That Championship Play

By Stuart Miller
17 Feb 2011

Director Gregory Mosher
Director Gregory Mosher
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Jason Patric shepherds his late father's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, That Championship Season, back to Broadway — by starring in it.

When That Championship Season opened in 1972, the play moved Jason Patric. Literally. Patric, age six, was too young to see his father's play, but the show's success changed his life. "We had no money at the time," Patric recalls. "My biggest memory was that all of a sudden, we moved out of our tenement in Flushing to Far Rockaway."

Gregory Mosher was moved more metaphorically. "It's hard to overestimate the power of that original production, which I saw one matinee, alone, left side of the orchestra, in 1972," he says. "It rocked my world...the simple power of the script, the fact that an entertaining play so clearly 'about something' was on Broadway." Obviously Jason Miller's play, about a coach in a downtrodden Pennsylvania town reuniting with his former players two decades after their glory days and long after their lives have all turned sour, struck a nerve. (It also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Best Play Tony Award in 1973.)

Fast forward to the present: Mosher contacts the late playwright's old agent about directing a Broadway revival of the play. The agent steers Mosher to the executor of Miller's estate... who turns out to be Patric.

"Gregory didn't even know I was Miller's son," Patric says. But he wasn't just going to sign off on any production — he wasn't a big fan of the Off-Broadway revival in 1999 (when his father was still alive), and furthermore, he knew he might want to revive it himself someday.

But Patric admired how Mosher had brought to life A View From the Bridge, which he says is "much more anachronistic and old-fashioned." His father's play was, by contrast, "ahead of its time," profane and hard-hitting in a way that set the stage for David Mamet. (Patric says several towns even banned it during the national tour.) Indeed, many of the themes that resonated with audiences in 1972 — clinging to the past, losing faith in political leaders, debating about an endless foreign war and fretting about a dying economy, especially for the working class — seem frighteningly relevant today.


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