The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, February 5, 2003 - 7
Screenwriter Richard Price
reads tonight at A2 Borders
'Marvin's Room' moves
down to the Basement
By Ricky Lax
Daily Arts Writer
Richard Price has written seven novels,
including the national best-sellers "Clockers"
and "Freedomland." He has also written the
screenplays for "Ransom," starring Mel Gibson,
and "The Color Of Money," for which he
received an Oscar nomination. Price will read
from "Samaritan," his new book, tonight at 7
p.m. in the Borders on E. Liberty.
Recently, Price sat down with The Michigan
Daily to discuss his experiences as an author
The Michigan Daily: Was growing up in the
Richard Price: No. The housing projects in
the '50s and '60s were nothing like the projects
today. Now it's shit. Housing projects are rough
places right now.
TMD: Why does "Samaritan" and so much
of your work deal with race?
RP: I feel compelled to write about it. It per-
vades everything in American consciousness,
American history, American culture.
TMD: How are writers generally treated in
the film industry?
RP: Not very well, but you're paid an awful
lot of money. Everybody has more power than
you. The studio pays the bills. You can't write
what you want; you have to write what they
want. There's no independence. It's a product.
You just can't decide to make triangular toilet
paper for $60 million.
TMD: Your character, Ray, from "Samari-
tan," comes down pretty hard on television's
high school, urban dramas. Are you not a fan?
RP: The bigger the market the product needs
to appeal to, the blander and safer the product
has to be. They'll make these high schools on
TV where it's supposed to be an inner-city, yet
the student body is magically divided (equally)
between black, white, Asian, Hispanic. I've
never seen an inner city high school like that.
TMD: Ray shows his daughter a Wee-Gee
photo. Who is Wee-Gee?
RP: Wee-Gee was a very well known tabloid
photographer whose work transcended ... you
don't know who Wee-Gee is?
RP: He's probably the best-known black and
white urban photographer of the '40s and the
'50s. He was a crime scene photographer.
TMD: What is "Samaritan" really about?
RP: The title "Samaritan" is ironic. The
whole thing is about how good impulses can be
tainted by vanity. The point is that Ray is doing
these favors for people with one eye in the mir-
ror, admiring himself doing them, needing the
praise, and that taints whatever good impulses
he has. He does have good impulses. He's just a
weak person with a little extra money in a poor,
By Marie Bernard
Daily Arts Writer
When "Marvin's Room" opened in
New York and received its first critical
affirmation from The New York Times,
playwright Scott McPherson was unable
to celebrate in the usual way because
his body was receding into the final
stages of AIDS. "Marvin's Room," ulti-
mately, is the legacy he left behind, and
the eloquence of the play, although not
about AIDS, draws heavily from
McPherson's experience with the dis-
ease. It is the story of a family who rec-
onciles after 17 years due to Bessie's
(lead character) imminent death from
cancer. Bessie echoes much of McPher-
TMD: When can we expect "Samaritan" ti
RP: It's been sold and I'm supposed to wri
the script, but I don't want to write it for
while. I'd prefer somebody else do it.
RP: Because I did the book and it would I
like doing "Samaritan"-lite. It's not a lot of fu
It's a job, basically.
TMD: Wouldn't it suck if someone el
RP: At this point I'd prefer that somebod
else butcher it.
son's own sentiments
when she says, "I've had
such love in my life. I
look back on my life and
I've had such love."
This weekend, Base-
ment Arts brings "Mar-
vin's Room" to the
Arena Theater. Director
Danielle Stresiand first
discovered the work
when she was studying
At the Aren
7 and 11I
immediate sickness and foreboding
death into the lessons taught and
learned by a family trying desperately
to find its way back home." The play
is often lauded for its delicate balance
of humor and sadness.
Ultimately, what garnered McPher-
son his notoriety was writing so
poignantly, not simply about dying or
death, but also about humanity in gen-
eral, and the important bonds of friends
and family. Streisand says, "The play
screams out: Live the best way you can.
Live with hope and with love."
"Marvin's Room" originally opened
in Chicago in 1990,where it met critical
acclaim before spreading across the
country and to New York. The title will
be familiar to many audi-
ence members from its
1996 film version, which
S RooM starred Meryl Streep,
Diane Keaton, Leonardo
a Theater DiCpario and Robert
Friday at DeNiro. The film, which
p.m. and garnered Keaton an
at 7 p.m. academy+award nomina-
at Arts tion, was also acclaimed
for handling cancer with-
out tearjerker sentimentality.
McPherson put the finishing
touches on this play knowing that
every day could be his last. In the
notes of the published version of his
play, McPherson commented, "Now
I am thirty-one, and my lover has
AIDS. Our friends have AIDS. And
we all take care of each other, the
less sick caring for the more sick. At
times, an unbelievably harsh fate is
transcended by a simple act of love,
by caring for one another. By most,
we are thought of as 'dying,' but as
'dying' becomes a way of life, the
meaning of the word blurs."
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