JAC Publishing & Promotions
|The Butterfly Within
by Thomas M. Kelly
On the rooftop of a once rundown tenement in New York City. Center stage is a skylight. Behind it is a handrail for a fire escape. Stage left is a metal smokestack. Plumbing and vent pipes abound. The stage is surrounded by a capped, low brick wall, (not higher than 2 feet), which is the top of the building. Stage right is a covered staircase with a door for entrances and exits. Typical tenements included 20 3-room apartments, typical of their kinds, were arranged four to a floor, two in front and two in the rear. An unlighted ventilated wooden staircase that ran through the center of the building reached the apartments. The largest room (11' x 12'6") was referred to in plans as the living room or parlor, but residents called it the "front room." Behind it came the kitchen and one tiny bedroom. The entire flat, which often contained households of seven or more people, totaled about 325 square feet.
In 1966, Fyvush moved his family and his bookstore to Long Island. After the death of his beloved wife, Zelda, Fyvush, returns to the playground of his youth: the rooftop of a rundown tenement on the Lower East Side of New York City. There he finds, among the many changes in his old neighborhood, Mitzi, a eighteen-year-old Korean college student with red hair, sunglasses, hooked up to a cd player, painting sunsets, and demanding that he leave her 'playground'. They eventually grow to tolerate each others company and Fyvush shares stories of his rooftop experiences. They soon discover that they have a great deal in common: each has something to hide. Fyvush despondent over his wife's suicide, also contemplates suicide and Mitzi's apparent rejection of all things Korean, finds inner peace secretly dancing traditional Korean mask dances, while on the streets below she struggle to find her place in American society.
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Thomas M. Kelly is the owner and Artistic director of the award-winning Thistle Dew Theatre, and founder of the Thistle Dew Playwrights Workshop. Local awards: Several Elly nominations and two Elly Awards: Best Overall Production for A Shayna Madel and best Set for Nighthawks and Night Café, based on the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.
He has written and produced many childrens plays. They feature Charlie (Prince Charlemagne de Coquille), a French Briard puppy, and Jay (Jaida de les Etoiles), a Persian Red Point feline This is not our backyard, Charlie, Youre in trouble now, Charlie, and Wake up, Jay! Its Christmas!, 2006 winner of four local Elly Awards for Young Peoples Theatre including Best Overall production.
Kellys honors: The Butterfly Within is included in the Eileen Heckart Senior Drama Archives in the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State University.
JAC Publishing & Promotions has published three of Kellys plays:
Fana! (The ordeal of three trapped survivors of suicide bomb blasts who spend their last hours justifying their lives and religions: two very honestly; the third very deceitfully. In a mental duel, the three argue the rationale of murder/suicide bombings using the Quran, Hindu philosophy and the Torah as authority.); and
smile, and smile, and be a villain (A frightening glimpse at the life of a victim of Borderline Personality Disorder).
Political Cartoon Play
Ba-Bang! A Political Cartoon Play
Some of Kellys other works:
8/6/10 - Sac Live: Thistle Dew Theatre presents comedic helping of "Thirds" by Marcus Crowder, The Sacramento (CA) Bee
- At Thistle Dew: “…Butterfly…” brings ghosts from past by David Jacobson, for Village Life and Folsom Life - “The Butterfly Within,” the current offering at Sacramento’s Thistle-Dew Dinner & Dessert Theatre, treats a universal and powerful theme: how we deal with wounds that haunt through generations. Playwright Thomas M. Kelly, who also owns this unique little theatre, brings together an aging Jewish refugee from World War II and the granddaughter of a Korean “comfort woman” brutalized by the invading Japanese. The action takes place on the roof of a rundown New York tenement, where Fyvush Glick, nearing 80, interrupts a teen-aged Myung Sook (a.k.a. Mitzi) as she paints a sunset. After an initial territorial confrontation, they slowly develop a mutually supportive relationship as they help each other shed the cocoon of griefs and grievances to achieve the freedom of butterflies. The word “choice” runs like a leitmotif through the dialog. Mitzi’s grandmother had a choice between death or systematic rape by Japanese invaders. The parents of Zelda, Fyvush’s late wife, had a choice between suicide or brutalization by Nazis. Caught in her ancient pain, Mitzi rejects her Korean heritage for a red wig and a new name. Fyvush broods about suicide as he tries to relive his old life through recollection, a life that included unbearable memories of Zelda’s last suffering. Through most of the play he acts as a kind of surrogate grandfather, encouraging Mitzi to acknowledge and embrace her heritage. He comes upon her as she secretly practices her old Korean dances. He teaches her the Hora, then later how to Jitterbug. But in a turnaround toward the play’s climax, she is the one who saves him as he perches on a ledge high above the street. With Maggie Adair Upton’s sensitive direction, we get moving performances by Patrick Murphy as Fyvush and Ting L. Sun as Myung Sook/Mitzi. Murphy captures the character with authentic ease, even down to a near-perfect New-York Jewish accent, thanks in part to Fritzi Youngstedt. Sun holds her own easily, including graceful dancing with choreography by Upton and Sunmin Lim, who also helped with accents. Kelly created the believable set, down to bird droppings (no doubt fake) that streak the ledges. Kelly sets an extremely high bar by offering a full-length play with only two characters. Every good play is a kind of mystery: We want to find out what happens next, either in the story or in the hearts of the characters. We experience some exciting and dramatic moments, as well as revelations, in “The Butterfly Within”.