Tag Archives: Child Abuser

Randy-material for a play, personal and impersonal

More than three years ago my father died of pancreatic cancer. I was involved in this process for over a week, or at least it seemed that way. I spent a good deal of that time cleaning out his garage, and was avoiding my grief, trying to stay out of the way, and, inside, seething over how no one was listening to me. But more importantly I felt sorry the whole time that there was unfinished business between my dad and me.
He died at home. Three or four times he stopped breathing. Each time my family gathered around him to pray and help him make the transition. My only piece of luck that whole week was when I lingered outside the room the last time and missed his death.

The conflict here was between my two younger sisters and me. This conflict stemmed from something inconsequential, a tape of praise hymns-to me that got awfully old, but the fact that my father probably enjoyed the tape never mattered so much to me as the fact that my sisters insisted on playing it to him over and over again. That he might’ve preferred Hank Williams or Nancy Cline never occurred to them; and low and behold, some of his final words proved me right and proved them wrong.

The situation didn’t encourage harmony. Traumatic to me, it later became part of a play of mine. Some things about my dad’s death remain in it (it is the mortar that holds the darn thing together); but thank goodness the play is not about him. It was about a dying father who physically and sexually abused his kids. It was about a mother who did nothing about it. It was personal when I conceived it; but about a not-very-nice man while my father was exactly the opposite.

That was how I put the play together. Pieces came from various sources; I used my total experience base to write it. A large family is brought together by the imminent death of the patriarch, all together for the first and probably the last time. They are educated people, a physics professor, very troubled indeed, and this is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for them to lay to rest all the hurt that had divided them; and this opportunity came in the form of conflict: for Daddy’s Party isn’t the easiest play to watch. It is one of three plays I have written about child abuse.

My wife was molested by her grandfather. He wasn’t a very nice man; and he told me I wasn’t worth a tinker’s damn. But he taught at Columbia. He was never prosecuted. In those days abuse was rarely talked about, wouldn’t have been brought before a court, and was overlooked for many reasons: yes, a good reason to write the play. All of this is in it. I didn’t though stick to the facts, or write about family members; and though I lived part of the play (and the characters were taken from a variety of sources), the play wasn’t about my wife or me.

Good night, Randy



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