Finks is playwright Joe Gilford's fictionalized account of his parents, Jack Gilford and MAdeline Lee Gilford, and their real life experience of the blacklist. It is a tale of a scoundrel time, a time of paranoia, loyalty and betrayal, show business and show trials, told from the life of two young entertainers who, at the birth of their careers, had to confront the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). This play is about names, the naming of names, career-determining choices and finks.
He was the gentle man with the kind face we knew from the Cracker Jack commercials, but in the early 1950s, when on the verge of stardom and his own TV series, somebody spoke his name. She was a TV and radio actress until somebody spoke her name. Both played roles they never thought they'd play in one the darkest times in American history when they were given top billing by finks.
Directed Giovanna Sardelli, Finks featuring Michael Cullen, Ned Eisenberg, Leo Ash Evans, Jason Liebman, Ian Lowe, Thomas Lyons, Aaron Serotsky and Miriam Silverman begins previews at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd Street, Wednesday, March 28, at 7:00pm for an opening Saturday, April 6, at 7:00pm.
"Joe Gilford has done a great job of capturing the fast paced spirit and humor of those times by writing a play that takes place at Cafe Society, the integrated Greenwich Village nightclub, and the HUAC hearings," said the Ensemble Studio Theatre's Artistic Director William Carden. "The result is a well-crafted and compelling play about choices that resonate powerfully today."
Jack Gilford is most famous for bringing his inimitable pantomime to the 1960s TV ads for Cracker Jacks. Born in Brooklyn, NY, he began as a club comic and went on to the stage. He was a starring actor in dozens of TV shows, films and Broadway, earning two Tony nominations and an Oscar nomination. MAdeline Lee Gilford was born in the Bronx. She was a child actress, a teenage activist and a radio and stage performer. She later became a theater producer and continued acting throughout her life. The Gilfords had three children, Lisa, Joe and Sam.
Playwright Joe Gilford remembers the paranoia of the blacklist years as a small child. "We were always told not to discuss something called 'communism'. We didn't really know what that meant, but understood to keep our mouths shut." Finks has been developing for many years, he adds. "I always thought that my parents' refusal to name names was heroic. But they always explained that they had no choice. They could never hurt their friends."
Jack and Madeline remained activists for their whole lives. Mr. Gilford hopes that "my play will recreate the hardships that actors experienced having to make choices that artists should never be asked to make."
Watch Jack Gilford in one of many Cracker Jack commercials HERE.
Joe Gilford's plays have been produced or presented at Naked Angels, Roundabout, Circle Rep, New York Stage & Film, the Westbank Downstairs Theater, and Todd Mountain Theater Project. His plays include Knockdown, Not Tunisia, In Aisle 4, The End of Our Rope, The Love Museum, No Fault and Danny's Brian, for which he received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant for this play about the neuro-science of brain injuries in football. Finks was originally presented by New York Stage and Film Company and The Powerhouse Theater at Vassar on July 23, 2008 He most recently was on the writing team of Gold Fever, a four-part mini-series on the 1849 Gold Rush for Discovery Channel. Mr. Gilford has written the documentaries The Great American Songbook, a history of American popular song hosted by Michael Feinstein for PBS's Great Performances now on Time Warner Home Video. Also for PBS: Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans and the Movies hosted by John Turturro and featuring Paul Sorvino, Marisa Tomei, and many others. He has a New York Emmy Award for his work on WNET-NY's (PBS) documentary City Arts series. He has also been a writer and producer at Showtime, Bravo, Court TV, F/X, and New York's MSG MetroGuide channel. Since 1999 he has taught screenwriting at NYU's Undergraduate Film & TV Dept., Tisch School of the Arts. He is also currently a Visiting Professional teaching screenwriting at Montclair State University's Dept. of Film in New Jersey. www.storyrescue.com