The Day Jack London Got
Dec. 5-8, 2002
In the summer of 1894, while visiting Niagara
Falls, 18-year-old Jack London was arrested and charged with vagrancy for sleeping on the streets. He spent 30 days in the Erie County Penitentiary
on the west side of Buffalo, N.Y.
According to JackLondon.com, this 30-day
imprisonment was a turning point in his life. It was so degrading
that it made him decide to turn to education and pursue a career in
Jack London, of course, went on to become one of the most successful
American writers of the early 20th century. Among his tales was
"The Road," a story he wrote about his experiences in
Niagara Falls and Buffalo.
"The Road," in turn, inspired another acclaimed writer,
Buffalo native Tom Fontana. He wrote a play, "The Day Jack London Got
Pinched," based on London's tale.
On Dec. 5-8, 2002, Lee Tergesen portrayed the young Jack London
in a series of benefit performances of Tom Fontana's play at the
American Globe Theatre at 145 W 46th St.,
New York City
The performances, followed by an opportunity to have drinks with
the cast at a nearby pub called O'Lunney's, benefited the American
Globe Theatre and the Shakespeare for Schools program.
The play was directed by Linda Laundra
and co-starred Tom Fontana, Lee Tergesen, Kirk Acevedo, Scott
William Winters, and muMs, who all worked together on
Here's an account from Anne,
who saw the Dec. 7, 2002, evening performance:
When the play
started, Tom narrated the story of Jack London as an older man
looking back on his youth. Then Lee burst in as the young Jack who
was hanging out in Buffalo and explains how he got arrested for just
walking down the street. During Tomís narration, Lee kept
interrupting to explain a term or add a different point of view. It
was quite amusing. Tom kept getting more and more frustrated at his
younger, more arrogant self.
Then the other cast members came out and played several different
roles, including Jack London, as the story was told. Kirk Acevedo
acted out Jack Londonís time in jail and muMs played a man he
befriended in jail.
Scott Winters played
the judge who sentenced the men to jail for vagrancy. Several times
he had to say the line "30 days" over and over to announce
each new sentence and he did it with aplomb.
Lee was amazing. He
seemed so completely at home on the stage. I sometimes watched him
when others were speaking and it was fun to see him react to the
others as if he was hearing all of it for the first time.
At one point, Lee messed up one of his lines, which set everyone
laughing and smirking. I think everyone messed up a line at one
point, but they recovered themselves quite well and we all got to
laugh with them, which was a real treat.