Sausalito, CA (June 20, 2013) -- June 2013 marks the centenary of the birth of American playwright, screenwriter and novelist N. Richard Nash, best known as the author of The Rainmaker, a tender romance that probed the interplay of reality and illusion under pressure of human longing. Mr. Nash, née Nathan Richard Nusbaum, was born in Philadelphia, PA, on June 8, 1913.
A smash hit on Broadway in 1954, starring Geraldine Page, "The Rainmaker" has been translated into over 40 languages and is still regularly performed in theaters throughout the U.S (e.g., next month at The Old Globe Theater in San Diego) and around the world. A 1956 film version starred Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, a 1999 Broadway revival starred Jayne Atkinson and Woody Harrelson, and a 2007 Broadway revival of the musical adaptation, 110 in the Shade, was nominated for a Tony, starring Audra McDonald.
"The Rainmaker" is the tale of a Texas farm girl who in a time of drought falls for a fast-talking traveling charmer who claims he can bring rain. TalkinBroadway, in a review of a 2005 revival in New Jersey, called the play "a fully engaging, tightly constructed, emotionally rewarding experience that should not be missed" -- 51 years after its first production. The current production at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, CA is an L.A. Times Critic's choice, and is now extended into September.
To mark Nash's birth in June, Mr. Nash's friends, family, and colleagues are posting memories, telling stories and sharing photos and video on a new Facebook page. So many people have now performed Nash's works around the world that the Nash family is now inviting those who have been involved in a production to share their behind-the-scenes experiences. Also, this year, the University of Wisconsin has finished the main work of compiling his manuscripts and drafts, now available to the public. The entire oeuvre of this joyously versatile, prolific, classically rooted yet distinctly American writer deserves reexamination, according to his daughter, psychologist Jennifer Nash Flower, Ph.D.
"My father wrote most about the difficulty of living in the tension between illusion and reality, which makes a lot of sense, coming from a dreamer who came of age in the Great Depression. The Rainmaker was an archetypal work in which he put the problem most directly and poignantly. That's why it's lasted so long. But his other writing is very evocative on the subject too, more complex, with varying outcomes. He even took on the pseudonym John Roc, to say in new words what he wanted to say (Fire! a play, and Winter Blood, a novel). In the 21st century, it's still hard to find a good balance between our dreams and our realities and he's still right in the thick of it," Dr. Flower observed.
From Mean Streets to RomCom
N. Richard Nash grew up on the tough south side of Philadelphia, where he had to learn to take care of himself on the streets. Yet he also had a tender side: ''I was the youngest in a family with six children -- all the rest were girls." Nash said in a 1985 interview. "I was spoiled by them. I adored them. I grew up crying for them and crying with them.'' That empathy was reflected in his first produced play, Parting at Imsdorf, which in 1940 edged out an entry by the young Tennessee Williams to win the prestigious Maxwell Anderson Award. He won critical acclaim in 1946 for The Second Best Bed (an allusion to Shakespeare's will), his first play produced on Broadway.
In later years, he did extensive screenwriting in Hollywood, working closely with Samuel Goldwyn at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. He recounted famously that Goldwyn had a habit of calling him after reading a script to say, "Richard, it's perfect! Now come and fix it."
Back on Broadway, he was one of a small group of secret "play doctors," helping major Broadway producer, David Merrick, put troubled productions back on track. Others of Nash's plays include "The Young and Fair" (1948), "See the Jaguar" (1952), "Girls of Summer" (1956), "Handful of Fire" (1958). "Echoes" (1973) is still produced in colleges today because Nash preferred to see it in smaller theaters.
In his later years Nash turned to prose fiction, publishing five novels, beginning with two New York Times bestsellers, East Wind, Rain (1977) and The Last Magic, and ending with The Wildwood, which still remains unpublished.
A complete list of Nash's published works, along with a bio and rights information is available at nrichardnash.com. His New York Times obituary is here. A 1985 profile published in the Orlando Sentinel is also available online. The William Morris Agency handles rights to his works, and his playscripts can be purchased from Samuel French. Nash's literary executors plan to reissue his Selected Plays, some still unproduced, in digital form later this year.