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New and Forthcoming

An overview of Mamet's recent publications, productions, and forthcoming works.


It has once again been an extraordinarily productive and prolific year for David Mamet who has completed two collections of essays, directed a new film, written a new children’s book, and completed several screenplays. The following outlines these and other projects of interest to Mamet readers:

Theater: A banner year for productions of Mamet’s work both here and abroad, 1996-97 saw a world premiere, a brilliant production of Edmond at the Atlantic Theater Company, and a stunning revival of American Buffalo at the Old Vic, all reviewed in this edition. Additionally, recent productions of The Cryptogram, The Woods, Speed-the-Plow (both in the US and the UK), and Oleanna are reviewed in this edition. Mamet’s plays are currently being produced, both in English and in translation, in England, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Hungary, Poland, South America, Japan, Australia, to name but a few.

One of the most entertaining of these productions was *It’s Mamet, Dammit*, a Sense of Urgency Production performed in the tiny basement theater of The O Bar, Chicago last February, which featured several selections from Mamet’s Goldberg Street: Short Plays and Monologues. The hour-long performance included a dozen works illustrative of the Mamet’s inimitable outlook and the perfection of brevity.

The world premiere of The Old Neighborhood, a trio of one-acts that traces a man’s journey home to visit Chicago in search of comfort and the familial and ethnic ties he has long abandoned, opened last spring at the American Repertory Theater, under the direction of Scott Zigler. The play’s world premiere was a benefit performance for the American Jewish Congress. A New York production under the direction of Zigler will feature original cast members, Vincent Guastaferro, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Jack Willis, and the addition of Patti Lupone in the role of Jolly and Peter Riegert as the protagonist, Bobby Gould. Old Neighborhood is set to reopen at the Booth Theater on November 11, Mamet’s first Broadway production since Speed-the Plow in 1988.

Mamet directs: Filmed in Massachusetts, Florida, and New York, David Mamet directed his new film, The Spanish Prisoner, starring Rebecca Pidgeon, Cambell Scott, Steve Martin, Ricky Jay, and Felicity Huffman. Opening at the Toronto Film Festival, general release of The Spanish Prisoner is planned for late October. Reminiscent of House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner is a Hitchcockian thriller with a Mametian con game as good as he has ever written. The inspiration for the story of intrigue and international espionage came while Mamet was vacationing in Jamaica where he spotted a luxurious yacht with a helicopter landing pad and wondered, “who might live on such a yacht? As it turned out,” quipped the playwright, “it’s Steve Martin,” who with Rebecca Pidgeon, finds the perfect mark for their scam in Cambell Scott.

Film: Also opening in fall 1997 is The Edge with Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins from an original Mamet screenplay initially titled The Bookworm. Directed by Lee Tamahori and produced by Art Linson, The Edge is an action-packed thriller set in the Northwest, balancing bravado with sheer terror and the appetite for money and another man’s wife. Describing the tightly wrought story of jealousy, lust, and deception, the playwright characterizes this adventure tale as “The Defiant Ones in the Yukon.”

New Line Cinema’s, Wag the Dog, from a screenplay by Mamet, starring Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and Anne Heche, is about a president who launches a phony war as a ruse to cover a personal scandal. Directed by Barry Levinson, release of the film is expected in fall 1997.

Mamet has also completed screenplays State of Maine and Charlie Chan.

Publications: Mamet’s second novel, The Old Religion , set for publication by the Free Press in October, is an extraordinary tale inspired by the political, ethical, and historical significance of the lynching of Leo Frank, a man falsely accused of raping a Christian employee, and the only such instance in American history of the lynching of a Jew. Mamet’s interior/exterior perspective and masterful exploration of the issues of religion, intolerance, and victimization contribute to this new work’s disturbing examination of self, society and faith.

Also new from Random House is Mamet’s latest collection of essays on acting entitled, True and False. And, the playwright’s long-awaited collection of essays on the structure and nature of drama, Three Uses of the Knife, is forthcoming from Columbia University Press in spring 1998. Mamet’s most recent children’s book, entitled Nice Day and The Scary Wolf, features the illustrations of Maya Kennedy who illustrated his The Duck and the Goat, Published by St. Martin’s Press in 1996, Nice Day and The Scary Wolf is reviewed in this edition.

Poetry Reading, Public Lectures, The Millennium Project, and Cartoons:

In late February the playwright gave a three-part lecture on dramatic structure, the subject of his forthcoming collection of essays, Three Uses of the Knife, to packed audiences at Miller Theater and Low Library, Columbia University, New York. Question and answer sessions following the lectures gave Mamet an opportunity to raise some of the issues of particular interest to him, several of which he also discusses in Make-Believe Town. Describing television as “self-administered anesthesia,” and “the information age [as] centralizing knowledge” that renders it “subject to controls,” the playwright concludes: “I think there is no alternative but to write drama and try to make it compelling and make people pay attention.”

In May, Mamet agreed to read poems from a collection in progress at the Rubloff Auditorium, the Chicago Art Institute, for the benefit of the Poetry Center of Chicago. The rare public reading began with reminiscences of Mamet’s days in Chicago—”Wabash Avenue,” “71st and Jeffrey,” and “WFMT” (essays from The Cabin)—followed by his reading of short poems in rapid succession. Typically elusive, and wryly humorous in response to a brief question and answer session which followed, Mamet’s appearance after a long absence from Chicago was warmly received.

Finally, ten American playwrights, among them David Mamet, Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, August Wilson, Terrence McNally, John Guare, and Wendy Wasserstein, have agreed to write original dramas for the Millennium Project, a television series which will air in 1999 dealing with the dawning of the new century. ABC expects that the premier writers will attract big-name directors and actors to the series. I expect to have an update of performance schedule in the next issue of DMR.

A Renaissance man of myriad interests and talents, at home writing poetry, narrative, stage and screenplays, biblical exegesis, and essays, Mamet has begun sketching cartoons. Sending several to his friend Shel Silverstein, the author of children’s stories and a fine cartoonist in his own right [see his Falling Up], with whom Mamet co-wrote Things Change, Mamet has received encouragement from Silverstein to pursue cartooning. Look for Mamet’s cartoons, possibly in another children’s book, in the near future.

Leslie Kane
Westfield State College