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"The Dodo Bird"

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Fried, Emanuel (American playwright, novelist, actor,  college professor, 1913-____), “The Dodo Bird,”

a 55-minute realistic working-class-life drama in English, set in a bar across from the foundry, early evening, 1963,

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;  •  © 1963, 1975 by Emanuel Fried;  •  in Emanuel Fried’s The Dodo Bird, first edition (Buffalo, New York, U.S.A.: Labor Arts Books, 1975), LCCN 76358121, 72 pp.  •  script/rights available from Emanuel Fried, 1064 Amherst Street, Buffalo, New York 14216, U.S.A., e-mail friedej@bscmail.buffalostate.edu, telephone (home) 716-873-4131.  •  Cited by Emanuel Fried via ftp May 9, 2002; Fried says,

Dramatis Personae Bull Blatter (m), maintenance  welder; The Dodo Bird (m), millwright helper; Russ Nowark (m), millwright; Nick or Nicki (m or f), tavern proprietor.

Synopsis "The Dodo Bird isSynopsis “The Dodo Bird is waiting in the tavern across from the foundry—waiting to meet his daughter from who he has been estranged for many years because his alcoholism broke up his family. Bull Blatter comes across from the foundry where he’s been working overtime and tries to get The Dodo Bird to drink. Dodo refuses the drink. Russ Nowark comes in. Bull and Russ, who head opposing forces in the union and the foundry, argue. This develops into a bet on whether The Dodo Bird can remain sober until his daughter arrives. Bull bets that Dodo can’t last that long without a drink; Russ bets that Dodo will not take the drink. Some very funny, at the same time tragic, activity results, involving dancing, shouting, threatening. After Bull threatens to reveal something terrible in Dodo’s past, Dodo reaches for the drink. Russ knocks the drink out of Dodo’s hand and pays off the bet. Dodo, unnerved and torn by all this pressure, details in a long monologue how the pressures of the factory—strike, layoff, plant closing—each affected a major traumatic change in his life and how he has been burying his problems in alcohol. He reveals that this kind of pressure—and losing his wife and child’s company and love—led to his arrest for an indecent sexual act. Now he is trying to put his life together and reestablish his relationship with his daughter, age 17, at the time of her birthday. This confession changes all relationships among the people in the tavern. Dodo then reveals that he is financing his daughter who is about to get married. He expects the plant closing (again). He intends to work for his son-in-law, helping out in running the gas station.

Comment “About the characters: Bull Blatter, maintenance welder (role has been played by actors in their 20s and all the  way up to actors in their 60s); Nick (male)or Nicki (female), tavern proprietor (any suitable age); The Dodo Bird, millwright helper (played by actors anywhere from 30s to 50s); Russ Nowark, millwright (same age range as Bull Blatter). ‘The Dodo Bird’ premiered Off Broadway in 1967 and has been produced somewhere in the US and Canada  almost every year since then, always to exceptional notices.  •  It was recently produced in Chicago; that production with its content applicable to plant closings in the U.S. today won Critics’ Choice as the best play. ‘The Dodo Bird’ has been performed with the simplist of sets, such as wooden boxes and planks serving as the bar, a replica of a juke box, a small table and chairs—with curtain back drops. Sets have ranged all the way from that to the most complex and surrealistic sets. The play worked equally well in all of these settings.  •  ‘The Dodo Bird’ has been optioned four times to be made into a movie; the playwright has written the screenplays and received up-front option money; the Canadian Film Development Corporation has twice provided seed money to producers to encourage making a film version. Unfortunately, because of the play’s labor and  working class content, the producers have not been able to raise the rest of the money needed to shoot the film.  •  Reviews indicate the high regard in which this script is held. The Los Angeles Times critic wrote: ‘No playwright writes so knowledgeably and sensitively of labor’s rank and file as Emanuel Fried. This is a people’s playwright who can see the individual face.’ British playwright Arnold Wesker wrote: ‘A fine play with something important to say about America. The continued failure of his own country to give Mr. Fried’s work the recognition it deserves is difficult for me to understand.’ Dr. Leslie Fiedler, leading literary critic, wrote: ‘“The Dodo Bird” is deserving of wholehearted support of anyone who is serious about developing American literature of any lasting consequence.’  •  A leading East German dramaturg translated ‘The Dodo Bird’ into German; however, the East German government objected to a wildcat strike (unauthorized walkout) being presented as justified and cancelled the production.  •  Contact the playwright at his home address for scripts. (5,000 printedcopies sold out.) The playwright will provide photocopies of the original script for a $10 fee.”

Themes alcoholism, automation, dance, downsizing, labor, layoff, plant closing, strike, threat, union, union life, working-class life.

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