Written by Betsy Abraham, Babraham@antonnews.com Thursday, 04 July 2013 00:00
Peter “Doc” Pantina is no stranger to the theater world. He directed over 30 plays and musicals while teaching at Carle Place High School, sat in the audience of thousands of productions and worked the Tony awards. But now, the theater aficionado is making his mark on the playwriting scene with his first full-length play, Frank & Franklin, A Presidential Comedy, which debuts July 12 at Adelphi’s Olmstead Theatre.
Frank & Franklin is set on the afternoon and evening of the historic Joe Louis-Max Schmeling heavyweight championship fight at Yankee Stadium. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has called in a repairman to fix his radio so he can hear the worldwide broadcast of the fight in his New York City home.
The President strikes up a conversation with Frank Pesce, an Italian immigrant and owner of a radio repair shop on Lexington Avenue. The two discuss life, wives, politics, and the joys of a good beer. In the course of the afternoon, FDR is visited by the President of RCA, David Sarnoff, and Sonja of the Secret Service, who is trying to uncover a Nazi plot to disrupt the broadcast.
And while some elements of the play are made up, several aspects are based on real life. The character of Frank is based off of a family friend of Pantina’s wife, who was an Italian immigrant who opened a radio repair shop. Frank fixed the radios of the rich and famous, including that of FDR’s the day of the fight. Pantina interviewed Frank on his encounter with the president, and he says that the story is a great tale of an average person thrust into international, political affairs.
“It’s a classic story about an everyman in the midst of influencing political and worldwide events,” Pantina said.
Throughout the play, the President’s housekeeper, Rose, comments on the day’s events. She also recounts her fantastic prophetic dream of a grand Harlem celebration after a Joe Louis win. The monologue earned Pantina the national Audition Art Award for Greatest Online Monologue.
Pantina taught English, public speaking and theater at Carle Place High School from 1967 to 1986 and currently teaches at St. John’s University. He says he hopes to write more plays in the future.
“I enjoy play writing,” Pantina said. “I’ve learned a great deal of what works and what doesn’t work, and I’m trying to challenge myself.”