Taped plays give Seattle playwright a windfall
By Joe Adcock
Plays and novels are fine. But as many a playwright and novelist can tell you, the big bucks come from TV. One of those playwright/novelists is Seattle’s own Nick DiMartino.
"I actually paid my brother the $3,000 I owed him," DiMartino says. "He had lent me money to support my various writing projects. Repaying him was a big family Christmas event. My dad made sure to get a picture of me handing over the check."
DiMartino’s holiday windfall came from Globalstage, a new San Francisco company that is producing and marketing videocassettes for 7-14 year olds. Inaugurating Globalstage’s first series of six taped stage dramas is DiMartino’s "Frankenstein."
DiMartino’s play is based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 [sic] novel. The DiMartino adaptation was commissioned by the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, where it premiered in 1983.
"It’s my most successful play, always sells out," DiMartino says. "But you know what? It has never been produced in my hometown. Three theaters here, which shall remain nameless, passed it up."
Mary Shelley is credited with inventing the science-fiction genre with "Frankenstein." The story tells of how a physiologist, Victor Frankenstein, creates "life" – in the form of a monster who runs amok.
Globalstage’s mandate is to provide thought-provoking entertainment for young people. The thoughts provoked by "Frankenstein" might run along cautionary lines: just because science and technology can create wonders, that doesn’t mean that the creations wrought by science and technology are automatically wonderful.
"I love theater, it generates ideas," says Globalstage founder Libby Pratt. "Theater doesn’t have to appeal to the masses. So it can experiment and be provocative. But there aren’t many really good American theater companies for children: yours there in Seattle (Seattle Children’s Theatre), Honolulu, Minneapolis, Louisville – and that’s about it.
"You want something better than television for your kid. But even if you live near one of those good youth theaters, you might not want to sit through a whole children’s theater show."
Pratt does not allow her 11-year-old son Preston to watch TV on weekdays. Globalstage is partly an effort to give Preston and his contemporaries a chance for cultural enrichment via non-traditional TV. Preston was his mom’s consultant when she was traveling around looking for potentially filmable stage productions. And it is he who chats on camera with Dr. Elizabeth McNamer, an educator who introduces each tape. Part of Preston’s job is to interrupt when McNamer gets culturally carried away. Preston asks questions like "Who is Aristotle?"
In real life - before Globalstage took over last year - Pratt is a San Francisco stocks and options trader. She and her husband Craig Resnick are business partners at the Pacific Stock Exchange. Globalstage’s $1.5 million startup costs are coming out of their ample pockets. "But we’ve had interest from people who like the idea and may want to put money into this," Pratt said during a phone conversation from Louisville, Ky. "We’ve heard from the Book of the Month Club. The hope is that this will turn into a profitable operation."
"Frankenstein" was filmed at Stage One, the Louisville company that produces work for young people. Other productions on the Globalstage 1998 agenda are a musical version of the Carlo Colodi puppet fable "Pinocchio," also performed by Stage One; an English language version of the French comedy romance "Cyrano," performed by the Blauw Vier company of Antwerp (watch for this production live on stage at the Seattle Children’s Theatre in September); "A Stranger Came Ashore," a Scottish fable performed by the Royal Lyceum Theatre of Edinburgh; and "Still the Drummer," an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s war drama "Mother Courage," performed in English by the Huis Aan de Amstel Theatre of Amsterdam. A sixth production has yet to be settled upon. "Something by Shakespeare," Pratt says. "Maybe that ‘Tempest’ they’re doing this spring at Seattle Children’s Theatre."
All six Globalstage cassettes can be purchased as a subscription package for $135. Bought individually, each tape costs $27. The University Book Store here has agreed to stock Globalstage products. Information on Globalstage: 888-324-5623
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/9/98