Marilyn Fox, longtime artistic director for Pacific Resident Theatre, is currently focused on a project in which she has contributed her writing, directing, and acting skills. “The Dorothy Parker Project” is a dramatization of short stories, poems and musings by Dorothy Parker, with additional material contributed by Kathrine Bates, Michael Cooper and Fox.
She is co-directing the play along with Michael Cooper. Parker is remembered for her brilliant and biting poems, short stories, and for her association with the Algonquin Round Table. This production highlights Parker’s empathy and care for social causes. She left her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr. with a clause in her will that if anything happened to Dr. King, her estate would then be transferred to the NAACP.
In this performance, Dorothy, and an additional cast of 15 characters will share some of her short stories, plus a few poems and musings. The show will dispel rumors that you may have heard about her, and reveal some important things you might not have known.
Marilyn Fox discusses how it all came together during my interview with her:
How did this project come about?
About three years ago a friend of Pacific Resident Theatre, Robert Cannon, wanted to get the rights to Dorothy Parker short stories and have them adapted into a play. Over time we put together an evening of Parker’s pieces which were adapted from the short stories that she wrote for the New Yorker. Kathrine Bates Michael Cooper and myself made additional contributions. For instance, much of what Dorothy says to the audience is the monologue that Michael and I wrote.
What were the biggest challenges in putting this piece together?
I think finding the through-line for Dorothy’s pieces, deciding what stories fit in, and connecting the work in a way that makes sense and honors what she was trying to tell us in each piece. Also, casting. We were very lucky to have wonderful actors come in from our company but when you’re casting a period piece it’s always nerve-racking to wonder if you’re going to find actors with those kinds of language skills, and we did!
Any surprises during rehearsals, or when finally staging the play?
Yes. I was surprised at what a very happy experience it was. It’s wonderful working with Michael Cooper, he’s a great collaborator, both as a writer and as a director. He did a lot. We have an outstanding design team that gave so much more than I had hoped for in that small space. Design elements were inspired by an authentic photo that Michael Cooper had found. David Mauer created the perfect space and set, Matt Richter did an extraordinary job on the lighting and Carlos Brown, actually built each costume!
What are your goals for The Dorothy Parker Project?
Well definitely to keep exploring Dorothy’s story and to keep the play in front of audiences. We hope that it will have a regional life. Her work is so timely. The play takes place in her apartment in 1958 but she’s talking as if to a 2018 audience, about who she is and who she actually was. She could be caustic, yet she had a brilliant sense of humor.
Dorothy Parker was such a visionary in the way she felt and fought for people, who by today’s terms would be called “marginalized,” poor people, homely people, she championed the underappreciated, including women and African Americans. She was way ahead of her time, and she had hoped to be remembered for her empathy and humanity, especially as they were reflected in her writing.
The NAACP claimed Parker’s remains, in 1988, and designed a memorial garden for them outside its Baltimore headquarters. The plaque there reads:
“Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph, she suggested, ‘Excuse my dust’. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit, which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988”
I’ve seen so many plays throughout the years at Pacific Resident Theatre and every one of them gave me a memorable theatre experience and know “The Dorothy Parker Project” will be one as well.
“The Dorothy Parker Project” runs Thurs – Sat at 8 p.m.; Sun at 3 p.m. through June 10, 2018. Ticket Prices: $22. Tickets only $15 for PRT Subscribers. Order now online or call 310-822-8392.