VANDERGRIFT!

A TWO-ACT DRAMA

BY

ANTHONY E. GALLO

In the early 1890’s, steel tycoon George McMurtry, tries to produce a unique marriage between architecture and industrialism to build a workingman's paradise in southwestern Pennsylvania. But his goal is also to destroy strikers and keep compliant workers happy. He hires Frederick Law Olmsted, the Nation's preeminent architect, to design the town of Vandergrift, named after his partner, Captain Jacob J. Vandergrift.  Ida Tarbell, who will someday expose J. D. Rockefeller, is intrigued by the idea and visits the town. She and McMurtry clash over his flawed idealism and her subconscious biases. She revisits the town many times over the next half a century, each time reexamining her own and McMurtry’s ideals as the Nation goes through wars, depressions, the New Deal, the Union movement, and the final collapse of the steel industry.


PRODUCTION HISTORY

 

  1. Collington Stage,   April 2017
  2. Ingelside Stgage,  February, 2917
  3. Arlington Mill Stage, November 2016
  4. September 2016  Kennedy Center (Musical Medley from Vandergrift the Musical
  5. May 2016    Arlington Mill Stage   (Musical Medley from Vandergrift the Musical)
  6. September 2011  LIncolnia Center Stage
  7. September 2011   Knollwood Center Stage
  8. June 2011, Greenbelt Arts Center, Complete Production
  9. September  2008  Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  10. September 2007 National Press Club Public Staged Reading
  11. December 2006 New Kensington Civic Theatre Production
  12. November 2006 Cosmos Theatre Public Staged Reading
  13. July 2006 Playwrights Forum Public Staged Reading
  14. April 2006 Casino Theatre Private Staged Reading 
  15. Vandergrift! production at Greenbelt Arts Center, 2011
  16. August 2005 Seventh Street Playhouse Staged Reading
  17. Year 2005 PF Workshop  



 COMMENTARIES

Jim Link   Greenbelt News Review   June 9, 2011
            The bittersweet shock of recognition will greet Greenbelters lucky enough to see Vandergrift!  now at

Greenbelt Arts Center.    The true story of a southwestern Pennsylvania steel mill town, fictionally enhanced by author

Tony Gallo, takes us through 50 years of community turmoil and evolution.  From the 1890's through WWII the citizens of

Vandergrift are racked by issues of union organization, race and immigration, environmental quality, architecture and

aesthetics, in a planned community meant to be a workers paradise.   

          The prime mover of this utopian vision is the morally ambiguous millionaire industrialist George McMurtry,

who funds his noble dream purely to maximize profits and tobreak the dreaded "socialist" labor unions.  The philistine

McMurtry is convinced he can slap a patina of high culture and fragile civility onto Vandergrift by contracting

Frederick Law Olmsted to design the town; the distinguished architect is little more than a hired gun to McMurtry.

          However, the fishbone in McMurtry's throat, his indefatigable antagonist is the fearless muckraking

journalist Ida Tarbell,who has already spoken truth to powerby exposing John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company's

monopolistic criminality.  McMurtry's other nemesis is John Dunmore, the hard drinking union organizer who evolves into

a respectable married man and effective city councilman.            Big George actually grows fond of Tarbell's

integrity and charm, even after she forces him to admit that Olmsted's faux-Greek municipal center is nothing but a

"Scotch-Irish Acropolis."  He is particularly impressed with her answer when he asks why she keeps tilting at windmills:  

"I once thought I could not reconstruct the world because I am a woman.  But then I realized I could reconstruct the

wold because I am a woman."

     As the decades pass  by the audience is treated  to nippets of "Over  There" by Irving Berlin, "Take Me Out to

the Ball Game" by           and Bruce Springsteen's"My Hometown."

          The cast, from Anthony Gallo's Seventh Street Playhouse in Washington, DC, is uniformly excellent, packed

with troupers.  Jan Forbes (George McMurtry) has appeared onstage in over 100 productions since 1965.  Helenmary Ball

(Ida Tarbell) ages beautifully right before our eyes.  And why not?  A talented actress, she is also the director and

costume designer.

           Find out how this troubled town reacts to the Japanese economic resurgence and the use of outsourcing. Do

yourself a favor and and see Vandergrift! on Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 2 PM, on June10, 11, and 12.


MD Theatre Scene   ZSun-nee Matema - June 6, 2011

Vandergrift! at The Greenbelt Arts Center Vandergrift!, now playing for three consecutive weekends at

the Greenbelt Arts Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, tosses its hat into the ring of history and tells the story of the

little town that proved it could survive through five decades of America’s highs and lows. The dream child of

steel tycoon George McMurty, Vandergrift, we learn, is a planned community named after J.J. Vandergrift, a director

of the steel company. The play is based on the inspired vision of George McMurty who designed Vandergrift, PA making

it the first successfully planned industrial town sold to the workers as an incentive for their loyalty.

McMurty, born an orphan in Belfast, Northern Ireland,immigrated to America to find himself as well as his

fortune. After joining the Union Calvary, he became a Major during the Civil War and eventually landed a job with the

Jones & Laughlin Steel Company in Chicago.  His success there lead to his presidency with the Apollo Iron & Steel

Company in PA.

As the play opens, McMurty shares his passion, self-serving though it may be, of designing a town that would be

considered, “something better than the best!” Jan Forbes, who plays McMurty, brings a rugged but warm charm to his

character.  I found his performance honest and his character accessible.Tim Wolf as Frederic Law Olmstead, Jr., the talentedarchitect, had an eye-catching swagger and ease. He gaveOlmstead the right carriage for a man so famous for his

designs of New York City’s Central Park and the grounds of the United States Capitol among other design achievements.

As designer of the curved streets and parks of Vandergrift, Olmstead had constant reservations about the Municipal

Center facing the company mill.  It seems it was as true then as it is now that government keeps an eye on business

while business keeps an eye on those who govern.  BruceSmith, who portrayed the President of the Steel Company,

turned a blind eye to all but the profits of industry. Ida Tarbell, the insightful, iconoclast played by

director/actor Helenmary Ball, asserted herself as ajournalist with an eye for cutting through the trickery of

McMurty’s dream town. Ball gives Tarbell the strength of herconvictions yet we are to learn by the end of the play that

even Tarbell caves in to the overwhelming pressures of“belonging” to society’s inner circle. Having told the

audience that she “gave up heaven in college,” we nonetheless see her in later years heavy with concern for

her mortal soul and persuaded to give religion a second chance. Tarbell’s ability to label John D. Rockefeller as a

“felon,” seems to have made only temporary traces of raised consciousness as evidenced by her later pride in working

with President Wilson, a racist who fired African Americans from Federal government posts and segregated the US Navy.

Ball assumes the role of Tarbell with a graceful authority.  She often pounces on the hypocritical deeds of the “tyrants

of steel” and often holds high the unwelcomed mirror reflecting the discrimination and fear of union control

which is the secret behind the design of Vandergrift’s, “a worker’s paradise.”Bruce Brennen, as the Scottish mill worker with unioninterests, gave a compelling performance throughout.  Sherman McDaniel brought laughter and realism to her role asthe fortune teller. The saucy, barefooted prophet gave theaudience a card reading peek at the soon to come turning

point in Vandergrift’s history. A.O. Gutierrez should be applauded for the creative designof the set, lighting and construction.  I thought itespecially creative to have changing pieces of memorabiliaplaced against the black and white overlapping pages ofnewspaper stories. I enjoyed the street lamps – which whenmoved from scene to scene – set the mood amid lovely tree-lined streets, and later at a busy train station wherehighly anticipated guests were expected to arrive.I also thought the music during the scene changes wasparticularly well chosen and helped the audience

reminiscence the many decades celebrated throughout theplay. Ball, who tripled as the Costume Designer, skillfully

stayed true to the essence of each period.  I loved her dressing of the three steel executives who opened the show.

Their uniformity of dress set the audience’s mind in the direction of “big business” being of one accord.  Only the

brightly colored ties gave a hint of their personal tastes. The white lace dresses representing the early 1900's were

nothing short of beautiful, and perfectly expressed the genteel life experienced by the near-do-wells of

Vandergrift.

Though the actors had more synergy during the second half of the play, I’m betting that their performances will grow

stronger with each show.  Playwright, Anthony Gallo can be proud of his effort. I found it a nice touch that

descendants of the main characters in the audience wereintroduced at show’s end. Tony shared with me that Zappan

Wilder, nephew of Thornton Wilder, a friend of Olmstead, had expressed an interest in the play.

If you love the history of small towns in America, you’ll enjoy Vandergrift! From what I understand, Vandergrift, PA

still stands 80-90% intact. I think I’ll visit it sometime this summer.


Vandergrift! is produced by the Seventh Street Playhouse,and plays through June 12 at The Greenbelt Arts Center; 123Centerway, Greenbelt, MD.  For tickets call (202) 544-6973.  

Running time is just over two hours with one intermission

Vandergrift! at The Greenbelt Arts Center


Prince Georges Gazette  Nathan Moravec  June 2 2011

Vandergrift!, now playing for three consecutive weekends at the Greenbelt Arts Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, tosses its

hat into the ring of history and tells the story of thelittle town that proved it could survive through five

decades of America’s highs and lows. The dream child of steel tycoon George McMurty, Vandergrift, we learn, is a

planned community named after J.J. Vandergrift, a directorof the steel company. The play is based on the inspired

vision of George McMurty who designed Vandergrift, PA makingit the first successfully planned industrial town sold to

the workers as an incentive for their loyalty. More than 240 miles separate the southwestern Pennsylvanian

borough of Vandergrift and Prince George's County's own Greenbelt. The similarities, however, are somewhat closer

than that.

Both planned communities, Greenbelt was a public cooperative project established in 1937 in response to the New Deal,

while Vandergrift — developed just prior to the turn of the 20th century — was the brainchild of steel tycoon George

McMurtry, who hoped to unite welfare capitalism and landscape architecture into a workingman's wonderland.

Both, too, were forged with the building blocks of idealism. But only one is the topic of a play opening on Friday.

Ironically, Anthony Gallo's "Vandergrift!" is being stagedat the Greenbelt Arts Center, a guest production courtesy of

the playwright's Seventh Street Playhouse. The Washington, D.C.-based Gallo's love letter to hishometown details McMurtry's endeavors for a public paradiseand his subsequent commissioning of architectural mastermind

Frederick Law Olmstead. But then muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell breezes into town and the woman who would one day

topple Standard Oil CEO John D. Rockefeller arrives just in time to throw a wrench into McMurtry's best laid plans.

Actress Helenmary Ball directs the historic comedy, which draws parallels to the prominent themes of 1890 —

immigration, environment and discrimination, among them —and the societal woes faced by today's denizens.

Ball, of Calvert County, says she has been working primarily in Baltimore, as a costumer and performer with a number of

theater troupes. A frequent collaborator with Calvert's Twin Beach Players, she also has performed in independent horror

flicks by the likes of the Baltimore-based Timewarp Films and Midnight Crew Productions. Her latest scare fest,

"Witch's Brew," bubbles up later this year. But first, her turn as Tarbell — Ball pulls double, if not

triple duty, here — with frequent collaborator Gallo. "I've been working with Tony for a while now," she says of

the auteur, who, to date, has published and produced 11original works, including "Margherita" and "Lincoln and

God."

Gallo's Seventh Street Playhouse began as a small showcase ensemble, comprised of devoted theater professionals — andat least a few Ivy Leaguers, lawyers and attorneys, notesBall — assembled specifically to bring the playwright's work

to life via workshops throughout the tri-state area. "Tony — this is his baby. He's a prolific writer, and he's

given us a lot of opportunities. He's taken us to theDramatists' Guild in New York, which is right next to

Broadway. So you come out, and there you are. We get to say, ‘We made it on Broadway,'" she laughs.

Lately, she says, the Playhouse has started to branch out into full-fledged productions, like the upcoming

"Vandergrift!"

Ball says it was the historic synergy between the sourcematerial and Greenbelt that attracted her to the project.

"Vandergrift was designed specifically for the people who worked in the steel mills," she says. "Greenbelt, also, was

a designed town for the working class, so they could have a nice place to live. There are a lot of correlations. I

thought that with the parallels, this would be interesting." In addition to Ball, the cast features Playhouse regulars

Jan Forbes as McMurtry and Tim Wolf as Olmstead Jr., as well as featured players Sherman McDaniel, Lenny Levy, Bruce

Brennan, Bruce Smith, George Spencer and Matthew ChristianDavis.

"I'm enjoying this particular group of people," says their director. "They're incredibly talented and have a lot to

bring to the table." Rehearsals, she says, began in earnest in April, andeveryone has completely gelled.

"Sometimes with these shows, you get ego, but everyone here has been working together very well."

And just like McMurtry, Ball had concrete ideas in mind forthe construction of her "Vandergrift!"

"I got my brother, who lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, todesign the set," she says. "It had to be very minimal,

because we only have so many days to set up. We can onlyaccess the theater space for tech week."

Such restricted access provided the production's biggesthurdle.  Thursday, June 2, 2011   Prince Georges Gazette  Nathan

MoravedAnthony Gallo's ‘Vandergrift!' pays homage to two planned  communities

 More than 240 miles separate the southwestern Pennsylvanian borough of Vandergrift and Prince George's County's own

Greenbelt. The similarities, however, are somewhat closer than that.Both planned communities, Greenbelt was a public cooperativeproject established in 1937 in response to the New Deal,while Vandergrift — developed just prior to the turn of the

20th century — was the brainchild of steel tycoon George McMurtry, who hoped to unite welfare capitalism and

landscape architecture into a workingman's wonderland. Both, too, were forged with the building blocks of idealism.

But only one is the topic of a play opening on Friday. Ironically, Anthony Gallo's "Vandergrift!" is being staged

at the Greenbelt Arts Center, a guest production courtesy of the playwright's Seventh Street Playhouse.

The Washington, D.C.-based Gallo's love letter to his hometown details McMurtry's endeavors for a public paradise

and his subsequent commissioning of architectural mastermind Frederick Law Olmstead. But then muckraking journalist IdaTarbell breezes into town and the woman who would one daytopple Standard Oil CEO John D. Rockefeller arrives just intime to throw a wrench into McMurtry's best laid plans.Actress Helenmary Ball directs the historic comedy, which

draws parallels to the prominent themes of 1890 — immigration, environment and discrimination, among them —

and the societal woes faced by today's denizens. Ball, of Calvert County, says she has been working primarily

in Baltimore, as a costumer and performer with a number of theater troupes. A frequent collaborator with Calvert's Twin

Beach Players, she also has performed in independent horror flicks by the likes of the Baltimore-based Timewarp Films

and Midnight Crew Productions. Her latest scare fest,"Witch's Brew," bubbles up later this year.

But first, her turn as Tarbell — Ball pulls double, if not triple duty, here — with frequent collaborator Gallo.

"I've been working with Tony for a while now," she says of the auteur, who, to date, has published and produced 11

original works, including "Margherita" and "Lincoln and God."Gallo's Seventh Street Playhouse began as a small showcaseensemble, comprised of devoted theater professionals — andat least a few Ivy Leaguers, lawyers and attorneys, notesBall — assembled specifically to bring the playwright's workto life via workshops throughout the tri-state area.

"Tony — this is his baby. He's a prolific writer, and he's given us a lot of opportunities. He's taken us to the

Dramatists' Guild in New York, which is right next to Broadway. So you come out, and there you are. We get to say,

‘We made it on Broadway,'" she laughs.

Lately, she says, the Playhouse has started to branch out into full-fledged productions, like the upcoming

"Vandergrift!"Ball says it was the historic synergy between the sourcematerial and Greenbelt that attracted her to the project."Vandergrift was designed specifically for the people whoworked in the steel mills," she says. "Greenbelt, also, wasa designed town for the working class, so they could have anice place to live. There are a lot of correlations. I

thought that with the parallels, this would be interesting." In addition to Ball, the cast features Playhouse regulars

Jan Forbes as McMurtry and Tim Wolf as Olmstead Jr., as well  as featured players Sherman McDaniel, Lenny Levy, Bruce

Brennan, Bruce Smith, George Spencer and Matthew Christian

Davis.

"I'm enjoying this particular group of people," says theirdirector. "They're incredibly talented and have a lot to

bring to the table." Rehearsals, she says, began in earnest in April, and

everyone has completely gelled.

"Sometimes with these shows, you get ego, but everyone here

has been working together very well."

And just like McMurtry, Ball had concrete ideas in mind for

the construction of her "Vandergrift!"

"I got my brother, who lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, to

design the set," she says. "It had to be very minimal,

because we only have so many days to set up. We can only

access the theater space for tech week."

Such restricted access provided the production's biggest

hurdle.

"The biggest challenge has been rehearsing at Tony's home,"

Ball says. "It's a lovely townhouse, [but] we have to use

our wonderful actors' imaginations. So, logistics, that's

been a challenge. But the personalities have been a

delight."

 


Just finished your delightful play of our hometown

“Vandergrift”  delightfully recalled so many memories.  The

end, tears in my my eyes so past and present days traversed

my memory.


Vandergrift truly was a paradise for all of our families.


Larry L. Ross

1959

________________________________________

Prince Georges Sentinel
 Local playwright's historic comedy 'Vandergrift' opens

Friday

Published on: Thursday, June 02, 2011  By Wanda Jackson

In the early 1890s, when steel tycoon George McMurtry

hatched a plan to build a workingman’s paradise in a small

Pennsylvania town, his actions did not always match his

rhetoric. Workers were pushed to long hours and low wages.

Groups were pitted against each other—men vs. women, older

vs. younger, day shift vs. night shift, union supporters vs.

compliant workers, immigrant vs. non-immigrant and middle

class vs. low income.

Despite his money, power and influence, McMurtry’s plans did

not always get rubber-stamped. And that is where differing

points of view erupted in fireworks.

You can get a glimpse of this story — the who, what, when

and where the conflict comes from — through a two-act

historic comedy called “Vandergrift” that opens Friday, June

3, at the Greenbelt Arts Center, 123 Centerway.

Performances are at 8 p.m. on June 3-4 and June 10-11 and at

2:30 p.m. June 5 and June 12. For tickets, call 301-441-

8770. For additional information, call 202-544-6973 or visit

greenbeltartscenter.org.

For 90 minutes in the Greenbelt Arts Center’s intimate

theater setting, you have complete access to back-room

deals, racial and gender stereotypes, corporate strategy and

political corruption. Some conversations will make you cry.  

Some conversations will make you think. And others will make

you laugh.

“Vandergrift” is written by Anthony Gallo, directed by

Helenmary Ball and produced by The Seventh Street Playhouse,

a Washington, D.C.-based small critically acclaimed

nonprofit showcase ensemble repertoire theater company

comprised of experienced actors, designers, directors,

theatre technicians and musical directors. The play has been

performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and

The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and the

Dramatists Guild on Broadway in New York City.

Gallo’s “Vandergrift” mixes drama and history, but the

predominant element is comedy in the way that the characters

interact with each other and their witty dialogue.

Frederick Law Olmstead, the nation’s preeminent architect,

is hired to design the town, which is named after his

partner, Captain Jacob J. Vandergrift.

Ida Tarbell, a leading “muckraker” or modern day

investigative journalist who exposes corruption, clashes

with McMurtry for more than 50 years over his flawed

idealism and her subconscious biases.

In real life, Tarbell is best known for her 1904 book, “The

History of the Standard Oil Company,” which not only changed

the history of journalism but also the fate of the empire of

the country’s most powerful and best known CEO, J.D.

Rockefeller. Tarbell exposed Rockefeller’s unethical

tactics, sympathetically portraying the plight of

Pennsylvania’s independent oil workers.

“There is conflict throughout the play,” Gallo said.

“McMurtry and Tarbell, the nosy investigator. And then the

differences between McMurtry and Frederic Law Olmstead, and

of course John Dunmore, the union organizer.”

Gallo said “Vandergrift” addresses a variety of topics.

“It’s all about class distinction,” Gallo said. “The unions

want pay equality. The new immigrants are treated badly and

only there because the company needs workers. The town is

totally segregated by income class. Oil is always an issue.”

But, there is one common thread in all of Gallo’s plays —

religion, specifically the “Judeo-Christian ethic.”

“Most viewers are not aware that these plays have a

religious basis,” he said. “Of course, I only have one

axiom: There are a million roads to God and I hope I am on

the right one.”

Gallo, a native of Pennsylvania, said the characters in

“Vandergrift” are based on real people.

“They are the founders of the town. I had to change some of

the names because of suggestions from some of their

descendants who still live there,” he said.

Gallo, formerly an economist, is a playwright whose eleven

copyrighted, published, workshopped and produced works

include “Margherita,” “Eugenio,” “Better than the Best,”

“Solomon,” “Vandergrift!,” “Lincoln and God,” “The Agony of

David,” “Charleston Revisited,” “The Botticelli Cruise,”

“Saul or Paul” and “Heathcliff.” His drama portfolio

consists of more than 50 works.

He is collaborating with Helmut Licht on the opera “Lincoln

and God,” and  shooting has begun on “Charleston Revisited,”

a motion picture produced by the Eastern Market Studios.

Veteran documentary cameraman Albert Leisegang, who has made

50 documentaries, is director of photography.

Gallo is artistic director of the Seventh Street Playhouse

in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild

in New York and the Playwrights Forum in Washington, D.C.

Helenmary Ball is the director of “Vandergrift”  and plays

the role of Ida Tarbell. Ball is an accomplished actress and

costumer for many theatres in Baltimore and Calvert County.

She recently finished filming “Sealed Fates: A Trilogy of

Claustrophobic Terror” with Timewarp Films and Midnight

Crew’s “Witch’s Brew,” which will be released this summer.

The cast includes Jan Forbes, who plays George McMurtry,

steel tycoon and director of Apollo Iron & Steel Company;

Tim Wolf who plays landscape architect Frederick Law

Olmstead Jr. — the son of the preeminent architect Frederick

Olmstead; Sherman McDaniel who plays Allegheny college

professor Frederica Olmstead; Lenny Levy who plays plant

manager Archie Davis; Bruce Brennan who plays determined

union organizer John Dunmore; Bruce Smith who plays

president of U.S. Steel Elbert Gary; George Spencer who

plays company lawyer James Whitworth; and, Pat Martin who

plays a plant manager and Vandergrift’s political

representative. Its crew includes: A. O. Gutierrex, set and

lighting designer; Beatarix Whitehall, sound design; Rachel

Dane, stage manager; Genna Davidson, props/light board

operator; and Albert Liesegang, director of photography and

an independent producer for film/TV productions.

When asked why it’s important for people to see

“Vandergrift” Gallo said, “It’s a fun play about American

Civilization, and our issues have not changed in 120 years.

It’s about oil, unions, immigration, religious and gender

discrimination and so on.”




From Rosalind Lacy

Vandergrift! By Anthony E. Gallo

In the way nine talented actors throw themselves into the

passionat writing in Anthony E. Gallo’s Vandergrift!, this

balanced slice of overlooked American history could be

subtitled. The Muckraker and The Steel Tycoon. Roland

Branford Gomez directs.

Willing to do anything to prevent his mill workers from

unionizing, steel tycoon George McMurtry (Mark Lee Adams),

envisions a possible dream for a utopian town. He hires the

landscape architect for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair,

Frederick Law Olmstead, subdivides farm land and builds

Vandergrift, named for another steel pioneer, Capt. J.J.

Vandergrift. The town becomes a unique model for its time.

But even a planned community of affordable row houses,

curving paved streets, a church, and municipal building near

Pittsburgh, doesn’t stop the workers from organizing. Along

comes idealist Ida Tarbell (Rachael Hubbard), a muckraking

journalist, who wields a pen like a sword to do it. She gets

results. This feminist reformer brings industrialists, like

J.D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil, to their knees, and

awakens Elbert Gary, president of U.S. Steel in Indiana, to

the idea of employee benefits. But the unions will ruin the

steel mill business, McMurtry warns. Gallo writes terse

dialogue that generates passion in tight scenes that build

to a convincing climax in 90 minutes. Perhaps the most

riveting scenes occur in the dialectic duels which show the

mutual respect between Tarbell and McMurtry. As decades pass

and Tarbell continues her crusades, McMurtry dies but his

ghost whispers in her ear. Peaceful assembly for labor

protest and profit making for incentive are American ideals,

both argue. Once powerful mills decline and close,

Vandergrift changes and exemplifies how America adapts.

_________________________________

Native Son Does Vandergrift Proud

Review by Carolyn Wells



     If you’re not given to traveling to U. S. cities to

check out their history, offerings and atmosphere, one that

might attract you is Vandergrift in southwestern

Pennsylvania.


     That is, if you had the good fortune to attend the

staged reading of Vandergrift, a play written by Anthony E.

Gallo, directed by Roland Branford Gomez, and presented in

the National Press building theatre on September 7, 2007 to

a large, enthusiastic audience.


     Based on history, creatively interpreted by a talented

hometown playwright, who has for some years resided in

Washington, DC, Vandergrift is a lively, fast-moving account

of the origin of the city as complement to a profitable

steel mill operation.  


     George McMurtry, played by Mark Adams, is the prime

mover in the story, but it is Ida Tarbell, portrayed by

Margaret Bush, who provides sparkle and credible continuity

over the 50-year period covered by the two-act play.  

McMurtry,  conniving steel  magnate and city founder,

engages in an amusing dialogue with the sharp journalist

Tarbell when he’s not clashing with the determined union

organizer John Dunmore, played by John Shackelford.


     Of especial interest is the way, without benefit of

seeing any representation of the city beginning with its

concept, construction and development over a 50-year period,

the audience has a sense of even the intangibles of

Vandergrift that so enchant the tough-minded Tarbell.


     Because of the dramatic change in Tarbell’s tart

judgment of McMurtry over time to a gentle—almost

worshipful—participant in his city and admiration for its

citizenry, one must conclude that McMurtry was more

successful than even he had anticipated despite his

deviation from the city plan of  famous architect Frederic

Law Olmstead, competently played by Albert Petrasek.  And

notwithstanding the ultimate collapse of the steel industry

with its profits, the raison d’etre for his city.  Although

Tarbell had written a stinging expose of J. D. Rockefeller

and her critical credentials were long well established, she

had somehow softened her position with McMurtry and

continued to be charmed with Vandergrift.  The change in no

way diminished her character.


     Margaret Bush in the role of Tarbell sparkled

throughout the play.  In the final scenes, the then-aged

actress was reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s later film

portrayals.  We are likely to hear more of this talented and

charming actress.  In a brief conversation after the show,

Ms. Bush told this reviewer of her intention to continue her

career as a professional actor.


     As for Anthony Gallo [bio attached], the prolific body

of his plays give promise of theatrical perpetuity.  He has

a talent for finding the frequently subtly amusing notes in

works of historical significance.  One leaves the theatre—in

the case of this performance

                                                             

                                                             

           2



in the lovely National Press Club theatre—with new insights

into sometimes obscure aspects of historical events with

their humanizing foibles.  Tony Gallo convincingly recreates

the whole range of human behavior, deeply drawing the

audience into the episodes.


     Among the audience, several appreciative playwrights

were present—including Emily Solomon and Rachael Bail, well

-known in Metropolitan Washington.


     See Vandergrift if you have the opportunity!



##############




Streets.


Vandergrift!  has been chosen for publication by New Theatre

Publications in Great Britain, which distributes original

plays to 9000 theatres in the British Isles.  The acceptance

was a surprise.  The play was chosen by the Board of

Reviewers three days after submission, with a rating of 4.0

out of  4.0.  In contrast, Margherita, which is considered

my best play, was accepted for publication but with a 2.8

rating, and a wait of nearly six months.


 Ian Hornby, the company’s executive director, said that NTP

will market Vandergrift!  aggressively.  Hopefully, the play

will be performed in Great Britain and Europe.  Vandergrift!

 will be tentatively  staged in both Washington and New York

City( as a Broadway Showcase)  in 2010 by the Capital

Fringe, the Seventh Street Playhouse, and the Dramatists

Guild of America.


Evaluation by New Theatre Publications  Review Board

THE GREENBELT ARTS CENTER AND

 THE SEVENTH STREET PLAYHOUSE PRESENT

VANDERGRIFT!

By

Anthony E. Gallo

Directed by Helenmary Ball

Friday, June 3, Saturday, June 4, Friday, June 10, Saturday,

June 11 @ 8: PM Sunday June 5 and 12   @ 2:30  PM  2011



A historic comedy about a real town in Pennsylvania with an

idealistic beginning like Greenbelt, Maryland


In the early 1890’s, steel tycoon George McMurtry tries to

produce a unique marriage between architecture and

industrialism to build a workingman's paradise in

southwestern Pennsylvania designed by Frederic Law Olmstead.

 The issues then were immigration, the environment, labor

unions, class distinctions, discrimination, and housing.  

Familiar? Of special interest to Presbyterians,

steelworkers, Catholics, Scotch-Irish, Jews, Methodists,

fortune tellers, Poles, labor unions, Italians,

Pennsylvanians,  segregationists, landscape architects,

journalists, and stray dogs.    Our American civilization?


Cast–  Ida Tarbell-  Helenmary Ball;  George McMurtry -Jan

Forbes;  Frederic Law Olmsted, Jr. – Tim Wolf;  Katherine

Townsend–Mellicent Singham;   Archie Davis–Lenny Levy;  John

 Dunmore –Bruce Brennan;  Elbert Gary –Bruce Smith;  Violet

–Mellicent Singham;  Police Chief –Bruce Brennan;   

Frededericka Olmsted–Mellicent Singham;  James Whitworth-

George Spencer;  Burgess McIntyre – Matthew Christian Davis  

      

Crew :  Sound- Beatrix Whitehall;  Set and Lighting

Designer- .O. Gutierrez;   Lighting and Props Manager-Genna

Davidson;    Photography Director-Albert Liesegang  


LOCATED IN THE HISTORIC GREENBELT ARTS CENTER

The Nation’s First Shopping Center-1937

Greenbelt Arts Center  123 Centerway. Greenbelt, Maryland

Directions and Reservations: 301-441-8770.

Tickets: Regular - $15   Seniors/Students - $12   Group

Sales -$10



 

ANTHONY E. GALLO    202 544 6973  

agallo2368@verizon.net

​​​​​ANTHONY E. GALLO
agallo2368@verizon.net     202 544 6973