Inspiration, and some of the places it can be found

Tom Stoppard. Sir Tom. Knighted by The Queen. The first play I saw of his was “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” It is a take on the two minor characters in “Hamlet” who try to lure the Prince to his death, but the luring goes awry. Hamlet finds their note sentencing him. He changes the names and they, when they land in England are toast. Hamlet doesn’t die: R and G do.

So what is Sir Tom’s take? The story is that when he was a young journalist in England, someone suggested to him that he write a play about these minors R and G.

That is what got him going. 

My theory is that there are only a few prompts, to use that recent education word, that get you going.

That suggestion to Sir Tom set him off on his career, and in fact, once he heard it, the whole play was written for him. Tumbled out. Every exit; another entrance. Over but the typing.

I think every playwright worth his balsamic has had that experience. A passing suggestion, perhaps meaningless to the expresser, and off one goes.

The Watergate hearings. Senator Sam Ervin (“I’m just a simple country lawyer.”, Chair; Sen. Howard Baker (“What did the President know and when did he know it?”, Vice-Chair.

I’m in New York by Lincoln Center.  I see my friend Michael Feingold, for 30 years plus the chief critic for the now defunct Village Voice, about to go into the subway.  Over his shoulder he says, “We’re doing a Watergate show at the Yale Rep.  Maybe you want to get involved.”

(Feingold, the smartest critic writing, never got the job with the Times b/c he’s just a tad too prickly. The Paper of Record’s loss, bigtime. Then after those 30 years plus, The Voice fires him and then they go under. The Voice which reviewed my first plays in New York at the Old Reliable Theater Tavern and Grille, on East 3rd between B and C, before they were even called Alphabet City, directed by M. Feingold, called my work “the worst of off-off-Broadway.” For years I could not even walk on the same side of the street where the Voice was being sold.  Allow me to say, Good riddance.) 

I went back to the Northwest Corner where I was living in an abandoned chicken coop near the Interlaken Inn.  No TV, but a radio set up in the window so I could lounge and take in the proceedings. I devoured every word, then wrote five skits, the most audacious called “Waiting for G,” a take on the Lucky speech from Becket’s GODot, transmogrified for Richard Nixon. Alvin Epstein, who had been the original Lucky on Broadway with Bert Lahr, did the 10-minute monologue. Alvin, one of the great actors of anyone’s lifetime, was out of his mind every night.

I felt a part of theater history, all because of an over-the-shoulder remark.

Philip Roth wrote the final segment of “Watergate Classics,” for Nixon who having been defeated refuses to leave office. The house lights came up and soldiers with guns came from the back. You think that didn’t come back around when Schlumpf was floating those rumors about not leaving? Hey, Pillow Guy, how’s about some Martial Law?

Back to Sir Tom. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Sir Tom is holding forth for about 500 of us. Some smartass is grilling him on why he has had a sushi-fused meal backstage while the rest of us are munching Cheetos. And what does he do to prepare for these events? He, the torrent of words that he had poured forth for decades, is suddenly silent. After a long Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pause, he exhales “Silk Cut.” The English cigarette.

“ ‘The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy’ is a wildly inventive celebration of language, modeled on Tom Stoppard, but grounded in jive vernacular.”  

About a play of mine in Chicago.  In the Trib. I have not smoked in more than 30 years, but a Silk Cut sounds pretty good right about now. Thank you, Sir Tom.

Lonnie Carter is a writer who lives in Falls Village. Email him at

Latest News

Nuvance hospital system to merge with Northwell Health

Sharon Hospital would become part of a larger regional health systems with 28 hospitals.

Yehyun Kim/

Nuvance Health, which owns four hospitals in Connecticut and three in New York, will merge with Northwell Health to form a larger regional health system across two states.

Together, the companies will own 28 hospitals and more than 1,000 sites of care and employ 14,500 providers.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Creators: An interview with filmmaker Keith Boynton

Keith Boynton, left, with Aitor Mendilibar, right, the cinematographer who shot “The Haunted Forest” as well as “The Scottish Play” and “The Winter House.” In the background of is Vinny Castellini, first assistant director.


Keith Boynton is a filmmaker who grew up in Salisbury, Connecticut. He attended Salisbury Central School, Town Hill School, and Hotchkiss. He has made numerous feature films including Seven Lovers, The Scottish Play, The Winter House, and is just wrapping up a new film, The Haunted Forest, which is a horror/slasher movie. Boynton has made numerous music videos for the band Darlingside, and for Alison Krauss. He is a poet, a playwright, and comic book art collector.

JA: This series of stories The Creators focuses on artists, their inspiration, and their creative process. Keith, what was the seed that got you started?

Keep ReadingShow less
Millerton director is an Oscar nominee

Arlo Washington in a film still from the Oscar-nominated short "The Barber of Little Rock."

Story Syndicate

John Hoffman, a Millerton resident, has been nominated for his film “The Barber of Little Rock,” which he co-directed with Christine Turner, in the Best Documentary Short Film category at the upcoming 96th Academy Awards.

Distributed by The New Yorker and produced by Story Syndicate Production in association with 59th & Prairie, Better World Projects, and Peralta Pictures, “The Barber of Little Rock” explores the efforts of Arkansas local hero Arlo Washington, who opened a barbershop at 19 years old and, with a mission to close the racial inequality gap in his community, went on to found the Washington Barber College as well as People Trust Community Federal Credit Union. Washington’s goal is aiding his primarily Black neighborhood, which has historically been underserved by more prominent banking institutions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Inside Troutbeck's kitchen

Chef Vincent Gilberti

Courtesy of Troutbeck

About growing up in Carmel, New York, Troutbeck’s executive chef Vincent Gilberti said he was fortunate to have a lot of family close by, and time together was always centered around food.

His grandparents in White Plains always made sure to have a supply of cured meats, olives, cheeses and crusty bread during their weekend visits. But it wasn’t until his family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, when he was 16 that his passion for food really began. It was there that he joined the German Club, whose partnership with Johnson & Wales University first introduced him to cooking.

Keep ReadingShow less