Oscar-nominated screenwriter and accomplished American playwright Bruce Jay Friedman has a new collection of selected works coming out, and it’s being published by York University’s Leaping Lion Books, which is run by students in the Professional Writing Program.
The launch of 3.1 Plays will take place Thursday, March 1, from noon to 3pm, at the Eleanor Winters Art Gallery, 129 Winters College, Keele campus. Friedman won’t be in attendance, but there will be a video message from him specially created for the occasion and York theatre students will perform excerpts from his book.
“Publishing an accomplished writer like Bruce Jay Friedman raises the profile of Leaping Lion Books,” says Alan Borenstein, Leaping Lion Books publisher and fourth-year professional writing student. “We’ve proven that we can work with any calibre of author, and put out a product worthy of your bookshelf.”
Friedman’s four works in 3.1 Plays are known for their sharp, black comedy and a punch of wit, and include the Obie award-winning play Scuba Duba: A Tense Comedy and Steambath. Both were off-Broadway hits. The other two plays in the collection are Sardines and The Trial. The plays are billed as capturing the surreal with a flair that is uncompromised by Friedman’s ability to write real and flawed characters. His plays have delighted audiences since the 1960s and earned him rave reviews from The New York Times and The New Yorker.
In addition to playwriting, Friedman has published six collections of stories, several novels, as well as a nonfiction collection. His novels include Stern (1962), A Mother’s Kisses (1964), The Dick (1970), The Current Climate (1989) and Violencia! (2002). A couple of his stories were also adapted for film – The Heartbreak Kid and The Lonely Guy.
Fourth-year students in the book stream of the Professional Writing Program of the Department of English, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, are required to take the Book Publishing Practicum course and participate in the publication of a real manuscript, such as Friedman’s 3.1 Plays.
Bruce Jay Friedman
Just how the opportunity to publish Friedman’s work came about was serendipitous. “When I was an editor at the University of Chicago Press, I published a collection of Bruce Friedman’s essays titled Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos. We had been talking about another book, a collection of his plays, when I left Chicago in 2001,” says York English Professor Geoffrey Huck. “When a few years ago I put together Leaping Lion Books for the Book Publishing Practicum at York, I resurrected the idea with him, and he graciously agreed to let us publish.”
Friedman sent several plays and Huck chose four. “I wish we could have included more in the collection, but length – and hence cost – were considerations,” he says. “The students, along with course director Mike O’Connor, have done the rest. I hope other readers will find these plays as delightful as I have found them to be.”
Borenstein says the experience the publishing practicum provides is invaluable. “As jobs have become scarce for graduates in all fields, students are eager for a hands-on education and applicable skills. York’s publishing program simulates a professional working environment, in a program unique to Canada. With changes in how we read and receive information, the publishing industry is asking itself a lot of questions. We are the group of individuals who will provide the answers. That’s exciting.”
Having the opportunity to published Friedman’s book means a lot, says Huck. “What I think Bruce’s and our other books prove is that the students in the Book Publishing Practicum are highly competent publishers. They are the future of book publishing, and they’re already showing their stripes.”
Everyone is invited to attend the launch. Refreshments will be provided and copies of the book will be available. There will also be a raffle courtesy of Leaping Lion Books sponsors for a chance to win gift certificates to the York University Bookstore, gift certificates and merchandise from the Hard Rock Café, sunglasses from Anders & Flynt, tickets from Stage West Mississauga and a makeover from Kliks Beauty Centre. Sponsors also include the York Writing Department, Z-teca Gourmet Burritos, Blueberry Hill, ASRock America Inc. and NZXT Crafted Gaming Armor.
Friedman’s 3.1 Plays is available in print and in e-book format through Kobo Inc.
For more information about Leaping Lion Books, 3.1 Plays or Friedman, visit the Leaping Lion Books website.