Her 1970s marriage to a police officer may not have worked out, but Claudia Adams has put those experiences to artistic use, first as a scriptwriter for TV's "Cagney & Lacey" series, now in a play called P.O.W. (Police Officers' Wives), opening June 6 at Studio City CA's Ventura Court Theatre.
Adams' fictional drama shows a veteran police officer's wife helping a rookie's spouse cope with the closed world of the "cop fraternity." Though the play was written several years ago, it parallels recent news stories about alleged mishandling of domestic abuse charges lodged against LAPD officers.
P.O.W. began as a screenplay, which Adams submitted to producer Tony Bill ("the only one who would look at scripts if you didn't have an agent," remembers the author). Six months later he got in touch and helped her join the writing staff at TV's "Knots Landing." The P.O.W. screenplay then went to Barbara Avedon, and the two ended up becoming writing partners on several "Cagney & Lacey" episodes."
Before she died in 1995, Avedon urged Adams to write for the theatre. "When you write for TV," Adams says, "people take it away from you, and it's not your work anymore. I like the fact that there's more collaboration in the theatre, and I also like to be able to get that immediate feedback from an audience."
Since P.O.W., Adams has adapted other screenplays to the stage, most recently the autobiographical, My Client's A Lunatic!, recounting Adams' experience of being "robbed, beaten, stabbed, strangled and raped by an on-duty security guard at L.A. International Airport." The play won the 1996 White-Willis New Playwright Award. Starring in P.O.W. is Ellen Wheeler, a two-time Emmy winner for "All My Children" and "Another World." Her husband will be played by Ben Reed. Other cast members include Richard Chaves, Kevin Williams, Lira Angel, Samantha Kaye, Sean Blodgett, James Welch, Carol Stanzione and Nina Minton. Designing the play are Quinn Monahan (sets) and Carolyn Reyes (costumes).
Lending his p.o.v. To P.O.W. is director John DiFusco, who created, directed and co-authored the internationally acclaimed Vietnam drama, Tracers. He's also directed plays at L.A.'s Odyssey Theatre, Mark Taper Forum New Work Festival and Embassy Theatre.
[Factoid of the day: According to the show's press release, DiFusco grew up in Massachusetts along the shores of Lake Chargoggogg Manchaugaggogg Chubunagungamaug.]
For tickets ($15-$18) and information on P.O.W. (Police Officers' Wives) at the Ventura Court Theatre, June 6-July 13, call (818) 953-9993.
--By David Lefkowitz