Laurence Leamer on "Rose" Review-a great American author writes a play about a great American matriarch

Laurence Leamer is a well-known journalist and the best-selling author of 15 published works- mostly non-fiction books and biographies. He is generally acknowledged to be an expert on the Kennedy family, about whom he has published a trilogy of well-regarded and best-selling books, “The Kennedy Women: The Saga of An American Family”, 1994; “The Kennedy Men 1901-1963: The Laws of the Father”, 2001; and “Sons of Camelot: The Fate of an American Dynasty”, 2004. The books are jam-packed with research, intriguing information and commentary.

Laurence Leamer; photo courtesy of Vukasin Boskovic

Regularly consulted by television and radio news programs, newspapers and other media outlets about the Kennedys and other political matters. Leamer has also written the play “Rose: The Kennedy Story as Told by the Woman Who Lived It All” about matriarch Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Set to open this week at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln, for a run through September 25, 2016, as part of the “Solo Celebration!” series, the drama starring Linda Reiter is an intimate look at a woman who remained largely in the background of the dynasty she helped create.

On the eve of the Chicago opening of “Rose” as well as the incipient publication of his novel, “The President’s Butler”, a wickedly funny, astute, ascerbic and well developed parody about a ruthless and incredibly politically incorrect billionaire running for President, this reviewer had the opportunity to interview Laurence Leamer about his life, his interest in the Kennedy’s, his research for “Rose”, and briefly about his new book. He was articulate, thoughtful, warm and immediate and his fascinating and engaging remarks are parphrased below:

Laurence Leamer and spouse, Vesna Obradovic, who assists him with research for his books

Leamer admits to being a “Kennedy-watcher” par excellence, but there are no current plans for a fourth book in the series. He came to Washington as a young man when Kennedy was inaugurated, was inspired, and, after graduating from Antioch in 1964, after the assassination, he joined the Peace Corps, which he refers to as Kennedy’s “greatest achievement”. He was stationed in the mountains of Nepal, returning to graduate from Columbia’s School of Journalism while being named a Pulitzer International Fellow, in 1969.

Rose Kennedy’s ghostwritten autobiography, “Times to Remember” came out in 1974, was re-released in 1995, and as preparation for it, she recorded 50 hours of reminiscences. After the death of the ghostwriter, Leamer obtained the extraordinarily intimate tapes from the man’s widow, and binge-listened to them, fascinated, absorbing himself in the revelations which “nobody had seen or heard before”. It was Rose Kennedy “talking the way she never talks in person”. This extraordinarily committed and observant Catholic woman referred to the events in the life of her family in the terms of and by comparison to Greek tragedies! Leamer put the tapes aside, “channeled Rose Kennedy”, and swiftly wrote the play, completing half of it in Belgrade, Serbia.

Laurence Leamer researching for one of his books, "The Price of Justice", in West Virginia

In “Rose”, the whole play “IS HER”, although he did NOT just “lift her lines”, as do the authors of certain one-person plays. He describes the challenge in crafting such a play: making sure “there is action- that something happens”. The purpose is “to celebrate a historic figure and come to terms with the meaning of her life". In this play, the action takes place in 1969, the week after Chappaquiddick, when Rose is worried about her son, Edward (Teddy). The “inner drama” consists of her efforts “to understand the tragedy." Rose retrieves scrapbooks of photos from the attic of the compound at Hyannis Port, and going through them, shares with the audience the heartfelt and often heartbreaking saga of this dynamic American family.

The cover of "The Lynching, by Laurence Leamer

 For more information about Laurence Leamer and his many fine books, go to the Learmer website and look for "The President's Butler" early next month on Amazon

 For tickets to “Rose” and other wonderful productions at The Greenhouse Theater Center,  including passes for the "Solo Celebration!" series, go to the Greenhouse Theater Center website

 All photos courtesy of Laurence Leamer’s private collection unless otherwise noted





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