I was off to make my 5:15pm coffee at Starbucks on Montague Street to interview Frank Anthony Polito (known as "Fran Q" to his friends, pronounced "Franc"), the author of Another Day on Willow Street, a new play premiering at the New York International Fringe Festival this summer. Always feeling late for everything, I ran right past Frank, who was sitting in the outside area donning a navy blue Detroit baseball cap.
But first things first, I had to grab my coffee and stake out the coveted inside territory so we could sit and chat comfortably. Only one table was available, which I promptly grabbed by placing down my coffee. After an aborted attempt to get him on my cell phone (please note to those who use Cingular, if you are not already aware the signal is non-existent in the back of the Montague Starbucks!), I left my coffee behind on the table and went out to look for Frank. We waved each other on in an attempt to acknowledge that we were indeed the parties meeting and went inside to chat.
Frank is boyishly cute and a lot of fun to talk with over coffee, which makes it easy to get to know him. He grew up in Hazel Park, Michigan, a place where he says few people wish to leave the comfortable life there.
But unlike most of his neighbors, he left town after high school, first attending Michigan State University and later transferring to the theater program at Wayne State University in Detroit. Upon graduation he landed his first role in local regional theater with a part in the play, You Can Never Tell.
After a year, Frank felt that he had to make the decision of most in the dramatic arts — to go to California or to New York City. Since he had friends in New York City, he settled in Carroll Gardens in 1998 and moved to Park Slope in 2005.
He's worked as an extra in films such as The Peacemaker starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, One True Thing starring Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger, and has had TV roles on Spin City and the soap opera One Life to Live. He worked on plays at the New York International Fringe Festival, and then left New York briefly for a role in the Washington, D.C. production of Terrance McNally's Corpus Christy.
Eventually, he enrolled in an MFA program at Carnegie Mellon University in dramatic writing, where the seeds were planted for his current play, Another Day on Willow Street.
Frank describes the play in a nutshell:
One straight couple and one gay couple try to understand the meaning of love, sacrifice and enjoying their current moments in Brooklyn Heights. Ian Brown and his wife, Stacy Gold, live in a beautiful brownstone on Willow Street. He is a Wall Street investment banker and she is a book publicist who is eight months pregnant. Stacy decides to give notice to her job in order stay at home with her new baby. But she soon realizes that after having a career she does not think she will be fulfilled sitting around the Heights drinking Starbucks. Having extra time to think things over, her mind starts to wander to fearful places she never thought she would go to; when the baby arrives how will this effect her life with Ian?
The other story line involves Mark Gray and his lover, Paul Green, who have been involved in a long distance relationship for two years. Mark also lives on Willow Street and is pursuing a career as an actor while Paul, a lawyer, chooses to work in Boston to be near his sick mother. Mark is facing his own issues with reality; in his case it is about coming out to his parents so that he and Paul can get married before Paul's mother dies. He struggles with committing himself fully to his relationship.
In the Fringe production, two real-life couples will star as the two on-stage couples. Frank plays the role of Paul while his partner, Craig Bentley stars as Mark. Frank says he wrote Willow Street so that the two could work together. Frank's Wayne State classmate Pamela Sabaugh is cast as Stacy Gold while her husband, Fred Backus, plays Ian Brown.
For those of you who happen to be in Dayton, Ohio on July 28th, you can catch a staged reading at the Dayton Playhouse.
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