In the theater world, a “two-fer” is 2 tickets for the price of 1.
In the Greenwald house, it’s 2 plays written by members of 1 family.
Charlie Greenwald is a junior at Emerson College. On Sunday, March 1, “Surprising Simon” — a play he co-wrote — will be staged there.
The winner of the school’s Rareworks Theatre Playwrights Festival, “Simon” is a farce based on a birthday party gone wrong at many turns.
Charlie’s many friends know he’s a masterful comic (check out his George W. Bush impersonation here). In Staples Players, he participated in shows like “West Side Story” and “Into the Woods.” At Emerson he’s a communications major, involved in both sports broadcasting and play writing.
Charlie and Tommy Greenwald.
Though his father Tommy is also one of the funniest folks around (check out his “Charlie Joe Jackson Guide to Not Reading” franchise here), the play he co-wrote is an intimate musical.
Set against the background of a changing America between 1950 and 1990, it probes the complex relationships between brothers and sisters, parents and children. It’s all about connections, commitments and the healing of the human heart.
“John & Jen” — starring Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan — was first produced at Goodspeed. It opened off-Broadway in New York in 1995.
The show continues to have a healthy life in small theaters all over the country, and abroad. Now — 20 years later — it’s being revived by Keen Company at the Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street, through April 4.
Tommy — himself a 1979 Staples graduate — was not in Staples Players. (He was a soccer team captain.) But he’s an avid fan of the program. And he understands good theater: his day job is advertising Broadway shows.
So both Tommy and Charlie know something about two-fers. Of course, if you want to see both shows, you’ve got to buy 2 tickets.
(For ticket information on “John & Jen,” click here.)
Like many Westporters, Tommy Greenwald and Cathy Utz long marked today — the 1st day of school — as a milestone on the annual calendar.
For 15 years, the couple watched their 3 boys — Charlie, Joe and Jack — move through the local schools. Each year they grew older, bigger, more independent. But the 1st day of school was always special.
This year is special too. Tommy and Cathy — themselves products of the Westport system — no longer have a child heading off to school here.
To celebrate/mourn, Tommy — author of the very popular “Charlie Joe Jackson” book series for young readers — wrote this poem. Enjoy/contemplate this “06880” exclusive.
Charlie, Joe and Jack Greenwald, back in the day…
It’s here! It’s finally here!
The first day of school!
The first day of the year!
There’s so much to do.
Try not to make a fuss.
And we can’t miss the school bus!
Something is different this year.
Where are the children?
They’re not here!
There are no children to wake.
And no lunches to make.
They’re all grown!
Off to college, or other adventures all their own.
…and Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald more recently.
So now what?
What do you do?
Do you sit around and mope?
Give up hope?
Possibly even bawl?
Well, maybe for a day or two.
You’re only human, after all.
But after that, enough.
Time to get tough.
Time to see what this can truly mean.
Peace. Quiet. Freedom. A house that’s truly clean!
A love to renew.
That long-delayed dream you can finally pursue.
That promise to yourself you can finally keep.
Or maybe just a good night’s sleep.
Just try to remember, whatever you choose.
This is honestly, truly good news.
Indeed, it’s time for the children to go.
Because guess what? Now it’s your turn to grow.
Cathy Utz and Tommy Greenwald drop their 3rd son, Jack, at college. They’re now empty nesters!
He’s also a Staples grad — married to a fellow alum — and the father of 3 teenage boys.
Tommy’s blog (tagline: “A Shrine to Everything Me”) is usually light-hearted. On Wednesday, though, he turned misty-eyed. He and Cathy had just left Charlie — their oldest — at college.
I had to wait a day or two to write this post to make sure I could handle it.
On Monday we dropped our oldest son, Charlie, at Emerson for his freshman year. It was a memorable day, in every sense of the word.
I’m going to sound like a typical parent here, but Charlie is a remarkable person. Incredibly kind and extremely funny, he lights up any room he’s in. He’s a great son and a great friend.
So I knew it would be hard letting him go. But I didn’t quite realize how hard.
It first hit me about a week before he left. We’d had a great summer, he was in a fantastic mood, but one night I suddenly realized that in a week’s time, he’d be gone.
That was the first night I cried.
We had a great week after that, though. A lot of fun events, including my book launch events and a commercial shoot with Paul Rudd, kept us occupied and distracted.
But then came Sunday night.
Charlie, Joe and Jack Greenwald, two years ago.
Charlie hunkered down with his brothers Joe and Jack to watch the season finale of True Blood. They watched the show together religiously, every week. It was fortuitous that the season finale was broadcast the night before Charlie left for college and Joe and Jack had their first day of school.
I was watching Charlie as the show ended. He was completely wrapped up in the episode, but the second it ended, his face changed. It was as if he knew summer was officially over, and tomorrow he would be leaving. For the first time, I saw a hint of doubt and nervousness creep into his expression.
It was getting real.
We did a little packing and a lot of hugging that night, and I’m not gonna lie (one of Charlie’s favorite expressions), sleep was a little tough to come by.
The next morning, Monday, we sprung into action. Charlie and I took Moose and Coco for one last walk – his relationship with the dogs is a thing of beauty – and Cathy helped him with his last-minute packing (or should I say stuffing, since his suitcases were garbage bags. A great space-saving technique, btw.)
We hit the road about 11, and had a great drive up. Good conversation, a little nosh, easy traffic. We talked about a lot of things that made us feel good, including that fact that when you add it all up, he’s basically only at college 6 ½ months of the year, and home the other 5 ½ months. At these prices! Never have I been so grateful for being ripped off so royally.
We pulled into Boston around 2 and turned the corner onto Boylston Street, where we were immediately greeted by the uniquely Emersonian brand of happiness. Adorable students gave us our parking instructions while dancing in the streets; incredibly nice people all over the place got us checked in and situated while music blasted through the halls; we found Charlie’s room, which has a view of the Boston Common that rivals anything on Central Park West.
The hole in my heart was being nicely obscured by all the good vibes around us. But it was still there.
Cathy was a rock; Charlie seemed nervous but excited; and we were running out of excuses to stay by his side.
Finally, with the bed made, the clothes put away and the laundry lesson over, we all took the elevator to the lobby one last time. We contemplated going over to the campus store to take a look around, but Cathy said, “You know what? It’s time to go.” And she was absolutely right.
No long goodbyes, though. That was agreed upon well ahead of time. Cathy and I each gave Charlie a quick hug, kissed him, and sent him on his way. No looking back. Only looking ahead.
The ride home was not easy. Cathy and I cried. But we talked a lot, too, and managed to remind ourselves how blessed we are to have a son that we are going to miss so much.
Last night, Jack, the family computer whiz, hooked up our first video chat with Charlie. It was great to see him. He was funny and goofy. He seemed genuinely happy – although knowing him, even if he wasn’t, he’d pretend to be for our benefit. But I believed it. And since my happiness is in direct correlation with my children’s happiness, I was able to sleep a little better last night.
Time is a funny thing. Relentless, but forgiving. A stealer, and a healer. It’s also a paradox: I don’t want it to go fast, but yet I can’t wait to see my son again. In the meantime, we’ve got to sit our son Joe down this weekend and get down to business.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome, appreciated — and tax-deductible! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)