Short Subject Success: Retirement brings new career for local playwright

2013-03-10T00:00:00Z 2013-03-12T14:17:03Z Short Subject Success: Retirement brings new career for local playwrightBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Anthony "Joe" Seed still remembers the five years he worked as a journalist, including his span as a reporter at The Hammond Times in 1976, and some of the stories published that grabbed the interest of readers.

"Writing is what I've always loved and I knew one day I'd get back to sharing those stories," said Seed, who now lives with his wife Eileen in Frankfort, Ill., as the couple finalizes plans to move to Valparaiso to enjoy retirement.

"The best stories that I've shared over the years, and which have always captured attention, were from the Region and my days in Northwest Indiana along with my later experiences in military service."

Seed, who originally hails from Hobart and graduated from Hobart High School in 1965 where he played football, has allowed his imagination to return to his region roots for a new post-retirement career as a playwright, with both full plays and fast "10-minute" plays as his dual specialty.

In January, Seed's play "The Mark of a Dog's Foot" was announced as one of three winners for the 4th Annual Northeastern Playwright Festival, with a staged reading of the play presented during the festival, which is May 31 to June 9 in Fort Wayne at the Arts United Center and Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, with the possibility it could become a main stage production.

"The Mark of a Dog's Foot" is set 40 years following a bar fight in Northwest Indiana, which resulted in a killing and cover-up. Five friends and assorted participants find themselves drawn together once again because of a chance the crime is about to be exposed.

"Like all of my stories and plays, the plot for 'The Mark of a Dog's Foot' has a basis in a real incident and I expanded the idea and how the details unfold," Seed said.

"All of the key elements were already in place for a storyline to come together to create the play."

Though Seed only began writing plays two years ago, "The Mark of a Dog's Foot" was one of his first works to garner honors and notice, even prior to this year's most recent award designation. It was a finalist for the 2011 Eugene O'Neill National Playwright Conference.

"From the more than 1,200 plays that accepted for the Eugene O'Neill honor, this play became a finalist, which means it was among the top 40 and I'm very proud of this distinction," he said.

Seed is equally proud of his time growing up in Hobart and especially his time as a "Brickie."

"At Hobart High School, I played football with my lifetime friend and fellow 'Brickie' Bob Kuechenberg, who went on to play at Notre Dame and also for 17 years in the National Football League," he said.

"In fact, when the organizers in Fort Wayne for this spring's 4th Annual Northeastern Playwright Festival designed the poster art for my 'Mark of a Dog's Foot' play, knowing the back story and the 'Brickie' references connected to Hobart, they included a brick wall background for the play's title."

In total, Seed's "The Mark of a Dog's Foot" play has received recognition from six contests since it was completed in 2010.

Seed, who earned his bachelor's degree from Indiana University and also won several Hoosier State Press Association awards for his writing and photography during his two years at The Hammond Times, has now completed a total of six plays, four of which are focused on The Vietnam War and returning veterans.

As a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient from his military service with the First Air Cavalry as a reconnaissance infantry/scout in 1967 and 1968, he said it's a theme that is very close to his heart.

His play "Swimming with Sharks in the South China Sea" features a plot he summarizes as: "Learning to discern the difference between black and white and good against evil, leads a young man from combat on the beach at Vietnam to the execution of an abusive priest and a meeting with the 'holiest man in the world,' before finally, arriving for judgment at Heaven's Gate."

It was a finalist for the 2011 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Contest and awarded 13th place of the top 100 plays at the 80th Annual Writer's Digest Contest.

"Joe is very deep and his thoughts and words naturally come together when he writes his plays," said his wife Eileen.

"This is what he loves and it comes very naturally for him. Our son is the same way, but with his music career."

Eileen said one of her favorites of her husband's plays is called "Between the Sheets," which is still "a working story," now in its first draft.

She describes the plot as simple, yet with a satisfying twist: "What happens when two professional escorts end up together in a room instead of with their prospective clients, and yet follow through with their service before discovering their error?"

And while many think writing his 10-minute short plays are far easier and less involved than his full-length subjects, Seed, who is a member of the Dramatists Guild, is quick to correct.

"So much more goes into doing a 10-minute play, because it follows the same premise of how a short story is conceived," he said.

"You are working hard at fitting all of the major plot components and developed characters into a very abridged plot which still offers all of the satisfying aspects of a full play, but condensed. It takes some serious editing and fine-tuning before achieving something that works on every level."

His most recent project is called "Somewhat Difficult to Put into Words," which is still in first draft form, and had an initial staged reading on Tuesday at Chicago Dramatists Theatre, 1105 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago, where he is a member.

As for the storyline, it unfolds as follows: "A soldier wounded in Vietnam is sent to an army hospital in Japan to heal, offering him the opportunity to hunt down a Japanese soldier guilty of vicious and unforgettable war crimes against an American G.I. that had been captured on confiscated films."

"I like where this latest play is going," Seed said. "But it's still a work in progress, just like my own life."

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