Monday, January 23, 2006
Playwright Don DiVecchio Finds Whitey Bulger
On a wintry, snowy day at the Sherman Café in Union Square, Somerville, Don DiVecchio confided in me about legendary South Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. DiVecchio, former poetry editor for “Spare Change News,” longtime activist, playwright and painter has penned a play “Finding Whitey Bulger,” that examines this strange contradiction of a man. DiVecchio, who believes Bulger is no longer alive, researched his subject for many months and now hopes to stage this play in the near future.
I was interested to know why DiVecchio, a well-known left-of-center activist, would want to write about someone of this ilk. DiVecchio told me over coffee and Sherman’s delectable oatmeal/cherry scones: “I was fascinated by the duplicity of power. He was somebody that represented the old ways of running a neighborhood similar to the godfathers and other patriarchs.” Bulger, according to DiVecchio, was capable of unspeakable crimes, but on the other hand he was kind to elderly women, helped people with their rents, etc… This contradiction is present in the actions of state and national governments. DiVecchio said there is a shadowy side to us all. In the case of Bulger, a bad guy did some good things. DiVecchio wants the audience to explore the “Bulger” in all of us.
DiVecchio uses the conceit of a “play within a play,” in order to get his point across. He stated, “Nothing is as it seems. Appearances are deceiving. By presenting a play within a play, it challenges the audience. It makes them question…to go deeper. The more one is forced to examine inner contradictions the deeper one gets into a character.
Divecchio is a decidedly political playwright. He adapted a play “Soul Street,” from a novel by the late writer Rufus Goodwin that dealt with the plight of a homeless man. He wrote and produced a radio play, “Voices from the Invisible,” on Tufts radio, and “Sarah’s Journal,” a play about eviction as it relates to an elderly Holocaust survivor that played at the “Cambridge Center for Adult Education.” DiVecchio said he has been influenced by political playwrights like Sartre and Brecht. He added with a smile: “Everything is political.”
Since leaving his position as “Spare Change News,” poetry editor, he has had more time to concentrate on short stories, plays and a novel. Ironically he has written very little poetry.
His creative partner, as well as his personal one, Terry Crystal, has composed a musical. It is a musical that concerns “industrial hemp,” titled: “Caitlin County Hemp Wars.” DiVecchio has just finished writing the dialogue for this work. Both he and Crystal hope to see the production staged sometime next year. The musical is based on a story DiVecchio wrote. The Hemp in question is not “marijuana” as it is often confused for, but industrial hemp used for paper, construction material, clothing,etc…The government, according to DiVecchio, has made use of hemp illegal because they feel this versatile plant would threaten the paper, lumber and other industries. In spite of the positive impact on the environment hemp could have, industrial concerns seem to come first, according to DiVecchio. “It defies all logic,” he said.
The play centers on a farm family, as it contends with huge agribusinesses that try to thwart their plans to harvest hemp. DiVecchio feels the musical will bring light to what he feels is an unaddressed injustice in the world.
Doug Holder/The Somerville News.