Ed Grisamore, the recipient of the 2010 Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, recently completed a writing project that was completely different. He wrote the script for a musical called “Durworld: The Life and Times of Mr. Doubletalk.” It was performed by the Youth Actors Company at Theatre Macon on Nov. 6-14. In addition to writing the script for the 90-minute play, he provided the lyrics for six of the 10 songs.
“I knew it was going to be fun, but I didn’t realize how much fun,’’ said Grisamore. “It allowed me to flex a different set of writing muscles. I’ve always been a reporter, a real-life, non-fiction kind of guy. Although I based the play on a true story, I found myself having to create dialogue for characters and provide a narrative for a story spanning a period of 60 years.
“I could only imagine what might have been said between two women gossiping over the fence in a cotton mill village in the 1950s. Once I allowed myself to exercise my artistic license, I let my hair down and had fun.’’
Grisamore’s 2009 biography, “Once You Step in Elephant Manure, You’re in the Circus Forever: The Life and Sometimes of Durwood ‘Mr. Doubletalk’ Fincher,’’ was the inspiration for the play.
It’s the story of Fincher growing up a linthead in the cotton mill village of Payne City in Macon, becoming the first in his family to attend college, learning the phonetically-challenged art of doubletalk, inventing a gag gift called “Toe Floss” and having his enormous talent discovered by the late Allen Funt of Candid Camera.
Fincher, a corporate comedian who now lives in Atlanta, travels all over the country “making no sense” while posing as an imposter, Dr. Robert Payne, a “consultant from Washington, D.C.” He has appeared on national TV on Regis Philbin, The Today Show and Huckabee.
Grisamore said he got the title for the play from his wife, Delinda.
“We have an expression at our house that we’ve been to Durworld,’’ he said. “Durwood is the mayor of Durworld. When you’re with him, it’s aways fun, even magical. Things happen to Durwood that don’t happen to other people. It’s almost Forrest-Gump like. He’s always on parade.’’
Ed Grisamore, of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, has written four columns a week since 1998. He has also authored six non-fiction books, and an audio book that was nominated for a Grammy in 2006.The Macon columnist said he doesn’t plan to quit his day job to become a playwright. He has signed two new book contracts for 2011 and will begin working soon as host of the 2012 NSNC convention in Macon.
But he can see himself writing a script again in the future.
“I didn’t receive a dime for writing this,’’ he said. “This was a gift to a community theatre that, like many other non-profits, has struggled with funding in this economy.’’
Grisamore said he was most proud that his youngest son, Jake, was cast in the role of Durwood and had to learn the art of doubletalk.
“I’m sure people will look at Jake in the lead role and think that he got the part because I wrote the play,’’ Grisamore said. “It might appear like the football coach who starts his son at quarterback. But Jake got this on his own merit. He has been involved on stage at Theatre Macon for the past seven years. He has been in 16 plays, both mainstage and with the youth actors.
“He is a junior in high school and people are always asking me if he is going to pursue theatre in college. I tell them probably not. He wants to go to journalism school. He has been on the school newspaper staff for three years. I maybe well-known in the community as a newspaper columnist, but at the theatre I am most proud to be known as ‘Jake’s Dad.’’’