Golden Boy Fights Parkinson’s
By: Paulanne Simmons
In 1937, after a stint in Hollywood that caused him to question his own complicity in a world that valued materialism over art, Clifford Odets wrote Golden Boy to create a hit that would support the Group Theatre, the company that had supported his earliest efforts. This classic drama about a talented musician, Joe Bonaparte, who is torn between the violin and the boxing ring, is a timeless struggle between who we are and what society wants us to be.
Almost eighty years later, stoPd and Shetler Studios are presenting Golden Boy, again to create a unique hit, but also to support The Michael J. Fox Foundation and stoPDto (Support and Training to Overcome Parkinson’s Disease), an organization founded by actor Alex Montaldo, and his wife, neuroscientist Dr. Roberta Marongiu.
The production is directed by Aaron Latham. who authored the films Urban Cowboy, The Program and the Broadway musical Urban Cowboy, and at 72, has been living with Parkinson’s for several years. Andit features in principal roles professional actors who are also living with Parkinson’s (Richard Borg, Ron Shetler and Jim Kronenfeld).
Clearly this production aims to show people just how capable and creative people with Parkinson’s can be. But why boxing? Montaldo, who plays Joe Bonaparte and is also Latham’s boxing coach, explains.
“Boxing is the quintessential training,” he says. “It improves stance, strength, flexibility, balance and the ability to move in different planes of motion.” What’s more, in order to execute a combination, the boxer must “remember the steps and be able to repeat them.”
“There are psychological benefits,” Latham adds. “Parkinson’s makes you feel small, and putting on boxing gloves makes you feel bigger and stronger.”
Considering these benefits, the producers of Golden Boy hope to promote boxing as as a therapeutic activity for people with Parkinson’s.
From a theatrical point of view, one of the most exciting aspects of this production is that it is staged at Gleason’s Gym, the legendary Brooklyn boxing mecca that inspired Odets back in 1937. The site-specific location allows the actors to work with original equipment and a ring from the mid-1900s. And the fight choreographer is former champion boxer Michael Olajide, Jr. (Film: Ali; Stage: Golden Boy at City Center).
Best of all, this production presents a unique opportunity not only for fans of boxing, Clifford Odets and Golden Boy, but also for all those who would like to personally make a contribution in the effort to find a cure for Parkinson’s, while helping those with the disease lead a more productive and meaningful life.
Golden Boy opens Oct. 22 and runs Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 30, at 7:30pm. Gleason’s Gym is located at 77 Front Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Subway: A, C Trains to High Street, F to York Street.
For reservations: www.goldenboy16.org. Minimum suggested donation is $18.00, $100.00 or more for preferred seating.