Fred Barzyk’s TV drama, The Waiting Room, explores the lives of seven characters who find themselves at the end of their dramatic lives. Based on Fred’s constant fear of loosing the ability to continue creating TV drama because of old age, this drama slowly dissects the dramatic conflicts he has faced in 40 years of directing TV dramas. It is also a thank you to all the great actors who have graced his movies.
The Waiting Room
Fred Barzyk: A Life in Television
From Fred to Kickstarter supporters
Well, we did it. The trusty group of Chelmsford Volunteers, some in their 70’s and others between jobs, were joined by former WGBH professionals who also volunteered their time and talent. Bill Charette, John Osborne, Bob Burns, Debbie Dorsey, and Marcia Hully. God Bless them all.
In many ways, this little movie is a final tribute to the many actors who graced my pictures with their amazing talents. I include at the end of this letter a list of some actors I worked with.
Yes, the Man in the show really did work in the criminal justice system; Woman #1 works at National Grid; the Conductor (Frank Dolan) and I have been working together since 1961. The Girl is someone I found in the Chelmsford school system. And Woman #2 works at the Kennedy Library as a researcher. And the Producer really is a volunteer who used to be an optometrist. The Doctor, who really was my podiatrist, told me he wanted to be an actor so I put him in 2 of my dramas. Since then he has sold his practice and has started his own Voice Over career, known as Doctor Voice Over.
This is probably the most personal drama I have ever made. I hope it will translate to others. Since I began my career, theater was very important. So I had to include Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. I have always been told that I go too far, too wild, too off the wall. Those words find their way into the drama once again: “Sometimes you just go too far, Fred.”
In my professional life, I have only had 4 occasions where I had music composed for one of my dramas. They were great moments, especially Michael Small’s music for Lathe of Heaven. But the cost!!!! Unbelievable!! And now, working in the little town of Chelmsford, I have had the fortune to have my last three dramas scored with original music. Composed by the Town’s Community Band leader, Paul Berler, who had never scored a movie before. We gathered friends, students and created some pretty remarkable music. The cost… lunch and $1 each. I include a docu of one of those recordings. The Waiting Room had 30 singers and 30 musicians.
I don’t want to bore you with my musings, however, something struck me as I worked on this project that had never raised its head before. I am hung up on death. Yes, and on loss and never being. How could I go all these years without realizing it? But I did.
Fact: While in college and studying the poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins and his use of alliteration, I wrote poem.
A soft cold hand soothes, smoothes, smothers.
That was 56 years ago. And when I did my first local access drama, that poem was the dramatic thrust of The Journey. (Included on DVD)
Fact: First film done in senior year of college, The Music Box, starred a theatrical character that looked like a dirty version of Charlie Chaplin and a young boy. In this silent film the Character disappears on a foggy beach and the boy runs for his life thru the dense fog, lost.
Fact: My first TV movie was 5 Days, produced live on tape at WGBH’s 84 Mass Ave. studio in 1961. All the actors were volunteers and the plays rights cost me $10. The story… two soldiers have to travel back from the front, one a prisoner and other the guard. By the end of the 5th day, the war has changed hands. And now the prisoner was the guard. And their side didn’t keep prisoners. He had to shoot the soldier who he had bonded with during that treacherous 5 day march. (2” tape in the Archives)
Fact: Two of my major movies are based on the idea that the lead character is dead. In Kurt Vonnegut’s “Between Time and Timbuktu” the lead character is a poet, Stony Stevenson, who wins a jingle contest and is shot into the Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum (outer space). Stony eventually finds himself in Heaven (abandoned NY World Fair grounds) face to face with his greatest fear, Adolph Hitler. He and Hitler fight it out, with Stony winning because he uses his secret weapon. His imagination. It was Vonnegut’s clearest voicing of his art, “imagination over death”
Lathe of Heaven is the same. The lead character, George Orr, is seen at the beginning of the drama, struggling, injured by an atomic bomb. He falls to the ground and utters the word Antwerp. For next hour and a half he lives and dreams his way through a series of adventures, until finally, in the last scene, George realizes he has created all this, his imagination, to protect him from his own death.
Thanks again for your help. I am humbled by your generosity.
Some Actors/comics/narrators I have worked with
- Lily Tomlin (Collisions for PBS)
- Professor Irwin Corey (Collisions)
- Dan Ackroyd (Collisions)
- Gilda Radner (Collisions)
- Jane Alexander (Letters of Calamity Jane for CBS Cable)
- Matt Dillon ( Great American 4th of July, & Other Disasters, PBS)
- Christian Slater (Secrets for Hearst Network)
- Barbara Feldon (Secrets- was Agent 99 on Get Smart)
- Christopher Reeve (Last Ferry Home for Hearst)
- Ashley Judd (Ryan Interview by Arthur Miller; Kentucky Public TV)
- Eddie Bracken (Ryan Interview stage actor and movie star 1940’s))
- Bob and Ray (Between Time and Timbuktu, PBS)
- Kevin McCarthy (Between Time and Timbuktu, PBS)
- Bill Hickey (Between Time and Timbuktu, PBS)
- Bruce “Juicy Bruce” Morrow (big time DJ NYC radio)
- Morgan Freeman (Charlie Smith)
- John Amos (Listen Up for PBS)
- William Conrad (Great Whodunit! for PBS)
- Gene Barry (Great Whodunit! Radio, TV stage, was great in the Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles)
- Tammy Grimes
- Geraldine Fitzgerald
- Howard Duff ( was radio star Sam Spade detective)
- Loretta Switt (Matter of Principal for Hearst Network – TV’s Mash)
- Tyne Daly (No Room for Opal for Hearst Network)
- Daniel J. Travanti, Jr. ( star of TV series Hill Street Blues)
- Claire Dane
- Ben Vereen (Jenny’s Song for Westinghouse Network)
- Jean Stapleton (Tender Places-was Edith in All in the Family ) series)
- James Broderick (Phantom of the Open Hearth for PBS- father of Mathew Broderick)
- Barbara Bolton (Phantom wife of composer Norman Dello Rio)
- Roberta Wallach (Phantom, – daughter of the actor Eli Wallach)
- Jerry O’Connell (Ollie – fresh off film Stand By Me)
- Rosie Perez (Poof! For PBS )
- Geoffrey Holder (What If I Am Home Alone for PBS great dancer)
- Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“ was star on TV Home Improvements and voice of Lion King in Disney movie)
- Ed Asner (Listen Up… lead in TV Mary Tyler Moore TV series)
- Jason Robards, Jr. (Madhousers for Westinghouse)
- Richard Kiley (Madhouser star of Broadway musical, Man of La Mancha)
- John Goodman (Flashback for HBO)
- Eric Severeid (Countdown to Looking Glass, HBO
- Newt Gingrich (Countdown – used as Congressman, which he is was, Led the Republican take over of Congress in the 90’s)
- John Houseman (Cable Arts, worked with Orson Wells)
- James Wood (Andrew Silver drama, went to Hollywood and did well)
- Mary Kay Place (People, Mary Hartman TV series)
- Jane Curtin (Pretzels for HBO, original SNL cast )
- Paul Simon
- And many others……..
Hope you enjoy the show.