Dan Clancy didn’t really know what his play “The Timekeepers” – opening in previews Thursday, Oct. 24 – was about until years after he wrote it.
Produced by Island City Stage in Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage theater, the drama set during the Holocaust had a critically acclaimed run off-Broadway in 2006 before being produced in 17 countries, including Israel, South Africa, the U.K. and Germany.
“I was in Berlin and I was in the gay section and there was this small plaque,” Clancy says from his home in Fort Lauderdale. “It said, ‘For the gays and lesbians who died under the Nazi regime, beaten to death and never again mentioned.’ And I read that and realized why I had written the play 10 years after I had written the play.”
“The Timekeepers” follows an uneasy friendship between a Jewish concentration camp prisoner who survives using his skills repairing watches and an extroverted gay hustler who fast-talks his way into the workroom.
But Clancy says that while he now knows why, he still has no idea where the idea came from.
“Which is very unusual,” he explains. “Usually I know the seed of where the play comes from. I don’t know about this though; it just came. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I don’t question it.”
After doing research, he discovered the reason homosexuals were “never again mentioned” was that their families saw them as criminals. “The saddest thing is that someone who was gay could be sent to a concentration camp, then freed from a concentration camp after the war was over, and then the Germans sent them back to prison for four or five years until their sentence was completed. This is mind-boggling.”
Clancy started writing plays as a junior high drama teacher in New York. He says he couldn’t find age-appropriate material that required a large cast. “I had 36 kids in the class…and what was available was for four or five parts. Basically, playwrighting came out of a need.”
The retired teacher/administrator went on to write musicals (“108 Waverly”) and plays (“Volunteer Man,” “Proposition 8”) and has an acting role in the indie-film “L’Absinthe” making the film festival rounds. He and his partner, a retired psycho-therapist, spend six months here in South Florida and the other six in New York City.
“I really want to thank Island City Stage for taking a chance on the play,” Clancy adds. “They are really playing it unsafe with me.”
“The Timekeepers” runs through Nov. 24 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, Fort Lauderdale. 8 p.m. Thursdays–Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets $30. To order, call 954-519-2533 or visit IslandCityStage.org.