In First Concert, all kinds of folk have discussed their first live music experience and the impact it might have had on their life and for some, their art. As we've talked to dozens of creative people, we've discovered amazing stories of unhinged live performances or forgotten B-sides.
Israel Horovitz’s memoires Un New-Yorkais a Paris were recently published in France, where he is the most-produced American playwright in French theatre history. Awards include OBIE (twice), Prix Italia, Sony Radio Academy Award, Writers Guild of Canada Best Screenwriter Award, Christopher Award, Drama Desk Award, Award in Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Lifetime Achievement Award from B’Nai Brith, Boston Public Library’s Literary Lights Award, Massachusetts Governor’s Award,) and many others.
Horovitz was recently decorated as Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France’s highest honor awarded to foreign artists. He is Founding Artistic Director of Gloucester Stage, and active Artistic Director of the New York Playwrights Lab. He is co-director of Compagnia Horovitz-Paciotto, a theatre company in Italy. NYC’s Barefoot Theatre celebrated Horovitz’s 70th birthday by organizing The 70/70 Horovitz Project, a year-long event with 70 Horovitz plays having had readings and/or productions by theatre companies around the globe.
What was the first concert you ever attended? How old were you?
My 1st concert was in Montreal, Québec. My father was a truckdriver and, as a family, we were given to copious long rides. As I remember it, my father drove us from Wakefield, Massachusetts (where we lived) to Montréal in order to buy inexpensive (tax free) china to give to a cousin as a wedding gift. I was around 12 years old. My first day in Montréal, I met a local Québecoise girl named Bloomer, who was slightly older than me, maybe 15. I told my parents I was going to a 6pm movie with her. She took me to an underground R&B club. The bouncer at the door knew Bloomer, let us in, but warned us not to drink too much.
What do you remember about the performance?
The concert was amazing. After five or six Little Richard imitators, Earl Bostic played a magical set, followed by free-form jazz and R&B by local musicians joined by whomever happened to be in town.
How do you think that experience affected you as an artist?
It almost ended my life. I got back to where we were staying around 3:30am. My parents thought I was dead. The police were out looking for me. When I fessed up and told my parents where I’d been, they wanted me dead. I went back home to Massachusetts wanting to be a black musician. I sang “Tutti Frutti” a cappella in a talent show. Having failed as a soul singer, I wrote a novel at age 13, which I sent to a publisher in NYC. The novel was rejected but praised for having “a wonderful childlike quality." Having failed as a novelist, I wrote my first play, which was performed when I was 17. Nobody said it was a good play, but everybody said “It’s a play.” So, I was a playwright. 56 years later, I’m still trying.