Laurie Rae Waugh: My Relationship with prolific author, Irving Greenfield

Laurie Rae Waugh Interview (Part I) by Jen Bush

Irving Greenfield was a college professor and a merchant marine who served in the Korean War.  He was a prolific author of over 300 novels and several plays.  His legacy is being lovingly preserved by The American Theatre of Actors and the chief interpreter of his work, Laurie Rae Waugh.  The American Theatre of Actors is thrilled to premiere his play, What Do We Do About Walter on November 2ndMs. Waugh will serve as the director, and it was a pleasure to chat with her about her body of work as well as her deep connection to Mr. Greenfield and his work. 

All the world ‘s a stage and that’s just the way Laurie Rae Waugh likes it.  She has spent decades  as a stage manager, actor and director.  All the people who have had the honor of working with her have nothing but the highest praise for this talented individual.  “When I first came to NYC back in 1980, I spent a good portion of my theatre career as a stage manager.  I learned a lot from the directors I was working with and couldn’t wait to get a chance to direct myself.  I am an organic and passionate director.  I have a vision of how the plays I take on should look and I give the actors freedom to explore.  By the time the play opens, my vision is realized.   I have worked with several playwrights on more than one occasion.  One of those playwrights, Steve Sliver, wrote a part for me in one of his plays and then he also wrote another one for me to star in. Another playwright, James Crafford, asked me to play a part in one of his plays.  I don’t normally act and now I consider myself a director who acts.  All were very fun or hard and humbling experiences.”  

Irving Greenfield made himself available to the cast and creatives when Ms. Waugh was directing his play, One More Time.  This desire to be involved led to a wonderful working relationship between Mr. Greenfield and Ms. Waugh.  “I believe I met Irving Greenfield in 2015 when I directed his play, One More Time.  Irving would like to pop into rehearsals, one to see how things were going and to see if the actors had any questions.  I enjoyed every time he came by. Irv was great with sharing what made him write the play and what part of the play was from his life experience.  In this play, the main character wrote novels under a woman’s name.  The most wonderful part of that bit of information is that my lead, Ken Coughlin was able to find one of his novels under the nom de plume and we had the book on stage throughout the run of the play.”

Mr. Greenfield’s presence and openness led to a positive and productive working relationship with Ms. Waugh and The American Theatre of Actors.  “I enjoyed working with Irving.  He loved coming to rehearsals.  Irving always shared his life experiences with us.  Irving would allow us to make minor adjustments to his plays. He loved that I loved his writing.  He told me more than once that, I got him, and he enjoyed my vision of his plays all with the help of Ken Coughlin my technical director.”

These are just some of the many behind the scenes tales that Ms. Waugh has from her time directing some other Greenfield Plays.  “The two plays that really stand out for me are P.O.W. and BANNED IN BISBEE.  Irving took something that happened in Korea and moved it to Vietnam.  I felt that this was brilliant because as a nation we were okay with the Korean War, but the Vietnam War brought great strife to our country.  People becoming draft dodgers, burning our flag, draft cards and moving to Canada.  When our boys came back from Vietnam, they were spit on, most of the men and women who fought over there, won’t talk about it.  The play was about a teacher reading a short story to his English class, which gets him arrested, throw into the brig and set up for a court-martial.  We asked the audience to decide his fate.”

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