OLD SONGS REMEMBERED
By Allen Davis III
Old Songs Remembered is a trilogy of three short plays that take place in a Funeral Director’s office in Northern New Jersey. The time is the present.
PART I: EVEN SLACKERS BURY THEIR OWN
Val and Sarah sit in the Funeral Director’s office making funeral arrangements for their mother. Except they refuse to talk to each other, and will only talk to the Funeral Director, as he leads them through the procedures. The mother was a late blooming hippie, who joined the traveling commune known as The Hog Farm, and later married. Deserted by her husband, she raised her two children in a dismal fashion, almost giving up on life, and then moved to New Jersey where she lived in isolation. When it comes time to pick a casket, the two children finally speak to each other. Each discovers the other has not been in touch with their mother for a very long time. Accusing each other of neglect, they decide they must make it up to mother, and order the most expensive coffin and everything else including mourners, and everything else that goes with the service. At first they appear relieved, but they are not. There is an emptiness and sadness here.
PART 2: THE FAMILY GENIUS
Rachel is burying her father, Harry, who built a small clothing firm into a very large and prosperous one. With Rachel are her Uncle Sam, Harry’s partner, her aunt Henrietta, and Albert, Henrietta and Sam’s son. Henrietta, who dearly loved her brother, Harry, the family “genius”, seems to control all decisions, though nodding to Rachel. But we begin to learn Harry would have been much less of a genius without Sam, who handled the finances. Henrietta has no faith in her son, Albert, while Sam builds Albert up since he will soon take over the business. Henrietta claims her Harry had never been sick a day in his life – Harry was perfection. But we learn Harry had gone missing a couple of weeks some years ago because of a “red rash”. During that time, some crooks were trying to shake down the business; Sam fought them off, working out a deal with a lawyer, a mediator for the mob. As funeral arrangements are made, Henrietta begins to lose her power and emerges a little more humble than the termagant she seemed to be at the start. It is Sam who may be the “genius” of the firm. Rachel signs off on the funeral and gets rid of the fake grass used to gussy up the grave during the ceremony.
PART 3: AN OLD FAMILY BIBLE
Jonathan and Rusty sit in the Funeral Director’s office. They are burying Millie, Jonathan’s mother. Rusty, Jonathan’s lover, and a wealthy man, is footing the bill; Jonathan is near broke. But things are going badly, with much sniping between the two men. Rusty claims that Millie hated him. He is acting obnoxious, giving everybody a hard time, such as berating Jonathan for being a maitre d’. Finally, Jonathan picks a coffin, and decides to bury Millie in black. Except, as Rusty argues, pink was her favorite color. She should be buried in pink! After the Funeral Director leaves the office, Jonathan presents Rusty with the family Bible. It is his now. Millie did not hate him; it seems she realized he was good company for her son. Rusty is afraid of the Bible, believing that its contents have caused harm to gays. But finally he accepts the gift, as he accepts Jonathan’s love. They will read and study the Bible together. The Good Book belongs to every one.
Allen Davis III
Allen Davis III has been Director of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre’s Playwright Unit for over 31 years. As a playwright, he most recently won The TADA! Youth Theater Award for his play Mrs. Morton Puget Conducts An Interview. He was also recently presented with a Life Time Achievement Award by The Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA) for his writing and teaching. Allen’s produced plays include The Butcher Of Palm Beach, Where The Green Bananas Grow, The Rag Doll, The Head Of Hair, among others. They have been produced in New York, and regionally. His quartet of plays about Jewish life in Cincinnati, Ohio is entitled The Golden Ghetto. Allen is a cum laude graduate of Syracuse University and has an MFA in directing from Yale Drama School; he is an alumnus of New Dramatists and a co-founder and first treasurer of The Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. Allen has had a grant from the NEA, and a CAPS grant (New York State). He is a co-founder of the theater company, Around the Block. Allen Davis is a former U.S. Marine, and has held many fellowships at art colonies including Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His earlier career includes general manager of theaters and administrator of art centers. Allen Davis III was born and raised in Cincinnati, and Cleveland, Ohio. His parents were of German-Jewish descent, his mother part Sephardic. He attended grade school and high school at Rockdale Avenue Temple in North Avondale.
Tom Ferriter directed and produced the world premieres of Kathleen Anderson Culebro's The Crying Woman/La Llorona, a cross-cultural drama on international misunderstandings, Off Broadway at the Beckett Theatre, Paul Enger's In The Air, a love story during the Great Flu epidemic of 1918, Off Broadway at Theatre 315, James MacGuire's Nanny (also co-producer), an American comedy of extended families at the Nottara Theatre-Bucharest, and the European premiere of Harding Lemay's From A Dark Land, a World War-II drama of complicity, at the National Theatre of Romania-Craiova (co-producer), after having produced and directed the premieres of Marlene Shyer's First Wife, at the Emelin Theatre (Mamaroneck), Diane Leslie's and Mary Orr's family musical, Enchanted Afternoon, and Frank O'Donnell's Twisters, Off Broadway at the Nat Horne Studio Theatre on New York's Theatre Row. Tom is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Actors' Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and is a graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute's Master Producing Class.
Tom Ferriter has been a visiting professor to the Academy of Theatre in Bucharest, and a guest professor at the Academy of Theatre in Oslo. He was Performance Coach to America's Health Network, a 24-hour cable TV network transmitted by satellite to more than 10 million households across America, and was a member for three years of the faculty of The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where his classes included Acting for Film and Television, TV Commercial Acting, and Basic Acting Techniques. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business Management from California State University - San Francisco and an Associate of Arts degree in Economics from Santa Barbara City College.
Michael Valenti composed, arranged, and conducted the music for the Emmy Award winning television series; A WALK THROUGH THE 20th CENTURY. For CBS radio he shared the Peabody Award for NEWSMARK.
In 1995 Mr. Valenti composed PROCESSIONAL FOR A PONTIFF a large orchestral work which was written for the entrance of Pope John Paul II into Central Park, New York, on the occasion of his celebration of the Eucharist. The piece was performed again on April 19, 2008 for Pope Benedict XVI entrance into St. Patrick's Cathedral. On December 11, 2008 his Christmas carol "Sleep, Holy Infant" was sung by St. Patrick's choir in concert and again at midnight mass on Christmas Eve. In March of 1991 at St. Peter's Church he conducted the premier of his dramatic oratorio THE WAY which is based on the fourteen Stations of the Cross.
In its permanent repertory The Goldman Memorial Band at Lincoln Center has performed Mr. Valenti's MARCH PASHA, CAROLINA SEASONS, ORIENTAL MAGIC, THE GUGUE FUGUE, THE GRAND WALTZ FROM LOLA MONTEZ, and the concert band version of PROCESSIONAL FOR A PONTIFF. In August of 1987 he was given a retrospective at Lincoln Center under the direction of Maestro Ainslee Cox. The Goldman Memorial Band performed all of his published concert band music and premiered his BIG APPLE MARCH. In 1998 Mr. Valenti was invited by The Goldman Band to conduct the first performance of his BLACK HAWK MARCH, and in the summer of 2002 he performed as piano soloist with the band in the world premier of his MUSIC IN SEARCH OF A BALLET. On February 25, 2005 The GMB Band premiered his FESTIVAL MARCH at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Michael Valenti has the distinction of being given more world premiers by The Goldman Memorial Band than any other composer in the bands long and celebrated history.
HYMNE A SAINT-BARTHELEMY, now the National Anthem of the small island of Saint Barthelemy in the Caribbean was commissioned by the Chorale de Bons Choeurs and was introduced by the choir of the same name on December 11, 1999.
In the spring of 2002 The Children's Orchestra Society under the baton of Michael Dadap premiered his THE LITTLE PARK ACROSS THE STREET at the Colden Center for the Performing Arts.
His MOOD PIECE (adagio for strings and harp) was first performed by the Oklahoma Symphony, and his ballet CONVERSATIONS has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and Spoletto.
In 2002 Michael Valenti composed the music for the 25th anniversary production of THE BIG APPLE CIRCUS and has subsequently each year composed for that organization. In 2007 from November 9th thru January 17th his original manuscripts were exhibited at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center.
In 2004 Marshall University established THE MICHAEL VALENTI MUSIC COLLECTION in the College of Fine Arts and THE MICHAEL VALENTI GRADUATE ASSISTANTSHIP where he has served as Composer-in-Residence.
His Broadway credits include OH BROTHER!, CLOTHES FOR A SUMMER HOTEL (Tennessee Williams' last play which starred Geraldine Page), HONKY TONK NIGHTS, BLACKSTONE!, and BLOOD RED ROSES. Off-Broadway he composed the scores for more than fifteen plays and musicals including LOVESONG, IN THE SUMMER HOUSE, (for the Manhattan Theatre Club), JUST FOR LOVE, SONG BY SONG (a review based on his theatre songs) and MADEMOISELLE COLOMBE which starred Tammy Grimes and was awarded five Outer Critic Circle Award nominations for which Mr. Valenti received two for best book, and best music for a musical. His SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS is still the longest running children's musical ever produced in New York and his BEAUTY AND THE BEAST as well as SNOW WHITE continue to enjoy productions world wide. BASHVILLE IN LOVE, a musical he composed for the opening season of The Texas Stage Company was given the Best New Musical of the Year Award by The Dallas Morning News. His score for Williams' THE GLASS MENAGERIE has been performed in regional theaters throughout the country, as well as his music for UPTIGHT by Gunter Grass, and Donald Drivers' A WALK OUT OF WATER. In the fall of 2003 the Goodspeed Opera presented his musical O.HENRY'S LOVERS that he wrote with librettist Joe DiPietro.
He composed, arranged, conducted, and directed THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF JONATHAN WINTERS for the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, as well as composing the music for the Zev Bufman production of BAHAMA BOUND, which opened the Cable Beach Hotel in Nassau.
As a performer, Michael Valenti appeared in the original Broadway production of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WTHOUT REALLY TRYING, understudying the pivotal role of J. Pierrepont Finch. Off-Broadway he originated the role of Michael in YOUR OWN THING, and created the role of Tony Franco on NBC's THE DOCTORS.
His recorded albums include LOVESONG, OH BROTHER!, MUSIC IN SEARCH OF A MUSICAL, PIANO ROMANCES, SOUNDS OF CELEBRATIONPLAY MUSIC! The Stage and Television Music of Michael Valenti.
In 2010 The Portland Orchestra under the direction of Yaacov Bergman premiered STORY OF AN HOUR; the second piece in his CHRISTMAS TRILOGY.
Other published works include "Sleep Holy Infant" from STORY OF AN HOUR the one act opera BEAU NASH first performed by the Portland Chamber Orchestra, a song cycle entitled SOLITUDE, WEDDING MARCH for organ and brass, 12 PIANO PRELUDES, IMPROMPTU for cello and piano, 10 NOCTURNES for piano, RHAPSODY FOR CLARINET and piano, DANCES FOR FLUTE AND PIANO, FIVE SONATINAS for piano, ON RUSSIAN HILL for Horn in F and piano, and TEN DANCES FOR WOODWIND QUINTET. And for children, THE MUSICAL TELEPHONE BOOK for piano, THE COFFEE GRINDER for flute and piano, and ten FANCIES for piano solo.