Theatre Askew Drafting Table @ The Cell, New York
December 2010

This work-in-progress explores the life, work, and resonance of 19th century juvenile novelist Horatio Alger and the myth of American success that Alger's stories helped crystallize. The play focuses on an inner city high school teacher who hopes to save a promising but at-risk student by exposing him to the work of Horatio Alger. As they explore Alger's most famous novel Ragged Dick, the book comes to life and we see Alger actively creating the fiction. But as aspects of Alger's personal history – including allegations of pederasty that drove him out of the Unitarian church – are revealed, difficult truths overwhelm the easy pleasures of fiction. This play examines the delicate territory of a teacher/student relationship, characterized both by a genuine desire to help a struggling youth and inappropriate attraction; the struggle Alger experienced in his own life is mirrored in the present-day action. Alger and this project resonate with my concerns about the challenges of working in education today, gleaned from my experience as a teaching artist in NYC schools; the complexities of working with gay or questioning youth; and the difficulty of internalizing, but not achieving, standards of success proscribed by forces outside of ourselves.

Production Dates: Dec 1-5, 2010, Theatre Askew Drafting Table

Cast: Brandon Chinn, Tim Cusack, Eric Perival, William Alex Runnells. Richard Sheinmel, Robbie Tann, Matt Wray

Creative Team: Jason Jacobs, Author/Director; Jamee Freedus, Dramaturg; Tim Cusack, Producer; Matthew Prtichard, Sound Design; J. Reginald Skowronski, Lighting; Amanda Seymour, Costumes.

Photos by Martin Miller