The late comedian Joan Rivers fulfilled nearly all her career dreams, except one: She wanted to be a successful Broadway playwright.
Rivers, who achieved international success as a comedian and talk-show host, died September 4, 2014, at age 81.
The New York Post draws on author Leslie Bennetts’ forthcoming Rivers biography, Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers, to paint a picture of Rivers as a person who was fascinated with the stage, especially Broadway, since she appeared in the role of a kitten in a pre-kindergarten school play.
Rivers, who did a stint as an intern at the venerable Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT, made her stage debut in an Off-Broadway play titled Driftwood, playing the lesbian sweetheart of another future star, Barbra Streisand.
Rivers made only three Broadway appearances over the years, in her own Fun City, which ran a handful of performance in 1972; as a replacement in Neil Simon's 1986 play Broadway Bound; and, most notably, as the title character in her own magnum opus, Sally Marr...and Her Escorts. The latter play, about the mother of comedian Lenny Bruce, who was herself an aspiring performer, was a special labor of love for Rivers. According to Bennetts’ bio, Rivers was devastated by the show's 50-performance Broadway run in 1994. She had counted on the play’s success to begin a new career as a playwright.
The book reportedly chronicles how Rivers was under medication the night the critics saw the show, which affected her performance. The book quotes director Lonny Price saying, “She jumped whole chunks of the play.... She couldn’t remember the last line, and it was a cue for a blackout, so the stage manager didn’t go to the blackout.”
According to the book, Rivers was buried with a copy of the script.
Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers is scheduled for publication November 15, 2016.