'A Rose' of a tale: Phinney Ridge resident brings his family saga to the stage

A strange but true family saga reminiscent of the film "It's A Wonderful Life" has inspired Phinney Ridge resident Kevin Moriarty's Irish-American play "A Rose for Danny."

The three-act play is based on a 1957 incident that happened during Moriarty's childhood in Seattle, in which his grandfather, 74-year-old Jack McCoy, arrived at their doorstep.

The family had believed McCoy to be dead, as a partly decomposed body was found floating in a Yakima irrigation ditch was mistakenly identified as McCoy. His relatives had grieved for him at a funeral a month before his appearance.

The grandfather's arrival, which led newspapers to coin the term "the real McCoy," gave the McCoys and their in-laws an opportunity to make one final effort to come together as a family and forgive each other.

The play recently was honored as one of the top four entries in the Christians in Theatre Arts' national playwriting contest.

A shared story

Upon first reading, "'A Rose for Danny' is the story of an Irish-American family caught between the grandfather's uprooted status as immigrant and his children's desire to move on into the future of America," noted screen actor Michael Moriarty (no relation to Kevin Moriarty), in a letter of recommendation for the play. "Families of all races who have seen the play remark that it sings the melancholy song of almost all American families, regardless of race, creed or color."

Although the play centers on Moriarty's own family, he has received several responses from audience members who can relate to the play.

"The response that I've had from it tells me that it's worthy of a life after me," said Kevin Moriarty, who noted that both a 17-year old with piercings and a woman in her 80s told him that the play reminded them of their own families. "I think that it transcends generations."

The play, which Moriarty started writing in 1998, has been revised five times over. To date, the play has been performed in a staged reading arranged by the Shoreline Arts Council at the old Shoreline High School and in a workshop production and a fully mounted production at the Shoreline Community Center.

On March 13 at 8 p.m., the play will get a second reading at Green Lake's Seattle Public Theater (SPT), 7312 W. Green Lake Drive N. The play marks the first reading series event for SPT since 2004. The cast of readers include such actors as Irish-born Sean Griffin, TV actress Lauren Tewes and Shoreline Community College's drama/cinema studies instructor Tony Doupe.

"Things have been cut and things have been adjusted to make it what I think is a more interesting play," Moriarty said. "It's grown. I think it's a more mature piece."

Moriarty hopes to have "A Rose for Danny" produced at one of Seattle's professional theater and eventually adapt the script into a screenplay.

A loving portrayal

Doupe, also director and co-producer of the reading, has been involved with the play since its original reading.

"He has really been the heart and soul of bringing it to life," Moriarty said.

Doupe, a Lake City resident who grew up in the University District and attended Roosevelt High School, enjoys the Seattle history in the play, as well as its philosophy of the importance of family, forgiveness and unconditional love.

"Every time we go into rehearsal we find new things," Doupe said.

Many of the play's characters are amalgamations of Moriarty's family members on both sides. "This is not a mirror image of people," he said, adding that when members of his family saw the play, they recognized the characteristics of several different family members melded into one character. "They saw it as a loving portrayal."

Now, at age 52, Moriarty has five children. He has written a few other plays, including his latest, a one-act comedy called "O! My Godfather."

But "A Rose for Danny," he notes, has given him a feeling of completion. While the "rose" in the play's title is symbolic of a promise, he explained, it is also about him revisiting something in his past that, at the time, seemed sharp and painful but, over time, became beautiful.

While conducting research for the play, Moriarty started to understand more about his own family and why his mother and her sisters would not talk about their histories and their animosity toward their father.[[In-content Ad]]