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NPR’s Jack Beatty writes his first play

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Jack Beatty has worn many hats as a journalist and author.
Jack Beatty has worn many hats as a journalist and author.Alex Kingsbury

Jack Beatty has always been a history buff. That led to an illustrious career in journalism, writing and editing articles on economics, politics, and international relations for The Atlantic Monthly.

Beatty, 71, who now lives in Hanover, N.H., is currently a news analyst for the syndicated National Public Radio show "On Point." He's also written many books, and now has added playwright to his resume.

"The Battle Not Begun: Munich 1938," will be presented as a staged reading at the new Stage 284 Black Box Lab at The Community House in Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. on March 5.

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The three-act work is about what happened when Adolph Hitler and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met three times prior to World War II.

The Munich Pact, which was signed by Chamberlain to avert the outbreak of war, eventually led to Germany's conquest of Czechoslovakia. In 1939, when Hitler's troops invaded Poland, Chamberlain declared war against Germany and World War II began.

"I always felt the metaphor of Munich had an affect on American foreign policy," Beatty said. "You have to be willing to fight a war to maintain future credibility to prevent a future war."

It's when Beatty, who has written many scholarly books, met Myriam Cyr that his writing path changed.

"He sent me this tome of 40,000 words, which is basically a novel or a seven-hour play," said Cyr. "I called him and said 'Jack, you are an amazing writer and have a strong theater voice. You have to turn this into a play.' "

Working together, Beatty and Cyr — who has a long career as an actress and director — got it down to 15,000 words.

"You know what is going to happen, but it is still a gripping drama," said Cyr, of Beverly, who directs the show. "That speaks to how powerfully and profoundly Jack writes.

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"The subject is so salient for our time and what is happening today. It shows us that at the end of the day, it's about character."

The performance features professional actors and is followed by a discussion between Beatty and political consultant Michael Goldman.

"It's nice to bring this new voice to the theater," said Cyr. "I feel privileged. A staged reading is an amazing opportunity for people to see a work as it is being born, and then track the journey of the play."

Beatty said playwriting might be his new career path. "It's a lot easier than writing long, scholarly books that take years and years and that nobody reads," he said. "If I get any applause at all, I may be tempted to continue. "


Wendy Killeen can be reached at wdkilleen@gmail.com.