Buried Information

I underestimated the tourist audience."

In 1995, I was in Chicago visiting a friend's child who was dying from cancer. While I was in town, I stopped in at Steppenwolf to see _Buried Child,_ which was directed by Gary Sinise.

The next day, I'm in the airport, and Gary Sinise sits next to me in the waiting area. I get him to sign my program. We talk about the play, and we board the plane. When we get off the plane, I'm getting my bags and I see he is walking toward the bus station. He sees me and says, "Have a great day." I say, "Are you taking the bus?" He says no. I say, "You want to split a cab? He says sure. So we hop in a cab.

We talked about _Forrest Gump,_ and about how glad my mom would be to know he has legs. We talked about _Apollo Thirteen_ and the fact that his character was grounded and didn't get to ride the Vomit Comet as the other actors did. We then talked about the reason he was coming to NYC, which was to produce _Buried Child_ on Broadway. "Sam Shepard has never been on Broadway, and I am doing this in his honor."

At the time, I was involved in producing Off-Broadway theater, and I offered to help him raise money. He politely said, "It is all taken care of." Next, having seen the play and knowing the Broadway audience, I asked him if he thought tourists would like it. He thought they would. I thought the play would not last as is with tourists, but I didn't tell him that. I also didn't tell him what to do to make it more tourist-friendly, which was to produce it like J.B. Priestley's _An Inspector Calls,_ a mystery drama that ran on Broadway for several years. However, its hook was real rain on the stage that drained off, exploding buildings, etc.—all the things to wow people who couldn't sit and just enjoy a play.

Well, the play closed in a month. In a subsequent interview in _Playbill,_ Sinise was asked about the failure of the show. He said, "I underestimated the tourist audience." When I read that quote, I felt really bad and as if I owed him something for not telling him that bit of information.

We arrived at the Virginia Theater, and I politely said, "My friends are never going to believe this story. Would you mind my taking your picture with me?" The cab driver took our picture. For a long time, I felt guilty about not telling him and that I owed him money or something for his failure. Well, telepathically he must have gotten my message. When he produced, _One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest_ on Broadway, there were explosions and other special effects that wowed the audience and sold out the shows limited run. I still feel I owe him something.


No comments yet, why not leave one of your own?

Leave a Comment or Share Your Story

Please Sign In. Only community members can comment.

SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.