The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Project for New Plays on Science and Technology will tackle Post-Concussion Syndrome when it presents the world premiere of 27-year-old playwright Patrick Link's HEADSTRONG. The play, directed by Ensemble Studio Theatre Artistic Director William Carden, begins previews April 18 for an opening April 30 at The Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd Street.
HEADSTRONG is the story of a long-retired NFL linebacker who played with the greats and tackled them to the ground. When his son-in-law, a Pro Bowler himself, dies under strange circumstances, he and his widowed daughter struggle with their own culpability, and whether the brain trauma he suffered in life was the price of football greatness.
HEADSTRONG features Ron Canada, Tim Cain, Alexander Gemignani and Nedra McClyde. Sets are by Jason Simms, lighting by Chris Dallos, sound by Jannie Bullard, video by David Tennent and costumes by SuzAnne Chesney.
Link's play is inspired by the ongoing struggles of professional athletes with head-related injuries, including, among others, Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, who suffered from amnesia, dementia and depression before his death at the age of 50; and Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters, who sustained numerous concussions as a player before committing suicide at age 44.
"If you’re an NFL player," Link says, "what do you do when the one thing you’re qualified to dothat can generate income for your family, the thing you’ve loved your whole life, that you feel you are designed to domight destroy your brain?"
"Science tells us these men put their lives at risk when they go out on that field," says Carden. "But there is a deep need in our culture for heroes, and these men answer that need. So this play is asking, 'do we lose our heroes if we heed our science?' It's a conflict."
"In the interest of player safety, football has to change drastically, and that's a change that no true fan of the sport wants to see," Link says. "When science tells us that our traditions, our passions are flawed, how do we change? What consequence is severe enough to bring about change? If brain damage isn't enough…what is?"
Link is a fourth-year member of the Youngblood Playwrights Group (all playwrights are under 30) at Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) where HEADSTRONG was developed. His work has also been commissioned by Three Graces Theatre, EST/Sloan Project and published by Original Works.
Carden, The Ensemble Studio Theatre artistic director since 2007, last directed on the mainstage when he helmed 2010’s Lenin’s Embalmers by Vern Thiessen and, before that, Lucy by Damien Atkins. In the 2009 One-Act Play Marathon he directed Tommy Smith’s PTSD. Off Broadway, he directed Mrs. Klein and Collected Stories both starring Uta Hagen at the Lucille Lortel Theatre as well as the Young Girl and the Monsoon at Playwrights Horizons and The Dew Point for Summer Play Festival. In Canada, he directed Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Stratford Festival.
The EST/Sloan Project www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org/programs/estsloan-project is designed to stimulate artists to create credible and compelling new theatrical works exploring the worlds of science and technology, and to challenge existing stereotypes of scientists and engineers in popular culture. Since its inception in 1998, EST/Sloan has awarded some $1.2 million to nearly 250 artists and theatres, with more than 75 EST/Sloan plays produced nationwide.