Pennsylvania Playhouse is presenting Larry Fox's new Play, "Ol' Sparky" April 28, 29, and 30, 2023. Lehigh Valley Stage interviewed the playwright about the upcoming show:

LVSTAGE: What do you feel is timely about this Play' What impact might this story and this telling of it have upon todays audiences'

LARRY FOX: The factual scenario upon which the play is predicated actually took place. The 15 year-old-defendant suffered through a combined "Perfect Storm" that resulted in his botched execution. He was "defended by incompetent legal counsel, after which he was subjected to a failed electrocution that can only be described as a form of torture, thereafter to be followed by a bizarre U.S. Supreme Court Decision the rationale or premise of which borders upon the absurd.

Today, it would be unthinkable to attempt to electrocute a juvenile TWICE, but back in 1947, a majority of Justices serving upon our nations highest court reasoned that extracting such a "pound of flesh" was not only appropriate, but could be pursued. Sparky

LVSTAGE: What specifically drew you to the material that inspired you to write this play'

FOX: I discovered the U.S. Supreme Court case that serves as the factual scenario for the play while studying Constitutional Law as a law school student. The case can be found on the Internet under the caption "Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber, 329 U.S. 459 (1947)". I found the reasoning of the Court to be as tortured and misguided as the execution the Court was called upon to review. I have sought to place my thoughts in the form of a play.

LVSTAGE: Why do you express yourself through the medium of theater' Who were your mentors; who inspired you'

FOX: I was lucky enough to meet Ralph Montesano, the artistic genius who assisted the Pennsylvania Playhouse and other venues with his expertise. He agreed to produce and appear in one of my first plays. His kindness inspired me to write other plays. I am forever in his debt.

LVSTAGE: What do you derive from the challenges involved in creating a play'

FOX: There is no feeling in the human experience that equates to sitting in a darkened theatre on opening night and watching the reaction of the audience to the words you wrote that are now spoken from the stage by talented performers. It makes the grind, the untold hours of rewrites, and the general ordeal of creating a play worthwhile.

LVSTAGE: How do you shift from the study and application of the law to the thoughts and flights of fancy that you display in your playwriting'

FOX: The practice of law, which is a privilege, permits me to witness first hand strange and unusual stories as they unfold before my very eyes. I then record those events on paper. Most of the stories that I relate are true, except where I may have lied a little bit.

LVSTAGE: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

FOX: Im an attorney who has engaged full-time in the private practice of law in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania during the last 50 years. My practice focuses primarily upon municipal work, estate administration, representation of small corporations, the transfer of real estate, and assisting folks with the resolution of legal issues that may impact their lives.

LVSTAGE: How many of your plays have been produced on stage'

FOX: Ol Sparky is my fifth play to find its way to the stage. My four other plays have all been produced at various times and at various locations, both locally and as far away as Texas. My four previous plays have all been comedies, as have been my books focusing upon the practice of law. Ol Sparky is my first attempt at a drama.

LVSTAGE: Describe the story line regarding Ol Sparky.

FOX: I took a course in Constitutional Law while attending law school, and was introduced to a 1947 U.S. Supreme Court Case (Louisiana ex rel Francis v. Resweber, 329 U.S. 459) in which a 15-year-old juvenile was tried and convicted of murder in Louisiana after a brief trial. The juvenile was sentenced to be electrocuted and was ultimately strapped into Louisianas portable electric chair named "Ol Sparky". When the executioner threw the switch, there was insufficient power to kill the Defendant. They burned the hair off his head and some of his clothing caught fire “ but they couldnt kill him, despite several painful attempts. So the prisoner was returned to his jail cell where he recuperated after several weeks.

LVSTAGE: This actually occurred'

FOX: Yes, and the case then proceeded on appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. The issue was whether the Defendant could be executed a second time, or whether such an act constituted "double jeopardy" and "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the equal protection clause of the federal constitution.

LVSTAGE: Any last comments'

FOX: Yes. I will be forever in debt to the many friends without whose assistance the pending production of "Ol Sparky" would never have become a reality. Tracy Damiani and the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Playhouse agreed to take a chance on an untested manuscript. Gary Boyer submitted his name without hesitation to direct the production, a task requiring a significant amount of energy and expertise. A talented group of actors agreed to appear on stage. A dedicated crew of technicians has assured that a set design, costumes, lighting, audio, publicity, and other essentials have miraculously appeared, including such props as an electric chair.

I am so very grateful to all of these kind souls.