I dreamed of being a concert pianist. So I could stay at home and practice, I started a mail order business selling celebrity photos. I made enough to pay for the ad in the Voice but not the gas, electric, or the bill from the movers who had hoisted my piano up to our 5th floor walkup. So I got a “real” job and practicing after work, when all our neighbors were home, was out. There was only so much they could take of the 3rd measure in Bach’s Italian Concerto.
Then one weekend we went to the North Fork. “What a great place for a theater!” I said to my husband. (He claims he said it.) Neither of us had any training, but if we had a summer theater, we thought, we’d have our own business, we’d only have to work for a few months, and in the winter we’d pursue our dreams.
So we mimeographed (!) a brochure, sold shares for $25.00 each and when we raised $2500.00, rented land in Greenport (next to Mr. Kramer’s drugstore because he agreed to let us use his bathroom), put up a tent and voila! – The Greenport Summer Playhouse. “What time is the show,” our first caller asked? “What time can you get here?” My husband answered.
Although the locals – mostly farmers and fishermen — were not too excited about our choice of plays, we decided to only do plays that we wanted to see. This gave us the opportunity to produce A View From the Bridge with Jason Miller; an African-American cast in A Taste of Honey featuring Hazel Scott; and one summer, The Fantasticks in which David Mamet played the Indian, a non-speaking role! And as I watched every rehearsal of every show, saw Jason Miller become Eddie Carbone one night and the next, Murray Burns in A Thousand Clowns, I thought: I want to do that; I can, I will. And that’s what inspired me to give up my dream of being a concert pianist (my teacher was very relieved!) and begin a career in theater.
Gail Kriegel is developing her musical Sweetie which began life when she was Artist-in-Residence at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Her play On the Home Front will be produced in LA next fall and she is one of the seven playwrights who wrote Seven which has been produced all over the world and translated into 10 languages.