Fifty years ago this week I got on an Eastern Airlines flight in Toledo and flew to Miami to begin my freshman year at the University of Miami. I was met by a group of very nice frat guys who took me to lunch at their house and then dropped me at my dorm, Mahoney Hall, (which at the time was not air conditioned). I think they had hopes of recruiting me to join their frat, but it was a lost cause: I wasn’t a frat type, and besides, I had hopes of joining a different sort of social group: drama majors.
Over the next few days I got my very first photo ID (see below) and met a lot of people, including many at the Ring Theatre who are still friends to this day. One of them was Kenneth N. Kurtz, professor of scene design, director, historian, raconteur, and all-around dear friend. He made the horrible mistake of casting me in the Ring’s first production that fall, “The Beaux’ Stratagem,” an 18th century English comedy. It was a mistake because it gave me the impression that I was an actor, an illusion that took another three years to dissipate before it became clear that as an actor, I was a really good playwright. I was in a few other plays (usually playing a character whose first name was “The”) but spent a lot of time building scenery and running shows.
I graduated in 1974, a year ahead of schedule (much to my regret because I missed some great shows and learning), and went on to grad school twice, getting advanced degrees in theatre and writing, using the basic skills I picked up at the Ring: watch, listen, and learn (along with some skilled carpentry). In 2001 — almost exactly thirty years to the day — I returned to Miami, renewed my friendship with Ken (it had never actually faded away), and here I am, still writing and remembering that what began on that humid day in September 1971 is still a very important part of my life.