One-man play explores the lesser-known Lindbergh
Script written by Brick
resident Steve Carroll,
Script written by Brick
BRICK — As the mass communications industry exploded with the advent of radio, newsreels and television, Charles Lindbergh was a superstar, perhaps the biggest target of the early paparazzi.
The public followed Lindbergh’s life with fascination, adoring him as the hero who made the first trans-Atlantic flight; grieving for him when his son was kidnapped and found dead; and heaved scorn on him for his image as a Nazi sympathizer.
Despite a well-documented life that was followed intensely by millions, Brick-based actor Steve Carroll believes you probably have a lot to learn about the misunderstood Lindbergh.
Carroll, 49, will present his one-man show Lindbergh: The Lone Eagle Saturday night at the Brick Township Civic Plaza. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $10, and proceeds will benefit the Brick Community Theatre and the Brick Children’s Community Theatre.
Lindbergh marks Carroll’s freshman effort as a playwright, and he is its only star.
"In the format I chose, Lindbergh was called back from the dead to explain his life, and the audience acts like something of a tribunal," Carroll said. "During his remembrances, he actually starts to relive them. In the process, people learn things they never knew about Lindbergh before."
Carroll said in this adaptation of Lindbergh’s life, no topic is shied away from, including his controversial days as a leader of the isolationist America First group during World War II. At first, a large segment of the American public agreed with Lindbergh’s challenges to Franklin Roosevelt to stay out of the European conflict, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor and remarks he made during a speech that were deemed anti-Semitic turned the American public on him.
Lindbergh was also criticized for accepting the Service Cross of the German Eagle from Hermann Goring during a reception. The medal was a present on behalf of Adolph Hitler himself.
"All it was, to Lindbergh, was an acknowledgment of his contributions to flight. But to the press, it made him a Nazi sympathizer," Carroll said. "Lindbergh’s way of dealing with these criticisms was usually not to say anything at all, but that’s absolutely wrong."
When Carroll began touring on the play, it was the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh’s famed Spirit of St. Louis flight and the 100th anniversary of his birthday. But 2003 marks the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight, and the coincidence has given him "an extra year out of this thing I didn’t expect."
Reviews have been positive for the show, and he’s toured all over the country with it. One vote of confidence from an audience member that stands out to Carroll came from Reeve Lindbergh, Charles’ daughter.
The idea to write a one-man play was given to Carroll during a bar room conversation with fellow actor Bob Brown, who performed a Benedict Arnold play. Brown suggested Carroll choose a subject from his native state, like Lindbergh, and he soon began thorough research.
"Something I realized about this man was I didn’t know nearly as much about him as I thought," Carroll said. "This guy was truly an amazing person, and my audiences seem to agree."
At the time, Carroll and Brown were making a little American history of their own as the first American actors to appear on a Chinese-produced television show. Carroll spent a good part of 1999 playing the role of U.S. State Department Head of Far Eastern Affairs John Carter Vincent in a 30-part series about the struggle between Gen. Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong.
The series was a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Mao’s victory and the foundation of communist China. Like the assessments of later leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping (whom Mao once banished for being a "capitalist roader"), Carroll said Chinese opinion on this brutal dictator is mixed.
"Like here, over in China you have people with all kinds of differing viewpoints, but they don’t have as much freedom to express them publicly. The Chinese people still have a reverence for Mao because of how far he took that country," Carroll said.
Carroll also lists a recurring role as Dr. Matt Rawlins on the television soap One Life to Live to his acting credits.
Next up for Carroll could be Ohio State University or several other venues that have expressed interest in his Lindbergh project.
"Seniors particularly love this play because it’s kind of a revisitation of American history that they experienced," Carroll said. "It’s a pretty compelling story of a great American."