Tuesday, August 18, 2020

289. KING HEROIN. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Richard Hunter, Tim Pelt, Al Fann.

KING HEROIN [Drama/Drugs/Race] A/D/DS: Al Fann; P: Al Fan Theatrical Ensemble; T: St. Philip’s Community Theatre (OB); 3/17/71-4/11/71 (30).

This production, more Off-Off Broadway than Off Broadway, began in a gymnasium workshop under church auspices and played throughout the New York area on one-night stands before touring the South. It then returned to New York where it played in the same gym—now converted to a 270-seat theatre--in which it began.

Al Fann wrote, directed, designed, produced, and acted in the play, which also included members of his family; five actors had the last name “Fann.” The company was a healthy mix of non-paid pros and tyros—tied together by their desire to spread the word about the dangers of drug addiction. Among the actors was the handsome Adam Wade, best known as a recording artist.

As its name implies, King Heroin was about addiction to that dread narcotic whose many nicknames include “horse.” Its use among the Blacks of Harlem was depicted with strong scenes of dope pushing, use, and withdrawal shown in a series of vignettes. This was a straightforward piece of agit-prop—a public service announcement disguised as a play—intended to familiarize audiences with a serious problem and get them to think of possible solutions.