Stephen Adly Guirgis: from Pulitzer to Netflix to Playhouse Square

Cleveland Play House stages 'Between Riverside and Crazy.' From left to right: Danielle Skraastad (Detective Audrey O'Connor), Larry Marshall (Pops), and Michael Russotto (Lieutenant Dave Caro). Photo Credit: Roger Mastroianni.
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For a number of years a news story haunted playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis.

"There was an incident some years ago in New York City where an off-duty black police officer was shot by an off-duty white officer," Guirgis said.

That story became the inspiration for Guirgis' play Between Riverside and Crazy which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2015.

The play, now onstage at Cleveland Play House, centers on a retired police officer 'Pops' who experiences a similar situation. 

'Pops' is recently widowed and living in his rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where he welcomes a motley group of family and friends to live with him and keep him company.

The play is inspired by the story of the police officer's shooting and the story of Guirgis' own father living in a rent-controlled apartment.

"My father had a very working class existence.  He worked on his feet, there was no pension.  He didn't really have anything when he died, no money, no nothing.  He didn't have anything to give his children other than his rent-controlled apartment," Guirgis said.

The dynamics between 'Pops' and his assorted roommates harkens back to Guirgis' childhood memories.

"Me and my sister grew up with all these different people that we never knew who were staying over.  A lot of them were family, sometimes they weren't," Guirgis said.

Meanwhile, as his Pulitzer-prize-winning play takes the Cleveland Play House stage in Playhouse Square, the second season of Guirgis' hit TV show - The Get Down - is out now on Netflix.

"It's a musical, comedy, drama about the birth of hip hop in the 70's, in the South Bronx.  It's a show I've been working in partnership with Baz Luhrmann the filmmaker.  It's been a really exciting and fun process to put that together," Guirgis said.

Later this month, Guirgis is excited to come to Northeast Ohio to see the Cleveland Play House production of his play.

"I've always had this interest and fascination for Cleveland.  I like the Indians, I like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," he said.  

Guirgis adds that he's also a big fan of the Jim Jarmusch film Stranger Than Paradise, which was filmed partially in Cleveland.

Stephen Adly Guirgis' play Between Riverside and Crazy is onstage at Cleveland Play House through Sunday, April 23.

Listen to Dan Polletta's full interview with Stephen Adly Guirgis





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