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James Dean: The Boy From Fairmount

A Play by Harvey Cocks

Page by Sandra Weinhardt

Read about the new honor for one of this play's stars, Susan Szadowski.

James Dean: The Boy From Fairmount" is a wonderful play by Harvey Cocks. A Fort Wayne Journal Gazette article by Helen Frost, 13 June 1996, Page 1D, said the play was produced as part of the American Classic Summer Theater series at IU-Purdue Fort Wayne. Cocks knew Dean when they were both young actors in New York City, so he has interesting insight into his subject. This was the third production of this play. Cocks has revised it twice, with input from Adeline Nall, and says this is the final revision.

Contact:

Harvey Cocks
Fort Wayne Youtheatre
303 East Main Street
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
telephone (219) 422-6900

As soon as I read Helen Frost's article, I rushed to IU-Purdue to see the play. There were only twenty in the audience on Saturday afternoon. The whole world should have seen this play.

What You'll See On Stage

I'm not at all sure how much to tell about the actual play. It involved James Dean at three stages of his life. The play revolves around the actual death of Dean but is in no way morbid. The wonderful ascerbic wit of Sara Forbing, the beautiful "angel of death" who reviews James Dean's life, is a perfect counterbalance to the pathos of the event.

With Dean (Joel Moorman in a flawless performance, also spelled Mormon in the program notes) and the angel (Forbig) on stage, various members of Dean's life appear in scenes from the past. The angel brings up the things that Dean would rather forget, or had forgotten. This is a counterpoint to the "my life flashed before my eyes" scene envisioned by most playwrights.

It is similar to years of psychotherapy unfurling at top speed. It is gripping yet also more than slightly humorous.

There were side-splitting lines in this performance. Perhaps the audience didn't laugh outloud because they were all spellbound. There wasn't a sound from any of them. None of us wanted to miss any lines.

We learned about the bond between Jimmy (Jacob Dahm) and his mother (Susan Szadkowski, a Snider High School junior. What a fine actress!) We held our breath during her death and James' trip to live with Marcus Winslow and the rest of his wonderful family in Fairmount.
We watched him develop (Philip Snoderly) under the tutelage of Adeline Nall, his high school speech and drama teacher.

We saw the earliest years in New York and the personal relationships that overwhelmed Dean as he struggled to make and keep roots. Roots are a strong theme in James Dean: The Boy From Fairmount.

Another theme is his need to prove himself. His troubled relationship with his father affected his self esteem. Whatever James Dean achieved, he never believed he was considered worthy.

The little touches made the play that much richer. Do you know Dean's cat's name, and from whom it was a gift? His dad's nickname for him? Why his middle name was Byron? How he felt about his name? What a calming influence his Quaker relatives provided after his mama died? How he lost his two front teeth? What Winton expected him to do after high school, or else there would be no more money for James? How hard it was to be accepted at The Actor's Studio in New York? What his fellow actors thought of him? You will know all this after you see the play.

Each part of the play was very well cast. Several of the actors played three roles. This makes the play adaptable to various sizes of drama groups. Whitey Rust (Ben Hasler,) James Dean's high school chum, was eerily believable.

*James Dean: The Boy From Fairmount* is a natural for any good high school drama group, any college or summer theatre, any PBS production. This play is waiting for the world to discover it. Contact Harvey Cocks at the Fort Wayne Youtheatre, a division of Civic Theatre.


The National Forensic League Picks Susan Szadowski Top Winner

On July 1, 1996, James Ross reported on the front page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that Susan Szadkowski, James Dean's mother in this play, just won the National Forensic League's national speech tournament's poetry interpretation event.
Szadkowski, 17 years old, topped 300 contestants with *Unleashed," an anthology of poetry from a dog's point of view. She performed five poems, the last of which was Edward Albee's Samantha.

Susan placed second in the contest last summer. She placed seventh in the National Catholic Forensics League. Born in Poland, she spent some years in Syracuse, New York with her parents before moving to Fort Wayne. She's fluent in Polish and will travel in Poland this summer. Her next ambition is to attend Columbia University in NYC.
Thank you, James Ross, for bringing this thorough interview to us.

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