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DOUBT IS OUR PRODUCT

Doubt Is Our Product was my first radio play; it was inspired by many years in public relations, and a quote that caught my eye in the excellent study of the tobacco business, The Cigarette Century by Allan M. Brandt. Cigarette sales in the US tumbled following the 1964 Surgeon General's report linking cigarette smoking and lung cancer. So, the Tobacco Institute hired Hill & Knowlton - the top PR agency in the world - to create a campaign to get people smoking again. Faced with refuting scientific findings, H&K decided their best approach was just to muddy them up, create doubt. (The same tactic is used today around the issue of climate change. Industry groups that lobby for heavy carbon businesses hire - or in some cases create - scientific study groups to challenge fact-based harbingers of climate change.) The characters and the office politics of 1964 gave me the tone of the play, a playful look at a serious subject.

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JOHN & MARY BOLES, A LOVE STORY

John & Mary Boles, A Love Story is the tale of Black Bart, California's most successful stagecoach robber. The story, set in the 1870's, is narrated by his wife and unfolds as it was told to her following his release from San Quentin prison. John Boles carried off a series of Wells Fargo stagecoach robberies to take revenge against the bank for destroying his gold mine. The conditions under which he undertook the robberies were spartan, hiking miles into rugged terrain, lying in wait for days. While deprived in the field, he lived lavishly as a gentleman in San Francisco. Black Bart was slightly wounded fleeing his twenty-eighth hold up and left behind a piece of evidence that proved vital to the Wells detectives tracking their most wanted man.

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RED RAINCOAT ON A SUNNY DAY

The full story of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of our country's enduring mysteries. Like anyone unwilling to accept Warren Commission staffer Arlen Spector's "Magic Bullet theory," I believe there's more to the events of November 22, 1963 than we know. I've read a lot about that day and seen a few documentaries. As a six year old I'd been plunked in front of our B&W television watching my Sunday morning cartoons when the news cut in with a live report from the basement of the Dallas Police Station. Oswald was being transferred to county lock up. You could say that was the morning this fascinating story was imprinted on my youthful imagination. I thought about making Oswald the subject of the play until another direction revealed itself. I wanted to give an audience the sense of what it was like to be there, to witness a tragedy, and feel the force of that blow to the American psyche. Eyewitness accounts, even the best known account recorded by Abraham Zapruder, noted the presence of Jean Hill and Mary Moorman, the two women closest to the motorcade at the time of the assassination. I scoured books and online interviews with the two women to learn their stories. And then I found Jean's book, her first person account of the day. I had found my way into the story!

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JUST A LITTLE MISUNDERSTANDING

Just A Little Misunderstanding sprang from a story my Aunt Catherine Basile told me over coffee and cannoli. The local Off Track Betting (OTB) parlor called and complained that her husband Tony was hanging around, drunk and bothering people. First of all her husband had passed away years before, he was never a drinker, and wherever he was he was welcome. My aunt never had a problem speaking her mind and she laid into the OTB guy! (And she made it her new mission in life to find the other Tony Basile in town besmirching her late husband's name.) This misunderstanding was the focal point for my fictional tale of two brothers who don't exactly see eye-to-eye about things, career and love being primary in their lives.

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LANDING IN OZ

Landing In Oz is my own love story. I wrote this play for Elsie Ritchie, my college sweetheart with whom I was blessed to reconnect 30 years later. We had two beautiful years together before she succumbed to cancer in 2018. Elsie was an actress and award winning drama teacher as well as Reseda School District Teacher of the Year in 1994. We met in Hugh Richmond's English class at UC Berkeley. The class was assigned to learn and perform Shakespeare's "War of the Roses" plays. Elsie was cast as Joan of Arc; I was cast as Man on Horseback until the student cast as the Dauphin of France dropped the class. I took his part. Lucky me. We had just over two years together before graduate school took us in different directions. Part of our joy in reconnecting was sharing our love for theater. Having since retired from teaching, Elsie gracefully alighted the stage once again, both as an actress and director. When the radio theater group she was involved with discussed new work, she asked me if I'd like to try. I love this form because it challenges writers to tell stories only from what an audience can hear...and imagine. And I love it because theater will always connect me to Elsie.

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THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED

I cracked open the history books again for the subject of The Greatest Game Ever Played. I've always been a football fan, so when I read a NY Times article about a 1916 game between a small Tennessee law school and Southern Conference powerhouse Georgia Tech coached by the legendary John Heisman...I just had to know more. It's a sports story, it's a love story; it's a lesson in fair play & playing fair.

Inspiration: Work
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DICKIE!

The inspiration for Dickie! were the characters Allison Larch and Felicia Fitzwilliam, two very sophisticated English girls, 16 on the verge of 20, ready, willing and able to take charge of their world…London, 1965. Love is both in the air and on their minds. Though neither one quite knows what to do about that till Allison’s cousin Dickie enters the scene. Felicia is thoroughly smitten, poor Dickie is utterly confused and Allison is determined that nothing should transpire between her “dearest, sweetest friend in all the world” and her cousin, a lad that loves nothing more than his beloved wardrobe.

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WHERE THE DOGS WENT

This is the play that mines the genesis of my long ago screenplay, where I first discovered Allison and Felicia. That screenplay was set in San Francisco in the mid-90’s, a place & time every bit as vibrant as mid-60’s London…though without the accents. It involved a similarly surreptitious invasion of privacy visited on an innocent dog groomer. Felicia, always given to flights of unchecked imagination, draws dearest Allison into her suspicions about a neighbor and the comings and goings of various and sundry happy canines. Their investigation was going wrong until Allison’s mother Meredith is drawn in, then it becomes a complete disaster!

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MEREDITH FINDS HER VOICE

Tired of catering to everyone else’s every whim and fancy, Meredith takes flight. After spending time among the hippies in San Francisco, she returns grounded, centered and with her new guru…a trust fund baby named Chip, in tow. She begins to see things in a new light while hosting a luncheon for Chip as he sows the sort of confusion she thought her elevated consciousness had finally freed her from. As Meredith begins to accept her family and their peccadillos, she finds the clarity to finally speak her mind.

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NIGHTHAWKS

Nighthawks is set in a New York City bar on New Year's Eve, 1971. A pivotal time. Sarah and Maggie run across Jake, a man unbalanced by personal tragedy, though still hopeful. Their evening takes several unexpected turns as they await the stroke of midnight.

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KEEPING SECRETS

Keeping secrets figures prominently in the way the people of this small Italian-American community in Upstate New York deal with one another. Keeping secrets benefits some in the short term when issues that could be raised, discussed and vanquished…or settled by mutual accord…are dismissed as unimportant. Sometimes issues can be petty and putting them aside feels like the right thing to do. Occasionally a lie, particularly one spun from a long held jealousy can cause a real case of nerves for those looking for the truth.

Inspiration: Work
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A GOOD HOUSEWIFE

A Good Housewife took me into the mid-60's once again. Bill and Donna argue about a remark she made concerning the husband of a couple they know only marginally. What unfolds is a sexy, smart love story at a time when everything people took for granted was being called into question. An awakening...the sexual revolution.

Inspiration: Welcome
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