Dick Bruce helps raise money for Southampton Hospital and the Bridgehampton Library. He also plays golf. But he did something a little more unusual for a retired 83-year-old. The Bridgehampton resident wrote a play. His first. Three years and several rewrites later, Sometime Child about a lawyer who helps a few less fortunate kids got an off-off-Broadway run at Manhattan’s Theater for the New City. He had help raising the funds from his golfing buddies out east. But the former Wall Streeter watched the news and thought his pandemic time could be better spent than binge-watching Netflix.
“I just got tired of reading stories about innocent people living in dangerous neighborhoods,” Bruce says. “They’re dying from stray bullets and nothing is being done about it. On top of that, the no-bail and defund the police movements have made things much worse.”
He showed a first draft to people like James Carabatsos, a Hollywood screenwriter responsible for films like Hamburger Hill and Heartbreak Ridge who makes his home in Bridgehampton. With some encouragement, Bruce started tweaking the two-act drama during COVID.
“Carabatsos told me to do table reads, as many as I could,” Bruce says. So with the help of several New York casting agents and some area theaters, Bruce did a one-night reading at Guild Hall, then took his show to East Hampton’s LTV where the filmed version will air in the coming months. Executive Director Michael Clark attended the run-through and liked what he saw. “It’s important and uplifting,” Clark says. “We are making it part of a new series we’re doing called ‘New Plays New Playwrights’ giving people a chance to see their work in action,” he adds.
For Bruce, the table reads were only the beginning. Links pals from the Bridgehampton Golf Club and other friends chipped in to get the play produced. Bruce searched all over Manhattan and wound up at an experimental theater on the Lower East Side. The 100-seat facility proved ideal, and the play opened on March 13. Artistic Director Crystal Field helped produce.
“The play is relevant and exciting,” she says. “I particularly like the chorus of young people from the neighborhood who move the story along,” she adds. That teen chorus was one of the additions during a rewrite. Bruce also acted as executive producer and learned quickly about the pitfalls of show business. Actors who got COVID had to be recast, a new director stepped in, and the opening had to be postponed a week.
Bruce took it all in stride, but there were unusual setbacks. “I had to drive to Shelter Island to buy rapid COVID tests and drive them into the city to clear the actors,” he says. “It was snowing pretty hard one of those days.” It all seems to have paid off. Website Broadway World writes, “Richard Bruce’s play is commenting on our inequitable society. What makes this story compelling is its focus on demonstrating the power of an individual’s capacity to reach across the divide.”
So what happens when the two-week run concludes this Sunday? Bruce has the bug. He’d like to mount another production this summer in the Hamptons. “Maybe Bay Street Theater or back at Guild Hall,” he says. One thing is certain, his friends may see less of him on the links. He’s a playwright now.
Sometime Child runs through Sunday, March 27 at Theater for the New City, 10th Street and First Avenue, NYC. Performances are Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. All seats $18. Tickets at theaterforthenewcity.net.
Bill McCuddy contributes to PBS/All Arts, GoldDerby.com, Schneps Media and various print, television and digital outlets. He is a voting member of the CCA and cohosts The Accutron Show and Sitting Around Talking Movies podcasts. And he also sees the bad movies so you don’t have to.