Bridge Work 

After a quarter century, writer finally finishes play about his dad.

In Cliff Hershman’s A Narrow Bridge, a long-lost son makes a surprise visit to his remarried father. But the reunion quickly sours when he discovers that Dad is nothing more than an oily con man. The drama -- now playing at Akron’s the Bang & the Clatter Theatre -- is a semi-autobiographical glimpse at Hershman’s teen years in Shaker Heights. “I was angry at things from my childhood,” he says. “They still welled up deep inside me after all this time. I thought I had dealt with these issues a long time ago, but they still needed to be expressed on paper.”

The play almost ended up in the trash. Hershman wrote a first draft in 1980 when he was living in N.Y.C. He’d just got canned as an NBC page for hanging out with Saturday Night Live writers. Smoking joints in the network’s hallways with John Belushi and Mick Jagger didn’t help matters. Unemployed and discouraged, he ditched writing and hitchhiked across the country. “I was pretty wild and couldn’t handle the creative energy,” he says. “I threw most of my plays away.” Over the next dozen years, Hershman married, lived in Germany, and started a real-estate development company in San Francisco. In 1994, he returned to Cleveland, where he invested in some buildings (including the one where House of Blues is located). Last year, a college friend from Colorado called. He was directing a theater festival and asked Hershman if he wanted to resurrect A Narrow Bridge for a stage reading. “It’s one of those calls you’ve always been waiting for,” says Hershman. “I was getting good indications that this play was something special. And I thought, Wow! I did write something powerful.” Hershman now juggles real-estate development and playwriting workshops at the Bang & the Clatter. The theater troupe plans to stage another of his works, Dougie’s Machinery, during its 2008-2009 season. “I’m having a blast,” says Hershman.
Mondays, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: July 7. Continues through July 29

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