Starring Willem Dafoe, Russell Banks, Don DeLillo, Barry Gifford, Rick Kogan, Martha Lavey, Randall Newsome, Kathy Scambiatterra, and Dan Simon
Directed by Oscar Bucher
Produced by Oscar Bucher and Dan Simon
73 Min. 2016
Willem Dafoe and Barry Gifford star in Nelson Algren Live, a staged reading of some of Nelson Algren’s greatest and least known works, performed live at the Steppenwolf Theatre.
One of the most neglected American writers and also one of the best loved, novelist Nelson Algren wrote about the dark underbelly of post-war America before it was ever fashionable to do so. He wrote about Chicago, his Chicago, the city, the corruption, the crime and the characters lost among its neon wilderness. Best known for the novel The Man with the Golden Arm, which later became a film starring Frank Sinatra, Algren was a bard of the down-and-outer, boldly depicting the life of the city’s drunks, pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, corrupt politicians, hoodlums and prize fighters. Despite his incredible body of work, much of Algren’s writing has yet to be discovered by new generations. On what would have been his 100th birthday, a group of writers and actors gathered at Chicago's acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater to premiere Nelson Algren Live—a celebration of Algren’s life and work in his own words. This staged reading stars Willem Dafoe as down-and-out card dealer Frankie Machine from The Man with the Golden Arm and punchdrunk prizefighter Blackie Cavanaugh, from The Lightless Room which is presented here as the first public reading of Algren’s newly discovered short story. The film version of the reading combines these masterful performances with the gritty period photography of Art Shay to illuminate Algren’s dark yet compassionate stories like never before.