Robert Marasco '54's Child's Play Chosen as Regis Repertory's Centennial Year Production
In May 2014, the Regis Repertory will present a special Centennial performance of Child's Play. The Tony Award winning play was written by Robert Marasco '54 and is loosely based on his time at Regis.

Born in the Bronx in 1936, Marasco graduated from Regis in 1954 and earned an A.B. from Fordham University in 1958. A classical scholar, he returned to Regis in September 1959 to teach Latin and Greek. During a 9 year tenure at Regis, Marasco eventually added English to his teaching assignments and became an advisor to the student literary magazine.

Although he had been writing for some time, success eluded Marasco until Child’s Play reached the Broadway stage in 1970. A chilling melodrama nominated for Best Play, the plot of Child’s Play takes place at St. Charles, a fictitious all-boys Roman Catholic boarding school. The performance’s focus is a conflict that arises between two teachers in the school: Joe Dobbs, a beloved English teacher, and Jerome Malley, the disliked, hyper-strict Greek and Latin teacher. Malley is being harassed by letters and—even though he does not know the identity of the true culprit—he is certain they are being forged against him by Dobbs. Due to his own unpopularity within the school, he is unable to win over any assistance. Fellow teachers and students alike are drawn into the turmoil throughout the play.

According to a December 1998 reflection on Marasco and his work, Marasco was anxious to make clear that his play was not based on reality, naming as his inspiration two sources—a newspaper clipping about "a teacher who gave his kids some work to do and then jumped out of a window" and the Swedish film Hets (Frenzy, 1944), written by Ingmar Bergman, which featured "a sadistic Latin teacher".

Child’s Play ran for 342 performances over a ten-month period. The play received overwhelming praise and positive reviews in professional circles. The New York Times critic Clive Barnes called the show “a wonderfully powerful melodrama that will thrill audiences for a long time to come.” It won multiple Tony Awards in a variety of categories, including: Best Actor in a Play (Fritz Weaver), Best Featured Actor in a Play (Ken Howard), Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design (Jo Mielziner), and Best Direction of a Play (Joseph Hardy). The show also earned a number of Drama Desk awards among other accolades.

Rights to produce a movie version of Child’s Play were eventually acquired by Paramount Studios and in 1972, Child’s Play made its way into movie theaters. The movie was produced by the famed theater impresario, David Merrick. Some familiar Hollywood and Broadway names were involved in the movie production: “Both Alfred Hitchcock and Joe Mankiewicz were interested in directing it, but the studio's production chief Robert Evans vetoed them as "over the hill". Merrick then suggested William Friedkin, also vetoed by Evans (Friedkin instead accepted Fox's offer to direct The French Connection). With the strong pairing of Marlon Brando and James Mason cast in the leads, Sidney Lumet was signed as director, in part because he had established a good rapport with Brando while filming The Fugitive Kind. But when Brando asked for script revisions ("he saw the holes in the story and lack of logic," said Lumet) the cost-conscious Merrick objected and Brando withdrew from the film to be replaced by Robert Preston.” Charles White and Beau Bridges also starred in movie. (Robert Marasco Obituary, 12/15/1998 | The Independent).

The success of Child’s Play enabled Marasco to become a full-time writer. His first book, Burnt Offerings, was well-received and was eventually made into a movie whose cast included Burgess Meredith, Oliver Reed, and Bette Davis. Marasco eventually released a second novel, Parlor Games, in 1979. At the time of his death in 1998 at age 62, Marasco had just completed a new play, Our Sally.


Above left: Rober Marasco's 1954 senior portrait; Above center: a candid photo of Marasco during his tenure as a language teacher at Regis; Above right: the cover of the Regis Dramatics Society's May 1980 production of Child's Play.

Text and photographs for this news story were generously researched and compiled by Matt D'Ariano '12 and Jim Rowen '12.

Posted: 10/11/13