New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Ears On A Beatle

By Gary Wien

originally published: 03/22/2016

Ears On A Beatle

On May 11, 1972, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and dropped a bombshell on the nation.  Lennon claimed that he was being followed and that his telephone was being tapped by the FBI.  Fans of The Beatles believed his story while millions of others thought he was crazy. Evidence would later come out which proved he was telling the truth thanks to a 14 year court battle by Jon Weiner over a Freedom of Information request for Lennon’s files.  

The story was compiled by Weiner in Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, a book that caught the eye of New Jersey native Mark St. Germain and led to his play, Ears On A Beatle.  The play, which premiered at the Barrington Stage Company in 2003, will be presented by Alliance Repertory Company at MONDO in Summit this April.

Ears On A Beatle covers the time period from December 1971 to December 1980.  It involves two FBI agents assigned to maintain surveillance on Lennon — Howard Ballantine, a veteran FBI agent, and Daniel McClure, a new recruit. The reasoning behind their assignment: President Nixon’s concern about John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s opposition to the Vietnam War and their ability to have the masses (especially the youth of America) follow them.  The end goal was to get Lennon out of the country before Nixon ran for reelection in 1972 — coincidentally, the first election in which 18 year-olds were allowed to vote.

Mark St. Germain regularly works within the realm of historical fiction.  Subjects in his some of his recent works have included F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway (Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah); Sigmund Freud (Freud’s Last Session); and Dr. Ruth Westheimer (Dr. Ruth, All the Way).  The playwright, who was born in Lyndhurst and says he spent half of his life in the Garden State, spoke to New Jersey Stage about Ears on A Beatle and his use of historical fiction.  He said his works usually start off with a question.

“Who were those guys in the cab who sped away after Lennon’s shooting? Why did Einstein’s baby girl vanish at two years old, never to be mentioned again? (from the play Relativity, which is starting a tour this summer) Why would Thomas Edison and Henry Ford invite Warren Harding to their annual camping trip? (Camping With Henry and Tom)” were examples he provided.  “Once there’s a conception to work with then it’s a matter if you feel comfortable speaking through their ‘voice’ as you imagine it.”



The article continues after this ad

 


St. Germain says he probably has always been a fan of historical fiction.  He mentions the work of Gore Vidal and William Luce’s plays like Belle of Amherst and Barrymore as favorites of his.  Usually an idea for a subject reaches out to him, but “for ten that reach out, after a little thought or investigation, you’re lucky you continue with one idea.  But as Shaw once said, ‘There is nothing funnier than the truth!”

A fan of both The Beatles and John Lennon’s solo work, St. Germain was drawn to Jon Weiner’s book. During the play’s initial New York City run at the DR2 Theatre, Weiner was one of several weekly speakers.  Others included Daniel Berrigan, May Pang, and Leon Wildes — Lennon and Ono’s attorney when the United States was trying to throw them out of the country.

Fans across the world had heard the rumors about the FBI and Lennon, but seeing the actual transcripts still surprised many.  Count St. Germain among those who was not surprised by what he saw. “The paranoia level was very high,” he recalled.  “To trail a Beatle? Yes, it’s definitely J. Edgar Style.  Researching the Einstein play I just finished, I read how the FBI, suspecting him as a spy in World War II, used to pick through his garbage.”

St. Germain points out the absurdity of “trailing a Beatle” yet one of the most famous footnotes in the FBI transcripts (which is used to great comedic effect in Ears On A Beatle) is the official noting that Lennon was a “former member of the Beatles” as if people did not know who he was.  At the time, he was not only one of the most famous people in the world but had one of the most recognizable faces.  Yet, the FBI agents were asked to provide a photo of the subject for identification!

The play begins with the sounds of a rally to free John Sinclair, an American writer and political activist, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lights then reveal Washington Square Park in New York City where the two FBI agents meet for the first time using lyrics from “I Am The Walrus” as a method of password identification.  Within an eye’s view is Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman.   Sure enough John and Yoko soon appear and join them. Everything is noted and recorded by the agents.

“You worked the Bobby Kennedy assassination,” said Daniel, the new recruit.  “Bobby Kennedy was my hero.”

“That’s another word I have problems with,” responds Howard.  With that line a full backstory is created for the character.  Asked if a backstory is intentionally conceived to create extra depth, St. Germain said, “For me, it’s never really conscious until a first draft is over and you have to craft the rewrites.  Pictures can come to you.  Sometimes the end of the play with no idea of what comes before it.  The imagined scene of Howard, disguised as a tech from the phone company, being found by Lennon in his apartment and this encounter turning into a conversation of their pain at being an absent parent moved me.”

The play goes on to explore the personal relationship between the two agents in light of the changing social climate from the early seventies until Lennon’s death in 1980.  As the agents’ outlooks evolve, major news events of the ‘70s fly by, and amazing conspiracy theories bloom.  It’s a fascinating story for any Beatles or Lennon fan.  

St. Germain finished his latest play a week ago.  It’s a fictional work called Wednesday’s Child set around the investigation of a surrogate mother’s murder.  “I thought it would be interesting to examine the issue of abortion from five totally different views as detectives try to find her murderer,” he explained.

As for Lennon, St. Germain still wonders what John would have created in all of this time.  Don’t we all?

 Photo: Emka74 / Shutterstock.com





For more by this author, click here






"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in conjunction with TROIKA Entertainment is will present KINKY BOOTS, the smash-hit musical that brings together four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (Book) and Grammy® Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Tony Award-winner for Best Score for KINKY BOOTS), at Sound Waves in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City from April 30 until May 5 with two performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets starting at $35.00.
The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.


It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.






Event calendar
Friday, Jan 18, 2019


MUSIC

John Forster at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

David Massengill - Folk Concert @ Christ Congregation Church, Princeton - 8:00pm

SAL "THE VOICE" VALENTINETTI @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

The Elvis Birthday Bash @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm







COMEDY

Big Apple Comedy Club @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm


MISC

The Jason Bishop Show to Benefit CASA @ Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University, Glassboro - 7:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.