Spotlight from Roy Schreiber, author of The Optimist and Hollywood – Red, White and Blue
The Optimist is a play. So why did it become an audio book? Two reasons. The first has to do with my education after I became a history professor. With a mother and uncle both fired from their jobs for being Communists, I’d already had a first-hand education in how the world works. Although I didn’t admit it to myself at the time, perhaps I wanted to hide in the educational ivory tower, away from the unpredictable real world. I really, really got that wrong.
The Optimist shows how wrong I got it. Let’s start with the faculty union. Despite years of effort, despite massive evidence that the university administrators often cared more for their own well being than anyone else on campus, the vast majority of the faculty would not join a union. As I think back on it now, perhaps the failure at unionization has something to do with the odd nature of so many of my colleagues. One professor really did believe that in a former life he had been Henry VIII. Inevitably his second wife of many did believe she was a modern version of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.
The Optimist becoming an audio book is the logical end of this story. Since this is most assuredly one of those times when truth is stranger than fiction, doing a factual article for some magazine or journal looked like a sure way to pile up rejection notices. Actually one playhouse turned down The Optimist because an artistic director thought the Henry VIII/Anne Boleyn reappearance was unbelievable. With the help of the professional, talented actors who portray these people, my hope is listeners will find The Optimist both convincing and enjoyable.
(P.S. For those who want to find out more about my family’s Communists, checkout Hollywood – Red, White and Blue as either a paperback or audiobook.)
After college (UCLA and University of London) Roy Schreiber spent a good deal of time teaching British History at a branch campus of Indiana University.
Like all the other professors, he wrote academic books, biographies of people only about fifty other academics in the world would recognize. It seemed like a lot of effort for a small audience, so he switched to more popular topics including Captain William Bligh and the U.S. during the Red Scare of the 1950s.
Besides books, he has also published short stories and had plays produced for the stage and for radio/podcast. With The Optimist, he uses his early academic career for his current interest.