SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – After years of struggling with his father’s legacy, the son of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone has given voice to his memories of events that shook the Bay Area through a play, “Ghost Light.”
Director Jonathan Moscone and writer Tony Taccone said they did not set out to make a docudrama. Instead the production that opened at Berkeley Repertory Theater on Wednesday presents an imagined history based on the real events.
KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:
“In terms of the realism of the piece, it is a dream play. And it takes place inside of the head and outside of the head of the character Jon Moscone, who is based on me,” Moscone said.
The memories of that character are not his alone, such as the 1978 news conference when then Supervisor Dianne Feinstein stunned the press corps with her announcement that both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were dead.
Taccone said the news spread rapidly, and he still remembers the moment when he heard it. “Somebody rushed in and said somebody’s just shot George Moscone and Harvey Milk.”
That moment also shattered the 14-year-old Moscone’s life.
Growing up, Jonathan Moscone had never been comfortable talking about his father’s assassination. The director of the California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda said he had also been reticent to explore the subject through drama.
“I think I couldn’t have done this any earlier than I have,” he said.
Indeed directing the actors who play him, both as a young man and an adult, was by turns both painful and surreal at times, he said, especially the moments that re-enact his father’s murder.
The play reflects Moscone’s belief that over the last 34 years, the late Harvey Milk had become a mythic martyr while his father was largely forgotten, little more than a name on a convention center or a playground.
“You know, my father locked the California state Senate in their chambers,” the character Jon Moscone recounts in scene 1. In a later scene, the protagonist is surprised the script of a piece about the assassination focuses almost entirely on Milk.
The audience watches Jon Moscone grow up haunted by the absence of his father, eventually coping with that loss as he tries to stage Hamlet using what Taccone called “the fabric and the tapestry of history” to explore the young man’s psyche.
“The play is about how memory shapes us, and how the loss of somebody can create a mythology,” Moscone said.
In bringing “Ghost Light” to the stage, Moscone said he learned how much his father was in fact remembered. And his fictional counterpart experiences a similar catharsis.
“The number of people who’ve told stories about George and come up to me after the show makes me realize that he’s never been forgotten,” Moscone said.
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