A New Play in a New Theater
CHATHAM – “All the planets seem to have aligned,” said playwright Elizabeth Diggs. “A new play in a new theater at a time when interest in President Grant is on the rise.”
The play is GRANT & TWAIN, a little known story of how the lives of these two famous personalities of the late 1800s intersected. “Grant was bankrupted in a Wall Street swindle,” Diggs explained. “His only hope to save his honor and provide for his family was to write his memoirs of the war. Twain idolized Grant and when he heard the “standard” offered from a prestigious New York publisher, he was infuriated. He rushed to Grant’s side to persuade him to go with his own new publishing house with an audacious plan to make Grant’s book the biggest seller in American history. Neither of them knew, at that time, that Grant was suffering from throat cancer. He ended up completing the manuscript three days before his death.” This all took place at “The Cottage”, now a national historic landmark just 9 miles from Saratoga. (Grant was offered temporary housing there since he could no longer afford his NYC lodging.)
After working for 6 years on this, Diggs’ 11th full-length play, one of her earliest readings was at a venue in Spencertown. Shortly after that, she was at a social event with Judy Grunberg, founder of PS21 in Chatham, a performance space that has been growing yearly, since its inception in 2006. “I told Judy about the play, its subject matter and the enthusiastic reception the readings had gotten,” Diggs explained. “She thought it would be the perfect choice as the first play to open the newly built black box theater at PS21 this September.”
It didn’t hurt that Ron Chernow’s book, Grant, was topping Amazon’s best seller list and Ron White’s American Ulysses was close behind. “The interest in Grant has really skyrocketed recently,” Diggs said. “When I began my research, he was still considered by most to be a failed President and a drunk. Now, happily, those attitudes are changing. The play is also relevant because we are living in a moment in history that has so many parallels to Reconstruction.”
Diggs, a Chatham resident, is an award winning playwright and has been runner-up twice for the coveted Susan Smith Blackburn prize, an award recognizing women who have written works of outstanding quality for the theater. GRANT & TWAIN has been awarded the Edgerton Prize for a new American play.
Starring Michael Sean McGuinness as Grant and Todd Gearhart as Twain, the play opens September 27th and runs through the 30th (5 performances). The piece is directed by Regge Life known regionally for his award winning direction of God of Carnage, last year’s smash hit at Shakespeare & Co.
For further information about Diggs, Grant, Twain and the play at PS21 go to www.GrantTwain.com.