The Woodstock Playhouse will delve into its only summer drama when it presents Cherry’s Patch for one weekend, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 31.
The play is written by Ron Scott Stevens, who once again is a local resident after having lived in Woodstock in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He moved back here in late 2015.
Cherry’s Patch is set in a Brooklyn Firehouse and brings to light a respect for and awareness of firefighters; humanizing the heroes, that we might appreciate the invisible struggles of their lives and the disruption of order in the firehouse spurred on by cutbacks and politics.
It’s the story of a cowardly lieutenant who causes a heroic captain’s death, after which the firefighters in the company’s firehouse decide to deal out justice themselves.
A portion of the proceeds for Cherry’s Patch, which made its debut at the SoHo Playhouse in 2006, will be given to the support of local firefighters and their families in our community.
“When I was promoting boxing,” said Scott Stevens, “the person who sang the National Anthem for me was a firefighter, Vernon Cherry. He would come in uniform and he worked out of a firehouse in downtown Brooklyn. He became a friend.
“I had an office at Gleason’s (Gym, a boxing establishment near Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn), I met a firefighter from the rescue company, Lt. Patrick Brown. Soon after I met him, I was watching the news on Ch. 5 and he was on the roof of building in Manhattan — he was engineering a rope rescue. They rescued two guys back to back, the first back to back rescue in NYC fire history.
“Vernon Cherry told me he was an artist, he showed me a patch on his sleeve, it said Fire Under the Bridge. I said that was a good name for a play, Cherry’s Patch. So I started to imagine a play about a fire engine company. I did a lot of research, rode with different companies in the city.
“I finished about half of it and put it down. And then 9/11 happened…at that time Patty was a captain in a ladder company, in Greenwich Village. Vernon Cherry was a firefighter in Ladder 118 in Brooklyn. They both responded to 9/11 and they both died.
That’s when I knew I had to finish it.”
Scott Stevens, who has had six of his plays produced, has had quite a varied career…or careers. He grew up in Manhattan, north Miami, Florida and came back to Brooklyn at age 13. He graduated with a BA in English from Hofstra University in 1969, drove a taxi, dropped out of law school, worked as a water ski instructor, waiter, and like many of his generation, found his way to Woodstock in 1975.
“When I lived here I was active in sports, I was the softball commissioner, and got us into the gym at Onteora to play basketball. I worked for WDST and HVTV (Hudson Valley Television, which was then doing local access broadcasting in Kingston) doing play by play, selling ads…I had a column in Woodstock Times, ‘Homer’s Corner’ about local sports.”
He worked in many restaurants: the Woodstocker, Katz’s Deli, The Bear Chinese restaurant…but “I needed to get out of here, my friends were professionals, dentists, or lawyers. Everyone was accomplished and I’m waiting on tables…”
So by the end of 1980 he was back in the city. “What am I going to do? And a light went off, and it said ‘Boxing.’ So I tried to get broadcasting work. I ended up back in Brooklyn. I got a job as a waiter, I was 31. I changed my name, they had a Ron Rosenberg working in broadcasting, they don’t need a Ron Rabinowitz. My two brothers were Scott and Steven, so I took their names.”
“Boxing is the sport of the underdogs, and I figured, I’m an underdog. So I started hanging around the gyms. I went to Gleason’s when it was on 30th St. between 7th and 8th, told them I was a writer, broadcaster…Went to a Main Events, Duva show in New Jersey and I saw the ring announcer in a tuxedo. I thought, I should become a ring announcer. I’ll get seen. Nancy Sciacca, a promoter hired me as a ring announcer, and I got licensed. Slowly work started to come in, as well as working a boxing writer. I got a job as editor of a magazine, Boxing Today. And I got my promotional license. Jack Barnett, wanted me to ring announce and matchmake the show. So I made a show for him. Eventually, I ended up as promoter, matchmaker for my own companies. In 1998 went to work for Cedric Kushner, I was licensed in 15 jurisdictions, I worked in California, Vegas, Florida, Atlantic City. I did that for four years until 2002. Travelled everywhere, making shows. It was just like theater, making shows.
“But boxing was in disarray. New York State had no chairman. Jerome Becker was a commissioner, chair of another state agency. Thought if he brought me in, an educated boxing guy, could get Governor Pataki to make him Chair. So he brings me in, December, 2002. In March 2003, I get a call from Governor’s office. Now, I knew that job. I was director of boxing, but I couldn’t stand the politics, pettiness. I got a call from the Governor’s office asking me to come to Albany for interview, where I met with the appointments officer and Aileen Long. They learned of my boxing background, writing, matchmaking promoting — I had interacted with Commission for 20 years by then. He calls me the following day, talks for another hour. Another call came in offering me the job — as Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. They did background checks..no problem, and made me acting chairman in April, 2003, pending Senate confirmation. I was reappointed in 2006… me, a Democrat, in a Republican administration. I was a two term chairman. During my time, we went from 17 events a year in the state to 40 — more events than any state without casinos. There were no serious or critical injuries while I was chairman. No scandals. The boxing community was growing again. I came out of that world, I understood that world.
“I was there until end of 2008. Politics drove me out. Spitzer kept me, but David Patterson became governor and I was out as Chairman, but stayed on as a commissioner until October 2008.”
Since then, Scott Stevens has worked for Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports as a commissioner, for Star Boxing as assistant to the president; for Darko Boxing as matchmaker and for Ring Promotions.
He also wrote and produced three other plays. And is working on more..
Cherry’s Patch holds a special place in his heart. “It’s a drama, but out of my imagination. At the time I was writing it, there was a hue and cry about women in the Fire Department. More women were getting into the companies…so I introduce a probationary firefighter, a woman. Use her to replicate the things we’ve been reading and hearing about. I begged borrowed and stole from all the things I read and heard about.
“Patty Brown was a celebrated firefighter. He was the one who said, ‘we’re going up…’ and they went up 36 floors and never came back. For the purposes of the play, I put Patty and Vernon Cherry in an engine company, even though they were both in ladder companies.”
And he’s excited about the production at the Woodstock Playhouse. “I think it’s great. It’s an opportunity, Randy (Conti, director of the play and Executive Director of the Playhouse) and Doug (Farrell, Playhouse Manager) have been great. They don’t do this very often, but they like the play enough to do it. They’ve been marketing it well and they’ve been inclusive to me. They’re doing what they promised to do. I was at the first reading and they asked me for feedback. I saw Guys and Dolls, and though it was terrific.”
And he’s sure of his priorities at this point. “Playwriting is as important to me as anything. I’ve got a body of work now,” says Scott Stevens. “When people ask me my profession, it’s playwright.”
Tickets are available for the Woodstock Playhouse production of Cherry’s Patch at email@example.com, or at ulsterpub.staging.wpengineplayhouse.org/. Seats are $40 for Golden Tier Seating; $36 for Blue Tier Seating; $32 for Blue Tier Seating. All seating is reserved.
The Woodstock Playhouse is at 103 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock. For more information, call 845-679-6900.