Name: Gary Morgenstein
Where are you creating theatre?
My 2022 Perry Award-winning (three awards including Best Original Play) funny drama A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx will run for 10 performances at the Chain Theater on 312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues from December 2-17.
Tell us about your current project?
Set in a working-class neighborhood of the Bronx during the racial and political unrest of the 1960s, the multi-generational play portrays the dysfunctional family dynamics between a married couple, Sammy (Mike Roche) and Eleanor Abrams (Holly O’Brien), and Eleanor’s overbearing parents, Harry (Jackie Kusher) and Gladys Simms (Andrea Bell Wolff), who live in the apartment next door. When the couple’s rebellious teenage son Elliot (Spencer Neumann) gets mugged, it triggers Sammy’s desire to defy his powerful father-in-law and move to Long Island to claim his share of the American Dream. Harry has other ideas. Bernice Garfield-Szita directs. Featured in the cast are Jackie Kusher*(Joyland), Andrea Bell Wolff* (2022 Perry Award Winner, Best Actress), Mike Roche* (Night Over Taos at INTAR, Estelle Parsons director), Holly O’Brien* (Two by Two, Martin Charnin director), Marina Rebecca Chan (Asian American Girl/developed at Pan Asian Rep) and Spencer Neumann (Les Miserables). *(Members of Actors Equity).
What continues to inspire your art?
So much of our society is caught up in compartmentalizing us in silos defined by our various hyphenations that we’re forgetting the most important category: people. Wonderfully human and flawed people reaching out to connect and love. That’s the essence of A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx and really, all my work. The family in the play is readily identifiable. When we premiered at Center Players in NJ this past April (to sold out run), the audience from all different backgrounds said they saw their family in these characters. At the end of the day, we all want the same things. There’s far more that unites us than divides.
Any advice for your peers?
Don’t be afraid to write the truth, respectfully but honestly. And as artists, we have a responsibility to show a path through whatever debris we’re creating on stage. Nothing Pollyanna-like, but just a light that says there’s a way forward through these challenging times. Perhaps by listening to each other more.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on more dramatic readings of my latest play Free Palestine about academic freedom and political bullying. And A Dugout to Peace, the third and final novel of my dystopian political trilogy, will be published by BHC Press in 2023.
Award-winning playwright-novelist Gary Morgenstein’s fiction has been featured in national media from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Parade Magazine, the New York Post, and Sports Illustrated to NPR. In addition to the Perry Award-winning A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx, his plays include the Broadway World award-winning (for Best Play) A Black and White Cookie, depicting the unlikely friendship between a conservative African American newsstand owner and a politically radical Jew, and Free Palestine, where two grieving families are caught up in a public clash over academic freedom and political bullying triggered by the firing of a Jewish teacher of Middle Eastern studies. An accomplished novelist, his seven novels include the critically-acclaimed dystopian political trilogy A Mound Over Hell (“1984 Meets Shoeless Joe”), A Fastball for Freedom (“a dystopian Field of Dreams”) and the upcoming A Dugout to Peace, all from bhcpress.com.
A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx opens at Chain Theater (312 W. 36th Street, 4th) on Friday, December 2nd at 7:30PM and runs thru Saturday, December 17th.
The performance schedule is as follows:
Fri 12/2, Sat 12/3, Thu 12/8, Fri 12/9, Sat 12/10, Fri 12/16 and Sat 12/17 at 7:30PM with matinees on Sun 12/4, Sun 12/11 and Wed 12/14 at 2PM. Tickets are $25. For tickets go to https://atomatocantgrowinthebronx.brownpapertickets.com/
gary.morgenstein/facebook and instagram, @writergary on Twitter.