EXTREMITIES Playwright William Mastrosimone is a master of the modern drama

William Mastrosimone Photo Credit G. Paul Burnett/ The New York Times 30 July 2006

“In May of 1978 I met a fifty-five year old woman. For convenience, let’s call her Mary. Her face was cut, swollen and bruised. I didn’t realize it then, but our conversation would alter the course of my life.”

So begins the account of writing Extremities by playwright William Mastrosimone found in the script provided by Samuel French. The Emmy-award-winning writer and Extremities playwright shares the story of meeting Mary, who had been raped when she startled a nineteen year old burglar who had entered her home in the middle of the night. Mastrosimone details the humiliating process that Mary endured to report the assault, identify her assailant, and tell her story in front of a judge and jury. Her attacker was charming and appeared clean cut. While there was evidence of a rape, there was not enough evidence to prove that he had committed the crime.

As Mary’s attacker left the courtroom, he threatened her again. She lived in fear, until one night she bought a plane ticket to the other side of the country so she could feel safe. Before leaving, she visited Mastrosimone. He writes:

On her way to the airport, Mary stopped by to say goodbye to me. If she hadn’t, “Extremities” would not exist. She thanked me for listening. We shook hands and parted. As she walked through the door, something possessed her to stop and turn and say: “There was a moment during the rape when the animal stopped and reached for one of my cigarettes on the night table . . . He couldn’t reach it . . . He put one foot on the floor . . . At that moment I knew I could kick him and hurt him . . . The moment waited for me . . . But I just lay there . . . Paralyzed . . . Maybe it was that I was just brought up not to hurt anybody . . . Maybe it was that I was too afraid that if I didn’t hurt him enough, he’d kill me . . . I don’t know . . . I did nothing . . . He lit a cigarette, raped me again and then beat me with a lamp . . . I will think about that moment for the rest of my life . . . I will fantasize about what would have happened . . . No I can see myself hurting him . . . And hurting him some more . . . It’s hard for me to admit that I love to hear his scream . . . I should have acted . . . I would’ve got real justice . . . Not to act is to have to live with a coward for the rest of your life . . . If I had five minutes in a locked room with him now . . . ”

Mary did not finish her sentence. Extremities was written to fill in the blank she left.

william mastrosimone

William Mastrosimone displays his awards during a visit to his alma mater, Rider University. Photo Credit: The Rider News, 20 Sept 2007

Mastrosimone began writing Extremities at midnight that night and had completed the script before 3:00 p.m. Over the course of several years, he struggled to get the play produced professionally, and so Extremities found its legs in amateur productions — some of which were protested or had to fight off attempts to ban the work. After several more community theatre productions, it moved to a prestigious regional theatre, then Broadway and eventually became a movie.

Mastrosimone has also found success in other mediums tackling other difficult subject matter. Following an incident at his son’s school, he wrote Bang, Bang You’re Dead, a play about school violence which was later adapted for television and for which Mastrosimone won two Emmy awards. He also wrote Into the West and The Burning Season, both of which were also nominated for Emmys.

Ultimately, though, Mastrosimone considers himself a playwright. “In theater, you can do as you please. You don’t reach a lot of people, but smart people go to theater and you’re reaching the smart people,” said Mastrosimone in a 2007 interview that appeared in his college newspaper.†

Extremities will be performed October 23-25 at the Paradigm Annex in Sheboygan. Tickets are $10.00 and are available now online or in person at Paradigm Coffee and Music.


† “Theater Talk: From Struggling writer to Emmy winner, Mastrosimone returns to his roots,” Jessica Decina, The Rider News 20 Sept 2007

Posted on October 7, 2014, in Extremities and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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