Gladney Darroh’s positive can-do spirit shines brightly when he expresses his feelings about today’s American family, whether it’s his own – he raised a son and daughter as a single parent – or one as diverse as HPD’s.
“I’ve broken all the rules, according to theater people,” the writer/producer said. “I have 17 roles, which is too many parts. And they told me the play is too long at two hours and 40 minutes.”
From the beginning Darroh has served as his own producer and picked local equity actors for each of the roles. He pointed out that on Broadway “workshops” designed to iron out problems with plots and dialog can take up to five or six years. He managed to cut that timeframe by four years by conducting his own workshops with the actors in his west side office between Galleria and Greenway Plaza.
The play is loaded with strong characters and features two young girls who reside in a dwelling much like the Harbor. They lost both parents and are vulnerable and ripe for abuse by greedy surviving family members.
Strong Female Roles
Darroh delicately portrays the strength of the older sister, Emily, as well as the strong character of a Hispanic mother trying to handle her husband’s inability to cope with the death of their son and an Anglo widow whose son returns home after suffering a serious war injury that has caused serious self-doubt.
Nine of the 17 cast members are women and nine of the 11-member production staff also are women.
In the cast two other strong women, the daughters of these two moms, contribute to find solutions with the oldest remedy in the book – unconditional love.
Darroh cites the obvious – that these American families are typical of today; they have their flaws and successes, their strengths and fears. The writer has a gay character, a domestic abuse victim, two greedy crooks and an African-American woman who serves as the director of the Children’s Sanctuary, “a loving haven for children of abuse.”
Will the good guys win? Will the songs strum the chords of your heart? Will there be tears that give way to smiles?
Get your tickets while they last!
His son Steven and daughter Ashley have known Wright since attending a Memorial area church with him since their middle school years. All three attended Memorial High School together and Steven and Andrew were roommates at the University of Texas in Austin.
(Steven is doing graduate studies in language and speech pathology at UT-Dallas, while Ashley is a teacher in Colorado).
Wright has a longtime understanding of Darroh’s goals, saying, “I think it is demonstrated by his book and free time as chairman of Boys and Girls Harbor that Gladney has a real passion for at-risk children or children in difficult family situations or as orphans.
“He provides financial support and attention specifically to that organization for kids that may have been forgotten by society. Those concerns and principles are highlighted in the play.
Importance of Children
“His motive with giving away a performance for police officers is very refreshing in this time of lukewarm public sentiment for the men and women in law enforcement.
“He’s obviously a busy guy who has used a lot of financial resources for doing this. The entire purpose of the book and the play results from the outpouring of his love and how important children are.
“That’s the whole reason behind it, not to make money. It’s nice to be well published as an established author. It’s a good production and hopefully people will enjoy it. It’s entertaining; it’s a great story.”
Don Sweat, chief operating officer at Boys and Girls Harbor, said Darroh has always gone the extra mile for the organization. “In the three years I’ve been there I’ve never met anyone more caring about abused, abandoned or neglected children,” Sweat said.
“Prior to me coming he gave a whole cottage to the campus. He was responsible for giving a 4,600-square-foot house for housing eight children. It houses in one end of the cottage can house eight. At the other end of the cottage is where the house parents live along with their children.”
Darroh dedicated his book to Steven and Ashley but also to his mother, Peggy Boyd Darroh – a strong female role model and inspiration for his book and play.
This American Family is set in modern times and focuses on two exceptional families, “one Hispanic and one Anglo, and centered on women of strong character – wives, mothers, daughters, sisters – and the men they love.”
Not only did Darroh write the play, he also wrote the lyrics for songs sung by the main characters. Despite the use of songs, he stressed that the play “is not a musical.” He contacted a Houstonian with current ties to Broadway – Steven Jamail, an award winning New York composer and Rice University Shepherd School of Music graduate. Their professional relationship developed. Jamail composed the music and will lead the small orchestra at all five performances.
Darroh has proven that he is not your average playwright. He used his management skills from the personnel business he founded and oversees as chief executive officer to expedite literally every detail of the entire production.
A Houston native, Darroh is founding president and CEO of Piper-Morgan Associates, a personnel consulting firm specializing in the energy industry. He and his company match the right individual with the right job in the right company environment.
Love and Family
Talking with Darroh, one gets the impression he works hard learning the facts – the ropes, if you will – to bind the right individuals together to comprise an effective business family. As you hear his story, you will see that he doesn’t dawdle and prefers strident moves toward achieving worthy goals.
Besides personnel services, Darroh believes in community service. His passion is Boys and Girls Harbor, a non-profit residential provider for children and families in crises that might include neglect, abandonment or abuse. The organization provides a family environment in a home setting meant to break an often self-destructive chain of experiences.
As the Boys and Girls Harbor board chairman, Darroh was asked to serve longer than the normal two-year term. He’s now in his third year heading the board while making it clear his dedication to the cause truly has no boundaries.
He began his higher education at the University of Houston as a Creative Writing major but soon realized his entrepreneurial spirit was better served with a degree in economics. He says the desire to write, however, remained steadfast.
Darroh authored and self-published his first novel, Women of Uncommon Strength, dedicating royalties to the Harbor. Unlike many contemporary writers, Darroh doesn’t emphasize illicit sex and rampant use of drugs; instead, he describes his work as “a novel of the redeeming power of love.”
Not content with the publication of a book of fiction, the novelist became a playwright, adapting the publication to a two-act play.
Remember, he doesn’t dawdle and has been on a faster track than the slower ones normally found on Broadway or in Hollywood. “The children do not have that much time,” he said. “Their problems need to be addressed as soon as possible.”
Darroh believes the public is sick and tired of sex and violence. “The public is hungry for a wholesome story about themselves on stage dealing with life issues,” he said. “They get through it and out the other side. I think people are hungry for that on stage.”
The exciting culmination of his efforts unfurls at Hobby Center on May 29 with the debut of This American Family in 500-seat Zilkha Hall. All five of the weekend performances, which include both Saturday and Sunday matinees, are sold out and – to no one’s surprise – all proceeds benefit Boys and Girls Harbor.
The Sunday evening performance is dedicated to the members of the Houston Police Officers Union. The author is not asking for contributions; he really wants officers and their families to learn more about the Harbor and perhaps find ways they can get involved if they are so inclined.
Tickets are Free
“There is no ticket price,” HPOU President Ray Hunt explained. “All officers have to do is sign up. There is no money involved. You will have to make your reservations and pick up your tickets at the Boys and Girls Harbor table right before the performance. These tickets will be free to the first 500 who sign up.
“The purpose is to make Houston police officers more aware of Boys and Girls Harbor. If police officers want to be a part of the facility, this is their opportunity to find out more about the operation.
“They should feel free to go out there and volunteer.”
Hunt said the invitees to the Sunday evening performance – the last of the five – also include Houston firefighters and members of the 100 Club of Greater Houston or “basically first responders and people who support the Houston police.”
To sign up go to http://www.thisamericanfamilyplay.com/hpouregistration and follow the directions.
“This is a great wholesome show,” Hunt said. “I’m assured that there’s not even any four-letter words in it. It’s a family-oriented play appropriate for children 10 years old and older.
“Gladney is a genuine person, that’s for sure. His son grew up with a Houston police officer, Andrew Wright, a lawyer who works in Legal Services.”
Darroh called Houston police officers as “very service-oriented people who put their lives on the line every day. They perform thankless tasks every day. These are just the kind of people I want to know about the Harbor.”