John Douglas Thompson and Terry Teachout discuss "Satchmo at the Waldorf"
As noted here last week, I interviewed the playwright Terry Teachout and the actor John Douglas Thompson on August 30 about Teachout’s play, “Satchmo at the Waldorf.” The one-act drama is in production at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox through September 16, then moves on to the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven between October 3 and November 4. Gordon Edelstein is directing the play, which features Thompson in the roles of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Joe Glaser, who was Armstrong’s manager for 30 years.
(Gordon Edelstein, John Douglas Thompson, Terry Teachout; photo by Kevin Sprague)
In my conversation with Thompson, he began by discussing the awkward personal feelings he had for Armstrong prior to his involvement with "Satchmo at the Waldorf," and the love he’s come to feel for the jazz great through his immersion in his life and music. Later he discusses parallels between Shakespearean heroes, "the size of their love...their joy...their anger," and Armstrong's "great disposition for life," and how he "emanates a great deal of love for humanity."
In my conversation with Teachout, he was impressed with a quote I recalled from the interview I conducted with Harold Bloom in 2004 in which the self-described "Bardolator" offered this comparison between Shakespeare and Pops: "Armstrong is cunning and canny, and not only a very great showman and a very great inventor, but someone who I think radically knew--like Shakespeare--that you had to appeal at nine different levels simultaneously, I mean,to the highest elite, musically speaking, and also, you know, to the Hollywood mob and the groundlings and so on, as only Shakespeare could…"
Teachout, The Wall Street Journal's drama critic and author of the critically-acclaimed biography, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, began our conversation by discussing the genesis of his play.