• Earlier play about Mom and Dad

This is about tradecraft. I read the first paragraph—no, not even the first paragraph; the first sentence of the first paragraph—of a story in last Sunday’s arts section of the New York Times, and wondered where the editor was who should have saved the writer from himself.

The writer was Joe Gilford, a playwright whose father, Jack Gilford, had been a well-known actor a few decades ago and whose mother, Madeline Lee Gilford, had been a child actor before raising a family. Both parents were victims of the blacklist, and their son’s new play, Finks, dramatizes that era.

Gilford’s Times article offers the backstory to his play, focusing on his mother’s bizarre encounter with a moonlighting actress who’d jumped out from behind a bush on Fire Island and tried to serve her with a subpoena to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The article’s fine, except that this is how it begins: “Among the few things I share with Eugene O’Neill—although I am not nearly as brilliant or as important—is that we are both playwrights, we both chose to write about our parents, and our parents were actors. One thing we don’t share is that my parents were blacklisted in the 1950s and were unable to work in television and film for almost a decade.”