The Story of “Saving Stan”: An Inside Look at Gary Morgenstein’s New Drama
Anthony J. Piccione
This past summer, the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival made its debut on the New York independent theatre scene. Only a handful of productions were accepted into the festival. Among these productions was Saving Stan, a full-length drama written by veteran author/playwright Gary Morgenstein. Now, just a few months after its premiere, Mr. Morgenstein is looking to the play’s future, as a staged reading of an updated version of the play planned for November 15th at the Dramatists Guild approaches. Over this past week, I was offered the chance to talk a tiny bit with Mr. Morgenstein about his play, his creative process behind it and its upcoming reading.
Saving Stan is described as a provocative drama which tells the story of two friends and the struggles that they deal with. “Saving Stan is a magical realism love story,” Mr. Morgenstein, which largely revolves around “Stan Nagel, a rich 60-ish lawyer, [who] suffers a stroke and can’t talk.” He goes on to say “his best friend Jack Sanders, a 60-ish failed writer, somehow hears him and believes Stan is asking for help to commit suicide in exchange for his estate. The third character, 40-something lonely Patrice Doner, the live-in health care aide, grows suspicious of Jack’s intentions while falling in love with Stan, with whom only she can dance.” When asked about what inspired him to write it, he adds that he “wanted to explore what happens when greed threatens love and friendship before the mirror of mortality.”
When taking a look at his past work, you can see that Morgenstein’s range as a writer is quite diverse. His past works as a playwright include the Off-Broadway rock musical The Anthem, and more recently, the sci-fi musical comedy Mad Mel Saves the World at the Midtown International Theatre Festival this past summer, as well as dramatic works such as A Tomato Can’t Throw in the Bronx, Right on Target and Ponzi Man. Additionally, he’s also been a successful novelist, and his published works include titles such as Jesse's Girl, Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman and The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. When I tried to ask about his writing process and about writing for a wide variety of genres, he simply said “I have a lot of characters running around in my head.” He then goes on to say, “You can look at the world with humor or poignancy or song, splitting it into many different genres, but at the end of the day any story must be about people.”
When it premiered at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival this past summer, the play received mostly positive reviews and remains a show that both Morgenstein and his cast and crew are proud of. “For a writer,” Morgenstein says, “I don’t think there is anything quite like the experience, thrilling and terrifying, of hearing your words spoken and acted before a live audience. This play is especially intimate, which heightens the emotional connections.”
Yet Morgenstein also says that after the production, it was clear to him that there was something missing. As he puts it, theatre “is wonderfully organic and, as I watched Saving Stan for the first time in front of an audience, deeper storylines and character motivations became apparent. Change this. Explore that. Add this. Cut that. The many reasons why writers drink.” That was precisely what led to the reading of this recently updated version of this play this week, which Morgenstein describes as being “longer and more layered” and says he hopes will lead someone to “see the artistic and commercial merits of Saving Stan, which I think would really resonate among all kinds of different audiences both in and outside New York.”
In the meantime, however, those who are curious to learn more about this play are encouraged to go see the upcoming staged reading of it at the Dramatists Guild this coming week, before any additional full productions take place in the future. During my interview with Morgenstein, I tried to get as much detail as I could out of him, in the hopes of providing our readers at On Stage with the clearest picture of what they can expect from seeing this play and its reading. If there was any answer that stood out most to me, it was when I asked him specifically about why readers, should they choose to attend the reading of this play, would love this play…
“Anyone who has ever had a long friendship or fallen in love, been disappointed personally or professionally, or worried about their mortality will find expression in this story of these three very flawed characters. As it’s said, good versus evil is melodrama. Good versus good is tragedy.”
The free staged reading of “Saving Stan” will be presented at the Mary Rodgers Room at the Dramatists Guild on November 15th at 7pm.
Anthony J. Piccione is a playwright, producer, screenwriter, activist, essayist, critic, poet and occasional actor based in New York City. To learn more about Mr. Piccione and his writing, please visit www.anthonyjpiccione.com and be sure to follow him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and Instagram (anthonyjpiccione).