to work on these pieces through the years is a who’s who of the theatrical world.
On Monday 23 January at Theatre 80 St. Marks (which may have been the very last show at this iconic space) they began their twenty-third year by presenting two works, Stabbed Ten Times and The Last Chance Café, that drew from the fascinating life of an icon of the legal world, Martin Garbus. The plays, dealing with freedom of speech and voting rights, were written by Susan Charlotte, who deftly handled the exposition of both pieces while keeping us involved in the human aspect of the tragedies they covered.
Stabbed Ten Times (beautifully read by Larry Pine) is about the experience of Salman Rushdie when he was stabbed on stage at Chautauqua, his journey to the publishing of his book Satanic Versus, and the fallout from the publication both personally to Mr. Rushdie and to the publishing world. Mr. Rushdie has lived under an Iranian death sentence (fatwa) since 1989. Mr. Garbus work was to try and mitigate the price placed on Mr. Rushdie’s head (“A car slowly pulled up to the curb. I checked the license. The driver nodded to me… He handed me a blindfold…”). It’s a universal story of today about freedom and how it is controlled and shackled.
The Last Chance Café was a case in Mississippi that Mr. Garbus represented early in his career involving Henrietta Wright, who had registered to vote in 1965 and her subsequent arrest and physical abuse and torture while in police and state custody. Knowing that there was a zero to none chance of winning the case despite catching the prosecution’s witnesses in lies on the stand, the fact that the fight was being fought was enough. The jury came back that she probably wasn’t hurt as badly as she said she was.
Ms. Charlotte is planning on dramatizing several Mr. Garbus’ cases under the title All the Court’s a Stage which will bring in Mr. Garbus’ work with Lenny Bruce, Nelson Mandella, Samuel Beckett, Andrei Sakharov, and his work in the Ukraine. He is a preeminent scholar on the first amendment and intellectual property rights and his long career is chock full of many fascinating stories. Do look at his wiki page here and some of his notable cases.
There was a Q&A after the reading attended Mr. Garbus and a song for the event by Judy Collins who came in via an electronic link in support of Mr. Garbus and this project.
Keep an eye out on their website for the next installment.
Stabbed Ten Times and The Last Chance Cafe written by Susan Charlotte, directed by Antony Marsellis, and starring Michael Citriniti, Zach Grenier, Larry Pine, and Nesha Ward.
For additional information please contact FFTP at 646 366-9340 or firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.