by Jason Berry
In May 1959, Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long had a nervous breakdown while battling legislators to preserve the voting rights of black people. Committed by his family to three mental hospitals in the ensuing weeks, he finally managed to free himself, only to plunge into a torrid romance with a Bourbon Street stripper called Blaze Starr. His term ended in disgrace.
His last hurrah came in 1960: despite all the bad baggage, he won a Congressional seat in the Bible belt--and a bet on that campaign that yielded $24,000. Then he died. Earl Long in Purgatory, a play, opens in Earl's afterlife and is a celebrated drama about the barn-storming populist's ultimate campaign, arguing his case for the "holy escalator." Also included is an historical essay, "The Madness of Earl Long."
"Definitely one of the most amazing theatrical experiences I have had in a decade."
"Earl Long in Purgatory makes for a grand night of theatre--history and art, all of a piece."
--John Barry, author of Rising Tide
"Berry never overwrites. Earl is eloquent in his diatribes, cool in his acerbic observations, but not so witty that his talk seems artificial. On leaving the play, you feel that you have spent an evening with a sane man making sense of an unconventional life, not that you have spent an evening with a playwright. It is hard to imagine many ways the writing could be improved."
--Christina Vella, author of Intimate Enemies
"Berry knows his subject ("the last of the red hot poppas") all too well, and the stories he tells are Louisiana politics at their absolute best and worst (and in our state, who can tell the difference?)."
--David Cuthbert, New Orleans Times-Picayune
"Political skullduggery and the pleasure of the senses are Uncle Earl's joy and consolation.... In the end, from the safe distance of a theatre seat, one suspends judgment. What a fascinating, grotesque, poignant, vital being. Where else but Louisiana?"
--Dalt Wonk, Gambit
About the Author
Jason Berry has written three pioneering books on the Catholic Church crisis: Lead Us Not Into Temptation; Vows of Silence, with Gerald Renner; and the forthcoming Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church. He has also published a comic novel about Louisiana politics, Last of the Red Hot Poppas, and co-authored the classic study of post-WWII New Orleans music, Up from the Cradle of Jazz. Earl Long in Purgatory is his first published play.
Softcover, 88 pages, ©2011