Living in the Afterglow
In the opinion of some, beginning in the ‘20s and ending with the United States’ entry into the war at the end of ’41, New York City enjoyed an explosion of talent rivaled only by that of Renaissance Florence.
Coming of age after the war, the characters of Songbook live in the afterglow of that explosion, navigating the city as they search for what is permanent in an ephemeral world.
A Marriage Play
My marriage play, though the word is never used.
A play about love, and devotion, and singing, and all the songs we use to say those things to each other we don’t have the words to say for ourselves.
Spanning a period of more than fifty years in New York City – from 1949 to approximately 2004 – it explores the lives of three remarkable men, together and apart.
… It was for me immensely moving for so many reasons and on so many levels. You have captured a great deal of how I feel about life and music from this vantage point of my life… I was struck by your ability to conjure or reincarnate another time, resonantly and sometimes painfully so.
The play was my last collaboration with the director Vivian Matalon before his death in 2018. During our long time together, he directed all of my work. Songbook was presented in two workshops at the York Theater on East 54th Street, where Souvenir began.
When it became apparent that we would not be able to complete it, I began to adapt the story as a novel, a transformation I expected to be able to complete in a period of a few months. All these year later, a draft of the novel is nearing completion.
Under Vivian’s customarily exact, and exacting, direction I was fortunate to see the play acted by four gifted actors – when Bob Stillman was unavailable for the second workshop, the role of Sam – who must not only sing but play the piano – was played by Malcolm Gets.
The songs of Songbook
Let's Get Away From it All
The Night We Called it a Day
The End of a Love Affair
Bye Bye, Blackbird
Everything Happens to me
Last Night When We Were Young
I'm Glad There Is You
The Novel: A Work in Progress
Though it shares many of the same characters and incidents as the play, the novel is greatly expanded in its scope; reaching from 1919 to 2010, encompassing four generations, each telling the same story in their own way; finding and losing love as they make their own families and take their place in the world. Through it all runs a thread of music, the songs that expressed what was hard to put into words.