Lloyd Richards was a name to me, a great name for certain, but although his presence felt personal to me, I had never met the man or even seen him. I knew, of course, that he had directed A Raisin In The Sun, and that was enough to canonize him. Saint Lloyd—I don’t know what he would have felt about that besides uncomfortable. I knew I was in awe of him when I first submitted a play to the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference in 1967. The conference had started in 1965 under a tree, apparently, with John Guare and lots of off-off-Broadway luminaries present (I guess they weren’t yet luminaries), in Waterford, Connecticut, near the O’Neill family house, the site of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. It was to be a home, not a house, a nurturing place for playwrights to try out scripts without the pressures of, well, pressure. (I dare say that anyone who has been to the O’Neill as a playwright will acknowledge the wonderful and supportive, did I say supportive?, atmosphere; I also dare say that there is pressure, or certainly was in 1989—very big-time pressure).
The leap from 1967 to 1989 was a big one for me. It meant, because it became a personal quest, that I had submitted twenty-three (23) different full-length scripts to the O’Neill—yes, one every year. Each one had been turned down. My arithmetic is off. Twenty-two had been turned down. The twenty-third was accepted. In 1989 I met Lloyd Richards. Each one of the twelve writers—twelve of 1,400!—that summer were to meet with Lloyd for a brief orientation. I recall the little Quonset hut that served as his office. I also recall being very nervous. I most certainly recall his charm, his grace and his saying to me, quite pointedly, “I know you’ve applied many times” (no kidding!), “but I want to tell you I’ve always wanted to dig into such an imagination—and now’s my chance.”
And there was August Wilson that year, hanging out.
And Gitta Honegger, who wasn’t scheduled to direct my play, but did, brilliantly.
And Andre De Shields who played the title role in my play, Gulliver.
And there was Lloyd’s introduction to my play, and each play that summer, and every summer that he was there.
And there was Lloyd, ten years later, sending me one of the nicest letters I’ve ever received from anyone. A personal response from a very big man.
Requies That Cat in Pace.
Lonnie Carter won an Obie in 2003 for The Romance of Magno Rubio. He's from Chicago, which is the place to be from these days to any days.