Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of the Humanities


(Vanderbilt University, USA)



                                                        Cover art: Tango of Autumn,
                                        Oil on Canvas, 2016,
Courtesy of Romanian artist Mihai Criste

                                ISBN: 978-1-952799-00-6                                                    


I would like to thank Ms. Inge Sterne, Senior Editor at The University Press of the South, for her support of this project.

My thanks also to Mary Freels and Jeffrey Ullom for their guidance and goodwill,

and to Dr. Alain Saint-Saëns, a scholar and a renowned playwright,

who has written the Foreword to  Starting Times.

I have dedicated the play to James “Jaz” Dorsey (1953-2019), a true “man of the theater” in Nashville, New York, and elsewhere,

and a kind and gracious gentleman. I appreciate his encouragement and his arranging a table read of Starting Times with the gifted actors

 Jacob Abell, Thomas Angland, Mary Freels, and Molly Weinberg.

As always, I thank Susan Krug Friedman for keeping my highly dramatic moments in check.

                                                                                                 EDWARD FRIEDMAN



Starting Times by playwright Edward Friedman is an interesting work, constructed around two couples, a younger one, composed of Rick, a doctoral student in English literature, and his girlfriend Melissa; and an older one, which will be formed little by little during the play by Professor Arthur Jacobs, Rick’s thesis director, and Melissa’s aunt, Edith. It is a very fine, acute, and descriptive study, on one side, of the graduate student/thesis director relationship, or better said, about the protective power Rick imagines that this close and special relationship allows him to have, in order to protect his mentor against flirting attempts of someone he perceives as a pushy, invasive, and vulgar, middle-aged woman, Edith; and, on the other side, the commencing relationship of Arthur and Edith, both divorced and emotionally hurt by their respective pasts, under Rick’s suspicious supervision and Melissa’s more open-minded agreement. Arthur was abandoned by his wife after she became a lawyer; and Edith, who suffered an abortion and lost a child she was expecting, divorced her husband, Lenny following his incarceration.

          Friedman shows very well that Rick’s overprotective approach forces Arthur and Edith to go slowly from a first date into a more serious and possibly durable relationship as a couple. The play is full of references either to Anne Tyler’s novel Amateur Marriage or to William Shakespeare’s theatrical universe, or to Anton Chekhov’s. “All’s well that ends well,” the English playwright and bard would have concluded: at the end, Rick defends his doctoral thesis and becomes a Ph.D. and a newly appointed assistant professor at Marquette University, and Arthur and Edith are publicly accepted as a couple. It seems that Rick and Melissa are to live separately, at least for one year, perhaps more. Friedman thus hints at the uncertain circle of life in a touchy but definite way. Starting Times is an admirable play that reminds us of Spanish Golden Age theater’s quid pro quo situations.

                                                 “Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” Samuel Beckett once said.

                                      Friedman’s play is a solid example of the Irish playwright’s encouraging notion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Alain Saint-Saëns





Edward Friedman is Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. He studied at the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University, and he has been at Vanderbilt since 2000. He teaches courses on Spanish literature, theory, contemporary narrative and drama, and comparative topics. His publications include The Antiheroine’s Voice and Cervantes in the Middle: Realism and Reality in the Spanish Novel, as well as plays adapted from works in Spanish by Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, and Miguel de Unamuno. Friedman has translated Leandro Fernández de Moratín’s El sí de las niñas, an early nineteenth-century play, as The Little Woman.

          In 2006, Vanderbilt University Theatre performed Wit’s End, Friedman’s adaptation of Lope de Vega’s La dama boba [The Scatterbrained Lady], directed by Jeffrey Ullom. Other plays have been performed, some as readers’ theater. In 2015, Friedman published a poetry collection, Quixotic Haiku: Poems and Notes, in celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of Part 2 of Don Quijote. Starting Times is his first original play; he hopes to have offered four different perspectives on the theme of meaningful relationships.




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