The Idea Behind Gwendolyn Rice's "A Thousand Words"
Have you ever wondered where the idea for a new play comes from? For Gwendolyn Rice it came from a news story about some photographs that were discovered amongst some long-lost possessions of Ernest Hemingway. That article eventually led to A Thousand Words, which will be performed as part of Forward Theater’s 2011-2012 season. Learn more about the three weeks Walker Evans spent with Ernest Hemingway in Havana in 1933.
In the spring of 1933, Ernest Hemingway had escaped the Great Depression on a borrowed boat to Cuba, where he fished, drank and gathered material for his next novel, To Have and Have Not. With him for three weeks in the bars and bistros was a young Walker Evans, who would soon become known as one of the great American photographers of the 20th century.
But for decades, the tale of their friendship and influence on each other's work remained hidden away in a storage room of a Key West bar. In those boxes and crates, Benjamin "Dink" Bruce discovered 46 original photographs taken by Evans in Havana in 1933. Bruce just didn't know what they were. Bruce, together with the Key West historical society, unraveled the mystery of the photographs, a $25 IOU, and two Americans working together in the midst of a repressive Cuban dictatorship.
~ Coralie Carlson, Associated Press, 2004
From the Ernest Hemingway and Walker Evans: Three Weeks in Cuba, 1933 Exhibit
"I have some pictures tonight, and will have more tomorrow"
These cryptic words, in a handwritten note to Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) from Walker Evans (1903-1975), set in motion events that still have meaning today. The three weeks these men spent together in Havana in 1933 had a lasting impact on each of them. The events they witnessed, the political upheaval they observed, and their many late night discussions, affected the style and powers of observation of each man for the rest of his life.
Evans became internationally acclaimed for a documentary style of photography as spare and compelling as Hemingway's prose. Passages in Hemingway's To Have and Have Not seem to spring directly from the photographs Evans gave to Hemingway that night in Havana.
A Thousand Words by Gwendolyn Rice
The art world is ecstatic when a box of stunning black and white photos from the '30s is discovered amongst some long-lost possessions of Ernest Hemingway. A curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art immediately lays claim to them, but so does a woman who might be the granddaughter of the photographer, Walker Evans. As the stories unfold, both in the 1930s and the present day, one question remains: What's a picture worth?
Excerpt from A Thousand Words
Sally Quinn's office at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in
New York City. 8 a.m.
BRIAN: Did you hear about Cuba?
SALLY: Jesus, Brian, don't you ever knock?
BRIAN: I want you on a plane.
SALLY: (She rolls her eyes) Okay.
BRIAN: I want you down there.
SALLY: Can Americans even go to Cuba? (She logs onto her computer)
BRIAN: Don't check your email. Read this. (He hands her a fax) It's from the Cultural Center in Havana.
SALLY: (Reading) "Evans Photos Discovered. When Miguel Fuentes opened a long-sealed storage room in his family's Havana tavern to make some routine repairs, he was expecting to find decades of dust and spider webs. He was not expecting to uncover boxes of persona effects from one of the bar's most famous patrons: Ernest Hemingway. Among the items unearthed are fishing gear, handwritten letters, and nearly 50 striking black-and-white photos of Cuba, taken in the 1930s. Based on notes found with the pictures, they have been attributed to noted American photographer Walker Evans.
BRIAN: These photos are ours. No question.
SALLY: And that's why you need me to get on a plane?
BRIAN: There may be some complications with the bar owner.