Playwright Eric Coble says he was walking in his Cleveland Heights neighborhood when he first thought of the idea for The Velocity of Autumn, which is set to open on Broadway in spring 2013.
He strolled by a home, owned by a woman who was "beginning to fail physically and mentally," he said, and living alone. Her children had decided that she could no longer care for herself, and were trying to encourage her to go into assisted living.
"She was adamant that she wanted to die in her own home. Her family said it wasn't safe," Coble said.
It's a familiar story for many — those who are lucky to have their parents live into old age, but also forced to make difficult decisions that rob their former caretakers of their independence.
"I was thinking about her inside there, thinking about what she was doing in there," Coble said. "What if she refused to go, and she barricaded herself and threatened to blow up the house and wouldn't let anyone in?"
And that's the plot of his play The Velocity of Autumn, his first to go to Broadway.
"It speaks to the hunger for independence and what happens as our own bodies begin to rebel against us," said Coble, whose plays have been produced Off-Broadway and in theaters around the country. "How committed are you to maintaining who you used to be in the face of that? And that seems to be striking chords for people."
It certainly struck a chord for lead producer Larry Kaye, who asked Coble to send him the script after he heard about its success during its world premiere in April 2011 at Idaho’s Boise Contemporary Theater.
Kaye, who produced American Idiot, saw it when it hit the stage again at the Beck Center earlier this year.
"He was really blown away by Dorothy Silver," Coble said of the well-known Cleveland theater actress.
Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons read the script in Washington D.C., and "she ripped it apart — in a good way," said Coble, who saw the reading. Parsons has signed on to play 80-year-old Alexandra, and two-time Tony winner Stephen Spinella was cast to play her son Chris.
The rest of the creative team is established as well, Coble said, including Arena Stage director Molly Smith, who will also be making her Broadway debut as a director.
Coble said now they just need to find a theater and raise money for the show. In the meantime, he'll continue to work on rewrites.
"I’m still just kind of surfing the waves on this one. I’m trying to savor it, stay in the moment of it," he said.
"I'm kind of superstitious about it. I don't really believe the show is going to go on until I'm sitting in the audience on opening night and see the curtain go up."
For more information about Coble's work and background, visit his website.