Radio Golf

Setting:  1997
Written:  2005
Huntington Production:  2006

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Curriculum Guide


  • ELDER JOSEPH “OLD JOE” BARLOW: Recently returned to the Hill District where he was born in 1918. Although ostensibly as harmless as he is homespun, his temperament belies a life checkered by run-ins with the law and a series of wives. He sees and calls things plainly, requires little and seeks only harmony.
  • HARMOND WILKS: Real-estate developer seeking mayoral candidacy. He grew up a privileged and responsible son of the Hill District and intends to bring the neighborhood back from urban blight through gentrification, while making a fortune in the process. He cares about the city of Pittsburgh, the neighborhood and its people, but is caught between what is politically expedient and what is morally and ethically just.
  • ROOSEVELT HICKS: Bank vice president and avid golfer, as well as Harmond’s business partner and college roommate. Roosevelt is preoccupied with his financial status and getting green time. He values the end result of a transaction more than the practical or spiritual virtues of a job well done. Had he any time for self-reflection, he might describe himself favorably as a consummate materialist and conspicuous consumer.
  • MAME WILKS: Harmond’s wife of more than twenty years and a professional public relations representative. She is focused on Harmond’s success, as well as her own, and is confident that she has the proper plan to achieve both. Firm, independent and ambitious, her love of and belief in her husband are tested by his struggle to stay focused and on message.
  • STERLING JOHNSON: Self-employed contractor and neighborhood handyman who robbed a bank thirty years ago. Sterling and Harmond attended the same parochial school as boys, but the economically disadvantaged Sterling chose in youthful recklessness to rob a bank rather than build one. Now an older, reformed pragmatist, Sterling finds pride in his work and in his independence. 

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Act I Scene 1:  Harmond Wilks and his wife, Mame, enter his new office in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.  Harmond sells real estate and plans to run for mayor of Pittsburgh.  He and his business partner are planning a large redevelopment project in the Hill District and this will be the construction office.  A public relations representative, Mame is immediately turned off by both the general state of the building and the location.  “How am I supposed to get the TV trucks to come up to the Hill?  They won’t drive up here until there’s been a shooting.”  But Harmond is insistent that the symbolism of having his business’s office in the Hill District is vitally important to his mayoral campaign.  His business partner, Roosevelt Hicks, enters with an artist’s rendering of their redevelopment project.  He and Harmond plan to gentrify the neighborhood with a large complex that will house apartments, markets, coffee shops, and bookstores, and they hope to rename the area Bedford Hills.  Among Harmond’s projects is the renaming of the local Model Cities Health Center as the Sarah Degree Health Center, in honor of the first black registered nurse in the city.  Harmond is convinced that the Democratic Party will fall in line behind him as soon as he announces his candidacy and the city will support his company’s projects.  Roosevelt is mostly concerned with riding his friend’s coattails.

Harmond and Roosevelt discuss the golf camp Roosevelt is running.  He is passionate about getting kids “to know what it feels like to hit a golf ball.”  He thinks that when young people try it out, they will discover the same feeling that he did—that of having a chance at life and that all options are open.  “You don’t have to hide and crawl under a rock just ‘cause you black.”

Sterling Johnson enters, looking for construction work.  He recognizes Harmond Wilks as an old grade school friend.  The two men reflect on incidents of the past.  Harmond did not serve in Vietnam because he was in school.  Sterling did not serve in Vietnam because he was in jail for robbing a bank.  Harmond tells Sterling of his plan to revitalize the neighborhood and Sterling rejects it.  “How you gonna bring it back?” he asks.  “It’s dead…What you mean is you gonna put something else in its place.  Say that.  But don’t talk about bringing the Hill back.  The Hill District’s dead.”  Sterling has no resume to show Harmond other than pointing out local examples of his work.  He leaves his phone number with Harmond and Roosevelt, who say they can use him and will give him a call.

Harmond and Roosevelt discuss a man who they saw painting a house that is scheduled to be torn down.  Roosevelt told him to stop because it’s private property but the man insists on painting it, even though it has been abandoned for twelve years.  Roosevelt leaves to go to the bank for his new business cards because he needs them to pass out at the golf course.  “Without them cards they’ll think I’m the caddie.”

Scene 2:  Elder Joseph Barlow, aka Old Joe, enters the office, saying that he is looking for some Christian people.  He needs a lawyer because he has been charged with fraud.  Harmond tells him to go to Hill House for help.  Old Joe is skeptical of whether an African American like Harmond could become mayor.  Harmond insists that times have changed and that his redevelopment of the Hill is going to help propel his candidacy.

Roosevelt enters.  He recognizes Old Joe as the man he told to stop painting the abandoned house.  Roosevelt and Old Joe argue about whether or not Bedford Hills Redevelopment owns the house, located at 1839 Wylie Avenue.  Old Joe claims he owns it and was fixing it up for his daughter, who wants to live there.  Old Joe reveals that when the police came, they issued him a misdemeanor summons for vandalism.  Harmond calls the police station and has the summons dismissed.  Old Joe shows them his deed to the house but Roosevelt has a demolition order that supercedes it.  Old Joe leaves. 

Roosevelt tells Harmond he’s been invited to play golf with a man named Bernie Smith.  Roosevelt is excited about this because “Bernie Smith don’t play golf with just anybody.”  He is convinced that he can get something good out of his time with Smith.  Roosevelt has his new business cards to reflect his new promotion at work and is optimistic that things are going his way.

Scene 3:  In the office, Mame helps Harmond edit the speech he will give to announce his candidacy for mayor.  It will be printed in the Post-Gazette and Mame wants to take out the part that mentions a three-year-old incident in which an innocent man was shot by a policeman, who subsequently received a promotion.  Harmond is insistent that it should stay in.  In the midst of their argument, Old Joe enters and reports that Harmond’s car has been broken into.  Harmond heads outside to investigate. 

Old Joe tells Mame that he is looking for some Christian people and needs to speak to Harmond, who is his lawyer.  When Harmond returns, he says that his golf clubs have been stolen, but nothing else.  He laments the loss, having purchased them twelve years prior when he started playing golf.  He declines to make an insurance claim or call the police.  Instead, he calls the Post-Gazette and tells them to publish his speech in its entirety.  Mame exits, disappointed. 

Old Joe says that went he went downtown to get his deed, he was told that Harmond had it because he bought the house.  The city sold 1839 Wylie Avenue when Old Joe did not pay the back taxes on it.  Old Joe says he got the house from his mother, who said they didn’t pay taxes.  Harmond tells him that everyone needs to pay taxes and that it is within the city’s rights to seize and sell the abandoned property of people who are delinquent on their taxes.  Old Joe questions whether Harmond will be the kind of mayor who puts “the big man on one side and the little man on the other,” and Harmond agrees to look into Old Joe’s case. 

Roosevelt enters, bragging about his performance on the golf course.  Old Joe takes this as his cue to leave.  Roosevelt reveals that Bernie Smith wants to partner with him to buy WBTZ radio for an undervalued price.  The current owner will get a tax incentive called a Minority Tax Certificate for selling to them.  Harmond says Bernie Smith is using Roosevelt as a black face on the deal and warns that Smith is not to be trusted.  But Roosevelt counters that he’s just using an opportunity to get his foot in the door.  Even though he doesn’t know anything about radio, he sees a profitable opportunity.

Scene 4:  Mame announces that it looks like she will be hired as a PR representative for the governor.  There are still a few more interviews but the governor’s office said they are simply formalities.  She goes over options for slogans for Harmond’s campaign, then heads out to have designers begin working on poster ideas.  Sterling enters, reading Harmond’s speech printed in the newspaper.  He wants to check on the status of the construction job he discussed with Harmond and explains that he’s “been going in the back doors all my life ‘cause they don’t never let me in the front.”  Old Joe enters and he and Sterling talk about old businesses that have been torn down or boarded up and are still empty.  Old Joe’s house that he is trying to save is revealed to be Aunt Ester’s house.  Old Joe sees Harmond’s flag pin and the two men reflect on those they knew who died under the American flag in the military.  Old Joe reveals papers that say Harmond’s father was paying the taxes on the house.

Scene 5:  Roosevelt tells Harmond that he has felt Bernie Smith out and that they should be able to bring him on as a partner if the federal money doesn’t come through for the redevelopment project.  Harmond is confident that the money will come through.  However, he tells Roosevelt that the sale of Old Joe’s house was not legal because it was purchased before it went to auction.  This means that Old Joe must be compensated.  He has not yet figured out why his own father was paying the taxes on the house.  Roosevelt is unconcerned.  He is equally unconcerned with his boss at the bank’s recent dissatisfaction with his job performance.

Sterling enters and demands to be paid for the gallon of paint he used to paint the door of 1839 Wylie Avenue, which has now been marked with a giant X.  Harmond pays him but insists that no matter what, they will be tearing the house down, and wonders why Sterling would bother to paint it anyway.  Sterling says that Old Joe hired him to do it.  He is prepared to defend the house against Harmond and Roosevelt’s insistence on demolishing it.  “You the cowboys.  I’m the Indians.  See who win this war.”

Act II Scene 1:  Harmond sits in the construction office, listening to Roosevelt’s new radio show, “Radio Golf.”  Sterling enters with a flyer for a paint party he has organized to paint Aunt Ester’s house at 1839 Wylie Avenue.  He reflects on how Aunt Ester helped him and many other people and how horrible it would be to tear down her house.  He exits briefly and returns with Harmond’s golf clubs.  He paid $20 for them and will sell them back to Harmond for $20.  Harmond gives him the money for his clubs.  Sterling asks him, “You get to be mayor is you gonna be mayor of the black folks or the white folks?”  When Harmond says he will be the mayor for everyone, Sterling explains that the white mayor helps the white neighborhoods of Pittsburgh but neglects the black ones.  Harmond reasserts that he has a plan to help the city as a whole, not just one group or the other.

Old Joe enters and Harmond gives him a check for $10,000 in compensation for the house.  Old Joe doesn’t want it.  He’d rather keep his house.  Harmond says that regardless of what Old Joe wants, the house will be torn down on Thursday to make way for his company’s redevelopment project.  Even if the city had not sold the house, Old Joe would still owe $12,000 in back taxes.  Old Joe again refuses to take Harmond’s money but says he can only pay $100 per month towards the taxes and doesn’t know if he’ll live long enough to pay them off completely.  He also mentions that he needs a new roof first.  Old Joe exits.  Sterling points out that in buying back his golf clubs, Harmond is technically guilty of receiving stolen property.  He says that taking Old Joe’s house is the same thing. 

Scene 2:  Roosevelt is fully invested in his work at the radio station and tells Harmond that he quit his job at the bank.  Harmond reports that he went to 1839 Wylie Avenue and looked around inside.  He was struck by how special and unique the house was.  He has come up with a plan to adjust their redevelopment to preserve the house within the new structure.  Because they don’t legally own the house they must build around it.  Roosevelt rejects the idea and says that the house will be demolished at 10 a.m. on Thursday whether they own it or not.  Roosevelt exits.

Harmond calls the demolition company and tells them not to come.  Moments later, Old Joe enters and gives Harmond $100.  Harmond gives him back the money, telling him they will not be tearing down the house.  He shows Old Joe a rendering of the new construction plans.  Harmond will transfer the deed to Old Joe, but Old Joe must keep up with the taxes from now on.  Harmond discovered that his father’s paying the taxes was a continuation of what his grandfather, Caesar Wilks, started.  It is revealed that Old Joe’s mother, Ester Tyler, used to be named Black Mary.  Harmond’s grandfather, Caesar, had a sister named Black Mary.  The two men discover that they are blood relatives.

Scene 3:  Mame and Roosevelt sit in the office, discussing their concern for Harmond.  He has been obsessed with talking about his family and wants to move back into the house he grew up in on the Hill.  Mame is firmly against the idea.  Harmond enters a few moments later.  Mame tries to persuade him to postpone the groundbreaking and go away to San Francisco or the Caribbean to relax for a few days.  Harmond says he can’t go anywhere until after the campaign and plans to keep the groundbreaking on schedule.  But Roosevelt says there have been serious complications from the change in plans.  Some of the businesses that are supposed to be part of the new complex are upset at the loss of retail space and parking that resulted from the redesign.  The federal money is in jeopardy due to the changes in their construction plans and Roosevelt thinks the challenge of renting the apartment units will be even greater with Aunt Ester’s house at the front of the building.

Harmond is resolute that they cannot tear down the house and believes that anyone who is upset about the changes will calm down in time.  In an effort to discredit Old Joe, Roosevelt presents Harmond with Old Joe’s rap sheet.  When Harmond dismisses the information, Roosevelt says he has had the demolition rescheduled for Thursday.  Harmond says they cannot demolish a building they do not own and will go to the courthouse to file and injunction to stop it from happening.  When Roosevelt warns that there could be serious consequences for Harmond’s career and reputation if the illegal sale becomes public, Harmond tells him, “You got to have rule of law.  Otherwise it would be chaos.  Nobody wants to live in chaos.”

Scene 4:  Harmond sits in the office alone, fending off phone calls requesting interviews with him.  Mame enters and he tells her they need to put together a statement about the pending injunction for the press.  Despite the bulldozers positioned nearby, people are still planning on having a paint party there on Thursday morning.  Mame laments Harmond’s choices, saying that he could have become mayor if he had just followed the plan.  As a result of his choices, she is out of the running for the job with the governor.  She is devastated and says he is on his own with the campaign and the redevelopment.  She exits.

Sterling enters, reading a newspaper article about Harmond’s accusations of illegal property sales and admission of involvement in such dealings.  It states that the news may put Harmond’s candidacy for mayor in jeopardy.  Roosevelt enters.  He and Sterling clash over racial identity, money, and class.  Sterling dips his fingers into a can of paint and puts war paint on his face.  “We on the battlefield now,” he says before exiting.

Roosevelt tells Harmond that the judge has dismissed the temporary injunction and the house will be demolished at 10:15.  Harmond is shocked.  He is angry that the rules are always changing and Harmond does not want to live like that any more.  Roosevelt says he is going to buy Harmond out.  It is in their business’s charter that “if one of the partners jeopardizes that business by straying from the company’s initial charter the other person can force the sale to protect the company’s financing structure.”  Harmond deduces that Roosevelt will use money from Bernie Smith to do it.  He says that once again, just as with the radio station, Smith is using Roosevelt as the minority face on a profitable business deal.  Roosevelt collects his things from his desk and leaves.  Harmond picks up a paintbrush and exits to join the paint party. 

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