A Memoir of World War II
After thirty-three years as founding partner of Rochlin & Baran, Architects, A.I.A., a national health facilities firm, Fred wasn't looking to start a new career. He just had World War II experiences he couldn't shake. A friend suggested he apply for an Esalen workshop led by Spaulding Gray, famed monologist. Enthusiastic responses suggested monologue was his medium. Laurie Lathem and her Go-Solo workshops provided stage training. After several local performances, he, at Lathem's prompting, entered and won a one-week gig at the esteemed Flying Solo Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. From there, Old Man in a Baseball Cap went on to the B Street Theatre, Sacramento, where a rave review from Bruce Weber, New York Times Arts in America editor, put his show on the road: La Jolla Playhouse (La Jolla, California), Northlight Theatre (Chicago). Emelin Theatre (Mamaroneck, New York), and Peterborough Players (Peterborough, New Hampshire). This DVD was shot at the September 9, 1999, performance at the Mark Taper Auditorium, Los Angeles Central Library.
The show opens with a mood-setting three-minute montage of images of Fred and his flight crew in Italy and World War II bomber attacks in the area during that period. The lights dim, and when they come up, a man, seventy or so, wearing a light blue shirt, khakis, and a baseball cap labeled "Arizona," ambles onstage and sits down in a chair alongside a small table. He fixes a questioning gaze on the audience, as if asking, "Do you really want to hear this?" Then he removes his cap, smoothes down his remaining hair, and in a surprisingly boyish voice, with a detectable Western drawl, starts: "My name is Fred Rochlin. I was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona, on the Arizona-Sonora border. I liked Nogales, it was a nice town, it had a city hall and a courthouse . . . " In the ensuing hour, he relives his transformation from a naive nineteen-year-old raised in a respectable Jewish home on a twenty-acre site outside of town to a wounded U.S. Air Force navigator in Italy who does what's demanded of him to survive. That the audiences laughs, gasps, cries, laughs again, then rises in standing ovation is a tribute to the skill of the teller and the magnitude of his subject.
"The monologue, about an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, has the elements of an epic: love and death, honor and betrayal, vengefulness and martyrdom, and ultimately, the fortuitousness of survival. . . . war as seen through the eyes of an innocent. His stories are ribald, adult, morally complex and occasionally starkly funny, and all the more stirring for being real. . . . [D]uring a recent performance, many in the audience . . . burst into tears before applauding." Bruce Weber, "Arts in America," The New York Times
"For the last month, Eliza and I have kept talking about your performance at the Emelin, and how extraordinary it was. . . . There were moments of something like déjà vu for me, because your voice comes through so vividly. . . . I almost felt I'd heard it before." - Bruce Tracy, Executive Editor, Villard/Random House
"It was an extraordinary evening of theatre. A full house sat spellbound by your words. There were moments of unbridled laughter which, upon hearing your next sentence, had people on the verge of tears. Yours is an amazing story, masterfully told." - Dan Lauria, Playwrights' Kitchen Ensemble, Los Angeles
"Wow! [Fred Rochlin] could give a sharp picture with a few brushstrokes. He told of such horrors, yet without crushing us. That's a delicate art! How wonderful to have his voice and his accounts! I loved his love of stories and completely agree with the need to tell our own. What a wonderful man! . . . As I continue to tell the stories of my family, I will keep in mind his lack of fat in the telling -- nothing but impact, truth, and heart. May my stories be like his swift arrows to the mark." - Carolyn Wing Greenlee, Author, Earthen Vessel Productions
"Moving, humorous and, at times, horrific in its detail. . . . 'We just blew the hell out of everything. We destroyed every building, every street, every light post, everything. We wiped it off the face of the earth.'" - Mike Roach, Chicago Tribune
"Fred Rochlin is a terrific storyteller, with a terrific story to tell . . . his honesty, charm, and searing truth are palpable and his performances here at Northlight Theatre this fall held our audience spellbound, winning him laughs, tears and a standing ovation." - B. J. Jones, Artistic Director, Northlight Theatre
"Rochlin's unschooled delivery [at La Jolla Playhouse] gives vivid life to the character he evokes on stage -- a kind of Panglossian innocent, witness to great historical events, sanguine even in face of unspeakable horrors. As Voltaire intended readers of Candide to see through Pangloss's naïve perspective, so Rochlin wants to wake us up to the world's evils by casting events in the adolescent haze of his younger self." - Jennifer Poyen, Arts Critic, San Diego Union
DVD of live performance on September 9, 1999 at the Mark Taper Auditorium
Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Directed by Laurie Lathem
Dan Reynolds, Director of Photography and Editor