21 - Mar. 15, 2003
Directed by Rhonda Clark
parlance, a side man is a paragon of dependability, a player for hire who can
blend in or stand out, play backup or solo, according to what is required.
Playwright Warren Leight shines the spotlight on this kind of musician in his
award-winning comedy-drama SIDE MAN which received its Oklahoma City debut
at Carpenter Square Theatre.
SIDE MAN is a family story spanning 32 years, as well as a tribute to big band
jazz. Leight describes his play as "autobiographical enough" and draws from his
own childhood in Manhattan. His father, Donald Leight, now almost 80, was a
trumpet player who worked with Woody Herman, Claude Thornhill, and other big
bandleaders through the 1950s.
The son in
Leight's play is Clifford Glimmer (named after jazz trumpet legend Clifford
Brown) who at the play's start is visiting his parents one last time before
As Clifford sifts through his memories on the eve of his "clean
break," the play moves freely back and forth through the years spanning 1953 to
1985. The memories are woven in layers - a layer of family struggles and a layer
of America's cultural history when the big bands are soon to be drowned out by
rock and roll.
Scenes from the Glimmer home are intercut with scenes from his
father's world in jazz clubs. As the Glimmer's marriage unravels, we see their
son Clifford become the peacemaker and parent for the family. In sharp contrast
to their home life is the joy and camaraderie of Gene's "other family" - his
fellow musicians who joke and jive and share a passion for their music.
is my favorite kind of play," says director Rhonda Clark. "A story that balances
heartache and joy. Just as jazz encompasses melancholy blues and exuberant
swing, SIDE MAN runs the spectrum of emotions. Also, it's an ensemble piece,
where each character is an important facet of the story. No one's quite a
villain and no one's quite a hero, but each is unique."
garnered the 1999 Tony Award for Best Play and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Among several other awards and nominations, Warren Leight received Newsday's
1998 Oppy Award for Best New American Playwright.