Posts Tagged ‘Steven Dietz’

Thank you, ZACH – A note from Board Trustee Tom Terkel

April 15th, 2013 No comments
(L-R) Colleen, Tom and their daughter Taylor Terkel

(L-R) Colleen, Tom and their daughter Taylor Terkel

When my daughter asked me at lunch today what MAD BEAT HIP & GONE is really about, I told her — I don’t really know. I knew it was about the beatnik era and two young guys out on the road searching for something. That was about it. There was a time when I would have been worried.

And so, when we were driving to the theatre and her friend asked the same question, I jumped in to say “I am not real sure, but I have learned to trust Dave Steakley. If he thinks we should see this, he is probably right.” And right he was.

I didn’t realize then as I now do that MAD BEAT HIP & GONE is a metaphor for every generation’s passage from idealistic youth to accommodating middle age and back again to idealistic old age. The play is completely timeless in that regard.

When the play ended, I had similar feelings to what I have experienced so many time: gratitude that I had trusted ZACH. Thought provoking, timeless, and ageless — when do we stop wrestling with the two sides of ourselves — idealism vs. accommodation, settling or seeking? I know I haven’t reconciled the two yet and I bounce back and forth between the two, using my civic commitments to somewhat satisfy the yearning for seeking, but really? That’s not really seeking … Who doesn’t dream about setting out on a road trip without a map, focusing instead on the characters met and the lessons to be learned?

So, instead of providing a window into the lives of others as Dave has so often done in the past, tonight he provided a mirror for me. And, I suspect, everyone in the theatre — young, old, man, woman of all ethnicities — had a similar look inside, for this dilemma is universal. It was a healthy introspection.

It was great to see bright new stars on our stage, and, once more, Michael Raiford’s set was the perfect backdrop to display this piece of art — evocative at times, symbolic at others, literal at still others. He designed a perfect environment to convey the appropriate context at each moment.

So, thank you, ZACH, and please thank playwright and director Steven Dietz. We’ll be discussing this production for days and weeks to come.

- Tom Terkel
ZACH Board Trustee, FourT Realty

For tickets and more show info, please visit

And the Beat Goes On

April 12th, 2013 No comments
Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
– Jack Kerouac

In his new play Mad Beat Hip & Gone – now in its world premiere on ZACH Theatre’s new Topfer Theatre stage – playwright Steven Dietz explores the Beat Generation and its influence on two small-town young men who have a chance meeting with Beat poet Jack Kerouac and his traveling partner, Neal Cassady.

Today, the term “beatnik” conjures up the stereotype of young men and women dressed in all black, wearing berets while they recite poetry and play the bongos.  But for movement founder Kerouac — who introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 to characterize his his social circle of underground, anti-conformist youth gathering in New York at that time — the cultural well-spring had a more religious intention.

Kerouac explained what he meant by “beat” at the Brandeis Forum “Is There A Beat Generation?” in November 1958 at New York’s Hunter College Playhouse, where he appeared with fellow seminar panelists James A. Wechsler, Princeton anthropologist Ashley Montagu and author Kingsley Amis. Reading from a prepared text, Kerouac reflected on his beat beginnings:

It is because I am Beat, that is, I believe in beatitude and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son to it…who knows, but that the universe is not one vast sea of compassion actually, the veritable holy honey, beneath all this show of personality and cruelty?

The media, of course, ignored the Romantic aspects of the Beat Movement and instead perpetuated the cartoonish versions of Dobie Gillis knockoffs, counter-culture hipsters and “Cool, man, cool” jargon expressed in rhyme set to drum beats.  The term “beatnik” was actually coined by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen by sarcastically punning on the recently launched Russian Sputnik to imply the beatnik’s perceived rejection of red-white-and-blue-blooded all-American ideals.

Jack Kerouac's seminal Beat novel ON THE ROAD

Jack Kerouac's seminal Beat novel ON THE ROAD

To Kerouac, this vision of the Beat Movement portrayed by the mass media only existed as the invention of journalists and entertainers, saying the real Movement was animated more by a vague feeling of cultural and emotional displacement, dissatisfaction, and yearning, than by a specific purpose or program.  In “Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation,” Kerouac criticized what he saw as a distortion of his visionary and spiritual ideas:

“The Beat Generation, that was a vision…of a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way — a vision gleaned from the way we had heard the word “beat” spoken on street corners on Times Square and in the Village, in other cities in the downtown city night of postwar America — beat, meaning down and out but full of intense conviction. We’d even heard old 1910 Daddy Hipsters of the streets speak the word that way, with a melancholy sneer. It never meant juvenile delinquents, it meant characters of a special spirituality who didn’t gang up but were solitary Bartlebies staring out the dead wall window of our civilization…the Beat culture was a state of mind, not a matter of how you dressed or talked or where you lived. In fact, Beat culture was far from monolithic. It was many different, conflicting, shifting states of mind… move beyond the cultural clichés and slogans, to look past the Central Casting costumes, props, and jargon the mass media equated with Beatness, in order to do justice to its spirit.”

Experience Kerouac’s culture in Mad Beat Hip & Bone, now playing through April 28th on the Topfer Theatre stage.  For tickets, call (512) 476-0541, x1, or click here for tickets online.

Photo Gallery: Steven Dietz’s MAD BEAT HIP & GONE

April 4th, 2013 No comments

In the late 40’s and early 50’s, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady famously went “on the road.” But what about Danny Fergus and Rich Rayburn — the young guys in the car right behind Jack and Neal, the guys whose history never ended up in books? What were these kids searching for in those “mad days” of “gone kids” trying so hard to be hip? With live jazz and exuberant theatricality, MAD BEAT HIP & GONE is a valentine to American wanderlust chronicling our rich and elusive dreams.

Below are images from ZACH’s World Premiere production. Feel free to share the photos, but please credit photographer Kirk Tuck wherever they appear. Click here for more information on the cast and crew.

Tickets and more show information is online at

Plot Summary: FICTION by Steven Dietz at ZACH Theatre

February 11th, 2011 No comments
Robert Gomes and Meredith McCall in FICTION by Steven Dietz

Robert Gomes and Meredith McCall play Michael and Linda Waterman in FICTION by Steven Dietz at ZACH Theatre. Photo by Kirk R. Tuck


Linda and Michael, successful writers who happen to be married to each other, thrive on the give-and-take of their unusually honest relationship. But when they decide to share their diaries, the boundaries between past and present, fact and fiction, trust and betrayal begin to break down. No life, it turns out, is an open book.


Michael and Linda Waterman have been married for twenty years. Michael is a successful author whose books have been made into blockbuster films. Linda is a professor of writing whose first book, At The Cape, earned her nationwide critical acclaim. Together, they form a feisty partnership that thrives on intellectual banter and subtle competition. All works well in the world of the Watermans until Linda is unexpectedly diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. The doctors give her only three weeks to live.

Faced with this news, Linda offers Michael her diaries as a dying gift, asking him to read them after she is dead. In return, she asks Michael if she may read his. Although her dying wish makes Michael uncomfortable, he cannot deny her.

FICTION is ZACH's latest production of Austin playwright Steven Dietz's work. Last season, ZACH staged BECKY'S NEW CAR with Lauren Lane and in 2009 the World Premiere of SHOOTING STAR took stage.

FICTION is ZACH's latest production of Austin playwright Steven Dietz's work. Last season, ZACH staged BECKY'S NEW CAR with Lauren Lane and in 2009 the World Premiere of SHOOTING STAR took stage. Photo by Kirk R. Tuck


This production, directed by Charles Otte features ZACH Theatre veterans Meredith McCall (Santaland Diaries, The Drowsy Chaperone) and Sydney Andrews (Becky’s New Car; Love, Janis), as well as a fresh face to ZACH, Robert Gomes (who played on Broadway in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Racing Demon.)

Fiction is the latest ZACH production from award-winning Austin playwright Steven Dietz, one of the country’s most prolific, versatile and widely produced playwrights. Over twenty of his plays, from the arresting docudrama God’s Country and the metaphorical masterpiece Lonely Planet to the romantic comedy of suspicion Private Eyes, have been performed throughout the United States, Off-Broadway, and produced worldwide to critical acclaim.

The only thing harder than dying with a secret is living with one.

The only thing harder than dying with a secret is living with one. Photo by Kirk R. Tuck

Dietz is the master of the perception shift, in each of his works there is an unexpected twist or series of twists that alter the perceptions of the characters and of the audience. In Fiction those perception shifts abound causing characters not only to doubt each other but also themselves. Through the use of the journals of the characters, Dietz challenges the power of memory and its ability to reshape the events of our lives. Because much of Fiction is addressed to the audience from these journals, the audience must decide whether or not to believe the accounts of the past as the narrators describe them. This tension between trust and suspicion, between fact and fiction, is at the heart of this gripping drama.

Thanks to McCarter Theatre for their FICTION study guide, used as source material for this blog.

Click here to get tickets to FICTION at ZACH Theatre or call (512) 476-0541, x1 Mon.-Sat. from 12 noon – 7pm.

Special thanks for photography by Kirk R. Tuck.