Richard Gordon knows just how he's going to spend the $5,000 prize money he's won for "The Bulldog and the Bear," which ran off with the honors in this year's American College Theater Festival, the Michael Kanin Playwriting Award for the best student-written play and the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award for the best play dealing with the black experience. The 45-year-old probation officer in Orange County, Calif., and part-time graduate student at California State University in Fullerton, is bringing his family to Washington to see his work. (It plays Wednesday and Thursday in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater.)
Since his "family" consists of his wife, seven children, a niece, plus his oldest daughter's boyfriend, he figures that ought to pretty much take care of his winnings. "But I couldn't spend it any better way," says the soft-spoken author, who never saw a play until he was 28.
The central characters of "The Bulldog and the Bear" are a 76-year-old black man and a 76-year-old white man who go to a social agency to get help in finding lodging and are put in the same apartment. "The play is about their relationship, their interdependence and how they grow to appreciate one another," explains Gordon. "It's also about what you have to do with the rest of the time you have left."
He says it was inspired by a television feature he saw one night on the news about a 90-year-old man who had recently taken up painting and begun to sell his canvases. "I was so impressed by this 'young' man," explains Gordon, "that I wrote a poem about him. And I guess a poem wasn't enough. So I wrote a play."