Lenny Schwartz does whatever a Spider can!

The Daydream Theatre and TheatreLab NYC present DITKO, a play Written & Directed by Lenny Schwartz on October 1 & 2nd 2019 at 7:30pm Tickets: $15 in advance at Ovationtix.com and $20 at the door the location of TheatreLab is 357 WEST 36th STREET 3RD FLOOR – NEW YORK

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Ditko tells the story of Steve Ditko, a comic book illustrator virtually forgotten by the masses, but celebrated by comic book fans everywhere,” reads the description. “Chronicling his rise in the comic book industry, Dtiko is instrumental in Marvel’s success by co-creating two of comics most iconic characters, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange and several of DC’s silver age icons, Hawk and Dove, Shade the Changing Man, and the Creeper. Ditko also worked for virtually every other publisher of note including Warren, Charlton, Pacific, and Eclipse, co-creating other iconic characters like Mr. A, the Question and Blue Beetle.”

The cast includes Derek Laurendeau, Geoff White, Emily Lamarre, Samantha Acampora, Nick Tvaroha, Dave Almeida,Tonia Klemp, o, Christopher Ferreira, Mindy Britto, Jonah Coppolelli, Timothy DeLisle and Anne Wareham Bowman. DITKO is written and directed by Lenny Schwartz. The Production Manager is Lauren Arneson. Poster Design by Josh Lynch

DITKO is written and directed by Lenny Schwartz so we went to the man himself … not Stan, the man, but Lenny, the man! 

Tell us about yourself as an artist – and comic book fan?

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Oh gosh. Well, I’m a playwright and screenwriter from North Scituate RI. I have written over thirty plays and at least 15 screenplays with about ten produced through various film companies. I’m also a reviewer for Forces of Geek and I run the Daydream Theatre Company where I do about two shows a year in RI and one in NYC. Sometimes more! I started collecting comics full time in 1986 and never looked back. I read everything. You name it. I read it. I love the comic book art form and even have a graphic novel I wrote coming out in 2020. 

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Why Ditko and not Kirby or Kane or Romita?

When I was young, I loved Spider-Man. I mean, I still do. But I related to him in some many ways. Peter Parker felt like me. And as I read everything I could with Spidey I came across those first 38 issues of Spider-Man (as well as Amazing Fantasy#15 and the two annuals he did) They hold up to this day. They are brilliant. And they are Ditko. 

You ask anyone on the street who isn’t a comic book fan who created Spider-Manx and nine times out of ten they are going to say “Stan Lee.” That seems wrong to me. Without at Steve Ditko, there is no Spider-Man. No visual. No characteristics.  And he did MANY other things. Many other works. All of them are astonishing. 

He deserves to be recognized or what he did and his life needs to be honored. It’s an injustice if he’s not. 

As much as I love Romita, I’m not sure he needs a bio play or that I’m the one to write it.

Kirby already had a BRILLIANT play done by Crystal Skillman and Fred Van Lente…I don’t need to write that one as it’s been done and I couldn’t touch their brilliance there.(although I will say Kirby is a character in Ditko). 

And Bob Kane? Well, I’m more of a Bill Finger guy(the guy who cocreated Batman and finally got his credit in 2015)I did write a play about the creation of Batman called Co-Creator. It was performed first in 2015 and had another production last year. But not in NYC.

But I want to bring it to NYC next year. There was a huge injustice again that happened there and while it was corrected , it took over 70 years. There’s still a story that needs to be told. And we should continue to honor Bill. More to come. 

Did you encounter any obstacles or shocking discoveries in your research? 

Nothing too shocking on this one. I will say that I’ve always admired Ditko and it was a sheer pleasure doing the research and a hell of a lot of fun. There are one or two things but…see the show!

Ditko wasn’t supposed to draw Spiderman. Do you think having him create the first visual helped the character enter history in such a way? 

Honestly, without Ditko doing the art, Spider-Man  wouldn’t be imprinted into the public consciousness the way he is. The first impression is always the art and that’s Ditko. So, to be honest…it’s a fifty-fifty collaboration between Ditko and Stan Lee. He’s a part of that history. If we celebrate Stan Lee we have to celebrate Ditko. Same with Jack Kirby. Same with every comic book character somebody had a hand in. Nothing less. 

How has the comic book community embraced the show so far? 

I think you might be asking if the comic book industry embraced the show? But it’s been great. A lot of enthusiasm. There’s been a few people that said that Ditko was a private person and that he would have hated the play. And Steve would have. He might even have called it a poison pill. But history is quick to forget people like Ditko. And we cannot let this happen. I had a young man this week watch the first act of the show, and he wasn’t a comic fan. He asked me after “how much of this is true?” And I told him “it all is.”  His mind was blown because he thought that Stan Lee created Spider-Man alone and had no idea that there was a Ditko. That’s not right. We have a responsibility as comic fans and as genuine human beings to tell the story. And to know the history. And to honor this man. 

What’s next.

Next up is a play about Fredric Wertham called A Seduction of the Innocent that is opening in RI in November 2019. After that is a play in Spring 2020 about the Gun culture in America. And then I really want to bring the Bill Finger story to NYCC in 2020. 

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