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Frederic Hunter

"What Hunter did was put all four Hemingways on the stage at once and let them confront one another… It's a brilliant theatrical device."
--The Los Angeles Times

Critical acclaim Cast of characters
About the playwright Press Release

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Critical acclaim:

"The fine script by Frederic Hunter illuminates the enigmatic personal qualities of this adventurer… It is all done in crackling dialogue, so clearly defined that there is no mistaking the message each component of one man brings."
--The Boston Globe

"… the triumph of 'The Hemingway Play' is the unexpected effectiveness of its premise. By giving the opposing sides of Hemingway's divided self an independent existence on stage, author Hunter permits us to become ringside spectators at the contest between warring factions of his own personality."
--The Washington Post

"… a remarkable theatrical study. Mr. Hunter has managed to imbue his 'aspects' with an unusual depth. One feels grippingly for each one as they interact, trying to overlook or ignore what truth each sees in the others."
--The Christian Science Monitor

"… a brilliantly inventive and totally fascinating piece of writing."
--The Hollywood Reporter

"… it's less a play about Hemingway than a play about life. It's a work about young hopes, the pride of early victory, the sting of mid-life defeat, the despair of the reckoning of old age." --Women's Wear Daily

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Cast of characters
WEMEDGE Hemingway at 19, returning home from a war
HEM a novelist, Hemingway at 28
ERNEST a world personality writer, Hemingway at 55
PAPA one of the world's best-known men of letters, Hemingway at 60
GLYNIS a young woman in her 20s, Papa's secretary
CHARLIE a friend of Ernest who lives in Spain
DANA an orphan of the rich, early 20s
VAS DIAS a writer-friend of Hem, slightly older
LUISA a restaurant owner-manager, a cosmopolitan woman of middle age and working class background
JULIO a waiter, a man on the far side of middle age

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A restaurant in Madrid. There are four playing areas: the entry area of the restaurant, center stage rear; the manager's office two steps above the entry level with an exterior entrance from the terrace and an interior entrance from inside the building, stage right; the main terrace of the restaurant six or eight steps below the entry level, stage left; a lower terrace area two steps below the main terrace level, center stage forward.

Entry into the restaurant is through an arch leading from a vestibule. Patrons do not enter directly from the street. Another arch leads to the restaurant bar.

Off the manager's office is a small balcony. People standing on this balcony are visible from the terrace. Vines or wrought-iron decoration make it possible to climb from the main terrace onto the balcony.

At the downstage left corner of the main ter-race area is the waiter's station. Beyond it lies access to the kitchen.

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A late evening in July, 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., when Madrid restaurant patrons are still arriving for dinner.

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At the beginning of the 21st century it's difficult to recall the impact Ernest Hemingway had in the middle years of the last century on American letters and world popular culture-and, maybe most importantly, on our imaginations.

At a time when few Americans traveled overseas, Hemingway could take you via his novels and short stories to Paris and Pamplona, to Venice and East Africa. And those trips involved true tests-or so we thought-of manhood: bullfighting and running with the bulls, big game hunting in Africa, looking at war, newspapering as a foreign correspondent, falling in love with exotic women, Lady Brett Ashley, Maria the Spanish guerrilla maiden or the Venetian Renata. But the man was not merely an adventurer; he was an artist. As an artist Hemingway seemed singlehandedly to forge a new literary style, spare, clean and mesmerizing. He brought off a fusion of high art and wide popularity, the ultimate expression of which was the publication in Life magazine of The Old Man and the Sea. In a time before environmentalism or the women's movement, the Hemingway package became the stuff of legend.

My imagination was as seduced by it as the next guy's. At a ramshackle beach house in a long ago Malibu a friend and I read--could it have been by flashlight?--passage in A Farewell to Arms that seemed indescribably sexy. We were thirteen. Later The Sun Also Rises made me yearn to go to Europe. Working in San Francisco I saw a play about Hemingway's life as drawn from his stories. It was linear and failed to engage the audience. Still later, serving as a USIS officer in the Congo, I read The Green Hills of Africa in Bukavu on the eastern frontier and, shortly after its publication,
A Moveable Feast in remote Coquilhatville in the country's northwest.

To keep from going bonkers with loneliness in Coq I wrote a play-and began to think like a playwright. Perhaps it was after reading Feast that I realized a play with a linear construction would never do justice to Hemingway. By then we knew that his accidental death, as it had first been reported, was a suicide. It became clear that the man's life was a web of contradictions. At some point it struck me that a play about Hemingway's life would need to show multiple phases of him simultaneously.

I began to write The Hemingway Play as a newly-married graduate student in African Studies at UCLA. Several years later-I was by then The Christian Science Monitor's Africa correspondent, living in Nairobi-my twin brother sent the play to Arthur Ballet at the University of Minnesota. He in turn got the play to the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference. It was given a staged reading there in the summer of 1973. Somewhere along the line I had brief correspondences with Hadley Mowrer and Agnes von Kurowsky Stanfield who gave me permission to use their names. Later I sent the play to George Hamlin, whom I had met several times, at the Loeb Drama Center at Harvard University. The Loeb staged the play as part of its summer series in 1975. (The cover photo is from that production, showing Alexander Scourby as Papa, Robert Gerringer as Ernest, Philip Kerr as Hem and James Maxwell as the youngest of the quartet.)

Alex Scourby sent the play to Norman Lloyd with whom he'd been a young actor in New York thirty years before. Norman was by then producer of the PBS series Hollywood Television Theater out of KCET in Los Angeles. KCET presented the play the following spring in a production in which everyone's contribution enhanced the final result. The reviews quoted on the back cover are in reaction to that production.

Whatever one wants to say about television, it reaches an enormous audience. It's been a matter of continuing surprise-and, of course, delight!-- that thirty-plus years after the PBS production people who saw the play look me up (ever easier on the Internet) to ask for a copy of it. So I'm now grateful to Nebbadoon Press for making the play available to a wider public.

Frederic Hunter
Santa Barbara, California