WILMINGTON MORNING STAR - 4 - FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2002
By Amy Hotz
Jordan Rhodes stars as Ernest Hemingway in 'Papa: The Man, the Myth, the Legend' at Brunwick Community College's Odell Williamson Auditorium.
Ernest Hemingway has been called one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. Of course, he's also been called a braggart, a glory-seeker, a fine boxer, an avid outdoorsman and a communist. Forty-one years after his death, biographers and scholars still are searching through personal artifacts and disecting every sentence of every book and letter the man ever wrote, just to discover a trace of Mr. Hemingway's true personality.
Wouldn't it be nice to get his side of the story?
That's exactly what Jordan Rhodes and Ken Vose wanted to express when they began writing the two-man play, Papa: The Man, the Myth, the Legend.
Mr. Vose brought his expertise as a film and television editor, producer, director and writer to the play, and Mr. Rhodes took the part of Ernest.
Mr. Rhodes' career spans five decades and includes more than 200 roles in film, TV and theater.
But more than anything else, perhaps, Mr. Rhodes brought his looks. It took a friend to reveal the similarities between the actor and fabled actor. Filmmaker Peter Lawrence called Mr. Rhodes one day to ask him to act in a movie about the author.
"I replied, 'Gosh Peter, I'd love to do it, but I don't look anything like Ernest Hemingway,'" he said. "To which Peter replied in this British accent of his, 'Jordan, grow a beard and look in the mirror. You'd be surprised."
Actress Lynn Moore plays all the prominent women in Mr. Hemingway's life: the nurse named Agnes von Kurowski who broke his heart during World War I; and his wives Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gelhorn and Mary Welsh.
"There've been two other plays, we've found our, that have been done on Hemingway - The Five Hemingways and one just called Hemingway. They didn't have much success from what I hear," Mr. Rhodes said. "I think one of the reasons why this play works in the (physical) similarity, and I think also it's that it's the first play ever written from his point of view."
The play takes place "in the mind of Hemingway" early Sunday morning, July 2, 1961, in Ketchum, Idaho - just before the writer commits suicide with a shotgun blast to the head.
The audience gets to look into Mr. Hemingway's mind through thoughts the author wrote in his own hand. Mr. Vose and Mr. Rhodes researched the one-sided story thoroughly and found that second-hand accounts of things Mr. Hemingway said and did often varied greatly with what he personally remembered.
They went with his recollections because, "at the time, to him, it was real, and this is what happened to him," Mr. Rhodes said.
In their research, the writers found interesting bits of information about the author's life that only added to the amazing persona Mr. Hemingway exuded for himself.
"He typed when he was a journalist, but he wrote longhand when he wrote novels. And he wrote standing up at a desk with 20 sharpened pencils," Mr. Rhodes said.
Mr. Rhodes also discovered that Mr. Hemingway was brought before Gen. George S. Patton's inspector general and grilled about exceeding Geneva Convention standards for war correspondents. Apparently, they didn't like the fact that a writer got so much "into the thick of things" that he carried a sidearm, Mr. Rhodes said.
Ms. Moore also had to research her characters' personalities.
"I needed to find out what I could about each woman. Of course, there were other women in Hemingway's life, but we don't have enough time (to explore them all)," she said. "One of them I thought was a barracuda. She used her friendship with Hadley to get to Hemingway.
Ms. Moore, a member of the American Society of Composers and Authors, also dug up a mostly-finished composition she wrote two years ago that she felt was perfect for the play, Meet Me in Memory.
Memories may be skewed over time, but one fact about Hemingway remains, Mr. Rhodes said. "I think a lot of people think of him as a braggart and a bully. Whether you like his writing or you really don't like his writing, he really did the things that he wrote about."