Cape Fear Regional Theatre brings “Trumbo” to Fayetteville March 5-17. In today’s politically charged climate, the story of Dalton Trumbo, a prolific and talented Hollywood screenwriter whose work spans seven decades of the 20th century, serves as quite a cautionary tale about the lack of due process run wild.
Before Trumbo was named as a member of the Communist Party — which was not illegal — and subsequently blacklisted and prohibited from working in films or any other entertainment medium, he was one of the highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood. His films were routinely nominated for Academy Awards.
In 1947, Trumbo, citing freedom of speech, refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee or to give the committee the names of others in Hollywood with Communist sympathies. He was convicted of contempt of Congress and served 11 months in jail. Thus began the Hollywood blacklist, which extended to Broadway, radio and television.
Before the blacklist came to an end in the 1960s, an appallingly long list of entertainment personalities were deprived of their livelihoods.
Hard evidence of Communist infiltration or subversion of the entertainment industry was never uncovered, yet hundreds of people’s lives were ruined without due process and by finger pointing alone.
Larry Pine plays Trumbo in CFRT’s production of the same name. He’s acted in “All My Children,” “As the World Turns,” “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “House of Cards” among many other television and film credits.
“Trumbo” was written by Trumbo’s son, Christopher, and is directed by CFRT Artistic Director Mary Kate Burke.
Despite the serious backdrop of Trumbo’s professional life, the play is warm and witty, told through personal letters. “Trumbo was such a magnificent writer,” said Burke. “His use of language and his wit make ‘Trumbo’ a very funny ... and irreverent play, and Larry is an actor who is able to put the language across.
“Trumbo is a role that actors who have a substantial body of work behind them are excited to take on.”
One example of Trumbo’s legendary wit was his response to his contempt of Congress conviction.
“As far as I was concerned,” Trumbo is famously quoted as saying, “it was a completely just verdict. I had contempt for that Congress and have had contempt for several since.
“And on the basis of guilt or innocence, I could never really complain very much. That this was a crime or misdemeanor was the complaint, my complaint.”
Michael Tisdale plays Trumbo’s son, Chris. He also voices the narrator and all other characters as they appear in the script.
Andy Nicks is designing the costumes. There will be no set for “Trumbo.”
“This show is going to be staged as ‘Disgraced’ was last year,” said Burke. “We use risers so that the audience surrounds the actors on three sides in what is known as thrust theater. There was such positive audience reaction to the staging of ‘Disgraced’ that we decided to use this more intimate staging again for ‘Trumbo.’”
“Trumbo” promises to be a relevant and entertaining evening. For performance dates and ticket information, contact the CFRT box office at 910-323-4233 or visit www.cfrt.org. Box office hours are 1-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and one hour before the show on Saturdays and Sundays.
Photo: Larry Pine