|Concord Journal November 1 1973|
|"Hogan's Goat" Author Lends Insight to Fall Production by Players|
Special to the Journal
Hogan’s Goat is a tragedy of sex, violence, religion and politics in the wild early days of Brooklyn. It is written by a soft spoken, gentle-mannered Harvard professor who has hit people only three times in his existence, William Alfred. Yet the play is based on Alfred’s relatives and acquaintances who in real life were something more than characters. they were something incredible. Take the man who is the model or Mat Staunton, the major figure in the play. Like the play, he threw his wife downstairs, but unlike the play, according to Alfred, he got away with it.’
‘The original Staunton was a member of my family. He threw Kathleen down the stairs, but then my great aunt came in and found him they were very eccentric people) at .the foot of the stairs with the dead woman in his arms, She Lends Insight to Fall Production by Players led him up to the top of the brownstones and up over the roof to his saloon and down the stairs into the back room. She then went back up and then ran into the saloon and said that Kathleen had fallen downstairs.
These are the people that playwright Alfred grew up with. But he shared his stories and reminiscences with an entirely different, more refined sort recently: The Concord Players. “Hogan’s Goat” is the Players’ Fall production and Alfred was invited to the Preview Party at the Concord Library to offer his thoughts and receive questions.
Written in 1956-7
The play was written in 1956-7 while Alfred was on an Amy Lowell Travelling Poet grant. The stipulation for the grant is that the poet remain abroad for one year while at work, thus becoming a “remittance poet.” Alfred chose London to work where he was in excellent dramatic company. “That was the great year in London.. the year of “Look Back in Anger”. the first production of “Waiting for Godot”. the first production of Genet in the English speaking world and the first production of loesco.” He finished his play there and it was first produced in 1965 at the American Place Theatre in New York.
One of the original production problems was the lack of actors who could produce a tough New York ‘dese, dose and dems” accent. ‘‘We couldn’t find anybody in New York City. Finally the artistic director of the theatre said to me, ‘I have somebody who I think could play the part, but he has this speech difficulty.’ I said, “What do you mean, a harelip or something?’ And he said ‘No, he’s got this terrible New York accent’, I said ‘You damn fool, bring him around’, and that was Cliff Gorman, who later played Lenny.”
The Players who asked questions of Alfred also had their accent problems, not to mention problems of interpretation. Marilyn H u n d e r discovered that she had spent her time developing an authentic Irish accent for the part of Bessie Legg, who actually has a German.accent. Dorothy Brown expressed frustration at the lack of development in her part. Bill McDonald wondered aloud at the reasons behind Staunton’s violent action. Dave Edgar learned the meaning of a phrase in a song he sings. The phrase, “to watch the elephant Jump t h e fence” is a reference to a “disorderly house” in Brooklyn named the Elephant, and to “jump the fence’ is a euphemism for you know what.”
And everyone was saddened to hear the ending of the real Mat Staunton. After killing his wife he became so terribly self-destructive (he was. quite a successful owner) that he used, on average of every three months, pry up the cobbles in the street and smash the windows of his own saloon. And he went crazy with guilt and then finally.drank himself to death.”
Tickets for the Players rendition of the powerful "Hogan's Goat” are on sale at Richardson Drug Company. 369-2608. Performances are November 9. 10. 16. 17. 23, and 24 at the Veteran’s Building, 51 Walden Street