I was in William Inge’s last performed play, “Don’t Go Gentle.”
It was early 1967 and we were doing it at the Actors Studio (West) for invited audiences. Jack Garfein was our director and Inge sat in on most of our rehearsals, occasionally re-writing.
I played one of three characters who were onstage all the time, three condemned men on Death Row, waiting to be executed. My character, “Archie,” was the central one and was overtly homosexual, the only specified homosexual, I believe, in any Inge play.
I knew very little about homosexuality at the time and was very young. At one point I was having trouble with my big speech. In it I had to say, laughing ironically, to a priest (if I remember right) as I was about to be taken out to the gas chamber: “Death my enemy? I’d say life is my enemy, Father.” Or something like that.
In any case, I was in my early 20s and didn’t really understand the meaning of the crucial phrase.
On a break, I wandered over to the back of the theater where Inge had been sitting quietly watching us run through the play. I asked him what the phrase meant: “Life is my enemy.”
As I recall he looked up at me, startled, and simply said: “Well, isn’t it?”
It wasn’t very helpful at the time.
After reading Dan Sullivan’s article (“William Inge: The Cost of Disregard,” April 6), I finally understood what he meant.
I wish I’d been a little older at the time.