'Lost Tempo' by Cliff Odle


The New England Theatre Geek

Meditations on Incorporation: “Lost Tempo.” Review by Kitty Drexel


The Theater Mirror

'Lost Tempo'  Hits All the Right Notes. Review by James Wilkinson


The Boston Globe

'Lost Tempo' hits the right notes. Review by Don Aucoin



A while back I was an understudy for August Wilson’s King Hedley II at the Huntington Theatre starring Tony Todd and Ella Joyce with Marion McClinton directing. (I even went on stage for a week when the actor I was covering, Russell Wilson, got sick. This was also my second time working with Wilson. I was previously an assistant to stage management for 7 Guitars while I was a directing grad student at BU. Directed by Lloyd Richards and featuring Viola Davis, Keith David, and Zakes Mokae.) Legendary jazz drummer Max Roach was brought in to write music for the show when it got to New York. I was blessed to have several discussions with Mr. Roach about his music and the many people he had worked with including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and of course Clifford Brown. I had always had an appreciation for jazz, but talking with him opened a whole new world for me. I became a big fan of the jazz genres of the 1940s and 1950s, but particularly Hard Bop (examples include Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock). It’s also important to note that these musicians rarely referred to themselves by their genre titles. For the most part, they simply played jazz.

1959, when the main action of the play takes place, saw some of the most important jazz recordings of the 20th century released. It was the year of “Kind of Blue” from Miles Davis, “Giant Steps” from John Coltrane, “Time Out” from Dave Brubeck and “Anatomy of a Murder” from Duke Ellington. For this play, my biggest inspirations were “The Shape of Jazz to Come” by Ornette Coleman, “Mingus Ah Um” from Charles Mingus, and “Blowin’ the Blues Away” by Horace Silver all released in the same year. The irony, however, is that jazz was no longer considered the “cutting edge” music by the public as it once was. The huge reactions to the deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in a plane crash was evidence that young White audiences were pulling away from jazz and finding their reflective voices in Rock and Roll and Folk music, while young Black audiences were soon to be drawn to the music of Motown, which also opened up shop that year. Throughout all these changes, jazz artists kept pushing the envelope and expanding the very definition of music itself.

The history of the late 50s has been a time period that has held a particular fascination for me. For many, it is remembered as an innocent, nostalgic calm before the storm of the 1960s. In truth, so much was broiling underneath the surface of the white picket fences, ‘57 Chevys, and poodle skirts that people associate with this period. This is the time when the Civil Rights movement was getting into gear and it was at a particularly dangerous and perilous time for people struggling to make this country live up to its promises. Emmitt Till was martyred and his mother made sure that everyone saw the damage Jim Crow did to her son at his funeral. People were just getting to know Martin Luther King and there was no guarantee that the movement he was leading would have an impact. Despite the violence surrounding the integration of Little Rock High School, most Americans preferred to go slow…real slow, on the concept of racial integration. Many more preferred that the issue would just go away. Before African Americans tried to reclaim a sense of their own agency with the Black Power or Black is Beautiful movements of the 60s, the Nation of Islam arrived spreading a message of self-defense and self-reliance for Black folks. That year Americans were introduced to NOI through a documentary produced by Mike Wallace and Louis Lomax called, The Hate that Hate Produced. This show was critical in bringing to the public spotlight Louis X (Later Louis Farrakhan) and Malcolm X. Also in the background was the Cuban Revolution, Masters and Johnson’s Human Sexual Response, and the premiere of The Twilight Zone.

I found New York to be the perfect intersection for all of these events and ideas coming together. However, underneath all this in the specter of addiction, which was probably as much of a problem then as it is now. That year the consequences of addiction caught up with Billie Holiday and saxophonist Lester Young. Previous to that, heroin and other substances played a part in the deaths of pianist Carl Perkins, trumpet player Fats Navarro, and the most famous example, saxophonist Charlie Parker. Other musicians like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Chet Baker would survive this period but always lived with the shadow of their addictions not too far behind. Although addictions to opioids remains a priority issue for health officials and politicians today, it was a problem easily swept under the rug during the 1950s. Back then, addiction was not a “disease,” but a weakness of character. The victim was assigned all the blame. There were very few places for an addict to go for help. Narcan was not even a glimmer in anyone’s eye and although Methadone existed, the clinics used to administer it were a decade away. The only “treatments” an addict could hope for was incarceration. For a musician, that meant a loss of work and possibly the only legal way that they would get money to help them cope with their hunger. For all of the warm nostalgia that the 1950s inspires in people, there was a cold comfort towards anyone who was perceived as “weak” or “different.” I find this “cold comfort” returning to our present political and social discourse. Today, ideas such as compassion and understanding are in short supply,  particularly at a time when we need them most. On the other hand, this emotional distance could not compete with the changes that were taking place in the shadow of the 1950s. That’s where I like to think my play is taking people. Into the shadows of the 1950s.

History is something that we think we’re moving away from, when, in truth, we carry it with us, no matter if we choose to see it or not.

-Cliff Odle 10/4/17

Productions of Lost Tempo

October 5-22, 2017

Boston Playwrights' Theatre

Directed by Diego Arciniegas

Lost Tempo apparel

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Production History

Lost Tempo Boston Playwrights Theatre (2017)

Thesis Project, Reading - Boston University (2006)

Wed. Reading Series – Whistler in the Dark, Boston (2010)

Crucible of a Hero One Page Play Festival (2013)

Relationship of Demand One Page Play Festival (2013)

Scholar’s Program (re-writes) Freedom Trail Foundation (2013 - ongoing)

The Delicate Art of Customer Service New Urban Theatre Lab, Boston (2012)

Think Twice Deana’s Educational Theatre Co. (2011 – ongoing)

The Lesson Deana’s Educational Theatre Co. (2011 – ongoing)

Slammin’ the Bones (reading) Another Country Productions (2011)

Our Girl in Trenton Boston University – College of Performing Arts (2013)

Our Girl in Trenton (Reading – Full length) Central Square Theatre (2012)

Our Girl in Trenton (10 min. vers.) Another Country Productions, Boston (2011)

June Rembrandt  Stony Hill Players, Summit NJ (1994)

The Delicate Art of Customer Service Jersey Voices One Act Festival (1996)

Attic Ensemble, Wayne NJ (1996)

Twists of Sobriety Reading - Horizon Theatre, Chatham NJ (1996)

The Ahern Fox Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (2007)

The Nine Who Dared: Crisis in Little Rock Commissioned Project – Theatre Espresso (2008 – ongoing)

Running the Bulls New Urban Theatre Laboratory, Boston (2010 – w/ Mr. Glass)

Slam Boston Festival – Company One (2009)

New Urban Theatre Lab oratory, Boston (2009)

Motel Therapy Boston Theatre Marathon (2010)