Ted Lange is perhaps best-known for starring as Isaac, the lovable bartender on the hit series “The Love Boat” for ten seasons. What people may not realize is that he is also a TV and theatre director and an award-winning playwright. He is a historian and that really comes through in his books and plays. Ted is directing a play he wrote “The Journals of Osborne P. Anderson” which opens May 15th at Theatre, Theater here in Los Angeles. This is the 3rd play in Ted’s historical trilogy, which includes “George Washington’s Boy” and “Lady Patriot.” The plays educate audiences with vivid characters and historical facts from the rarely told black perspective. He has been writing and directing plays for over 30 years.
“The Journals of Osborne P. Anderson” tells the story of John Brown and nineteen men who stormed Harper’s Ferry in 1859 in an attempt to free the slaves of Virginia. The only survivor of the raid, Osborne P. Anderson, in his journals, chronicled the black men who fought with Brown – Dangerfield Newby, John A. Copeland, Shields Green, and Lewis Leary. The raid on Harper’s Ferry is considered by many to be the catalyst for Southern secession which ultimately led to the Civil War. The play combines Lange’s signature drama and comedy as it peels away traditional stereotypes prevalent in the South before the Civil War.
Also, his book, “Lady Patriot,” is now available on Amazon.com. Based on a true story, Lady Patriot reveals an intimate look into the prejudices and patriotism of three ladies who lived during the Civil War. The book combines Lange’s signature comedy and drama as it peels away traditional stereotypes prevalent in the South during the Confederacy.
I had the extreme pleasure to chat with Ted about his new play, fatherhood, and much more.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about the play that you wrote and now directing called “The Journals of Osborne P. Anderson” which opens May 15th in Los Angeles. Tell me about the play.
Ted Lange: I call myself a footnote historian. There are a lot of things that pushed our wonderful country forward. Sometimes the African American participation is only a footnote. There are heroes that we have that we know nothing about. I have gone back and resurrected people that I knew a little bit about or knew nothing about. One of those stories comes from the adventures from Harpers Ferry.
I didn’t realize that there were five black guys with John Brown that participated in the raid. Everyone that talks about the raid talks about John Brown and his son. I didn’t realize that there were these other guys who wanted to help free the slaves. I have written a play that dramatizes the moment. I tried to keep it faithful to the events that had happened. The dialogue in the end result scene is what actually happened. I find these things and see where I can work in the actual dialogue that history has quoted. I put them in the play. We are getting ready to open here on May 15th here in Los Angeles. I have got a fantastic cast. We are all very excited to present the play.
AE: What do you want people to take away from this play?
TL: I tried to put everything in the time frame of what was going in that play. There have been a couple of other plays on John Brown, but they use it as a platform for something else. I am actually telling you about the events that went down. What the trial was like, what the aftermath of it was like, and give you the urgency on what John Brown and these other black guys felt as far as getting the slaves their freedom.
So what I would like for the m to take away is to know some of the names other than Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass. So here are some names of people we don’t know from that time who are actual heroes. One of them was Shields Greens, who was Frederick Douglass’ bodyguard. There is a guy named Dangerfield Newby. Two black guys were killed at the ferry. Two guys were hung with John Brown. One guy got away. That guy was Osborne P. Anderson. The play centers on the fact that Osborne wrote a book some years later about the experience of Harpers Ferry. That is what I center the play on.
AE: You also have a book out called “Lady Patriot.” It is a book that takes place during the Civil War. Tell me a bit about that book.
TL: I have written an American history trilogy. The first play that I wrote was called “George Washington’s Boy.” It is about the African American participation in the American Revolution. George Washington had a faithful slave named William Lee. William Lee dressed and combed George Washington’s hair and shaved him. He was his body servant. That was what the first play was about. It was about their relationship.
Then “John Brown” was my second play. The third play, which we already did was “Lady Patriot.” “Lady Patriot” is about a slave girl named Mary Bowser, who was given to Jefferson Davis. He was the president of the Confederacy. They gave him this slave because they needed a slave to help Varina Davis, Jefferson’s wife through a pregnancy. It turns out that Mary could read and write. She turned out to be a spy for the Union. So in his household he had a black educated woman, who was sending out information. She would hide it in the bread. It was a fascinating story and no one knows about it.
AE: I agree. I think that is very interesting. How do you go about researching this information for your books and plays?
TL: I had to cross reference. Let’s say that there are three books with different parts of that subject. I will buy all three books and cross reference the information. For instance in the “Harper’s Ferry” thing there are a lot of books on it. There were certain things that the southern part wanted to emphasize and then there were things that the northern part wanted to emphasize.
So I try to cross reference the information. Then I take a dramatic stand from the basic information. You can’t just go with one book. One book might have a certain bias in it. My job as the historian playwright is to cross reference so I get a more accurate view of what went on at that time.
AE: From acting to directing to writing do you have a favorite out of those three?
TL: Yeah. I love being an actor. Sometimes you just can’t get the gig. So rather than to not act and not participate artistically I started directing. Then out of the stories that I was directing there were stories that I wanted to tell. I accidentally became a playwright. (Both laugh.) I was looking for things for myself to act in. Sometimes the stories were so compelling and there wasn’t a part for me, but I decided to tell the story anyway.
AE: What is your favorite memory from your time on “The Love Boat” when you played the role of Isaac?
TL: Oh, Art there was so many. I had so many wonderful memories because we went all over the world. We went to Hong Kong, Australia, and Greece. It was just a wonderful adventure as a young actor at that particular time in my life.
I will tell you that that the one thing that always remained a high point in my life was the fact that I went to high school with The Pointer Sisters. I was able to write a story for The Pointer Sisters and myself to be involved in. I got to sing a song with them and work together with them for the show I worked on.
AE: Now switching to fatherhood, what are some of the morals you look to pass on to your children as they were growing up?
TL: I wanted them to have integrity in anything that they did. I wanted them to be great people. I have seen that sometimes reflected in my kids when I say you know who I worked with? It was so and so. Then they will ask me if that person was nice. I later realized that was from me trying to get them to be nice people.
I have two sons who I have nicknames for. My oldest I call T-Bone. The other one I call Turner Burner. They are really great guys. I love them madly. I want them to meet a person on their own ground and their own values. I want them to be straight up stand up guys. That is what I try to pass on to them.
AE: What are some of your traits that you see in your children?
TL: (Laughs.) My oldest son when he grew up here in Los Angeles, he was a Valley kid. When he was in college he went to Brooklyn, New York. He went to an art school in Brooklyn. He got a personality in college. I never really saw it that much when he was growing up and in high school. He was a good kid. Now he has a really great wry sense of humor. He knows how to tell a story. I really love that about him. He has gotten that from me.
My youngest, Turner is very diligent. When he gets on a project he doesn’t stop on a project until it is done. I am sure he got that from me. He has seen me go after things and try to accomplish it. He and I often talked about how he can get certain things done. So the fortitude from my youngest son I think comes from me.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads out there?
TL: Take as many pictures as you can, not just at their birthday. When they are newborns it seems like their faces are always changing. You are watching their personality come into view. The other thing that I say is put things in front of their kids that you think they might like. I put comic books, coloring utensils, and musical instruments in front of them.
My youngest son gravitated towards drawing, coloring books, and comic books. Today he is an artist. He does storyboards for different commercials, movies, and television shows. My oldest still wants to become a writer. He recently started performing. You put things in front of your kids and see what things they are interested in. That will benefit them in the long run to figure out who they are.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie you guys like to watch together?
TL: My kids were into comic books. Stuff like “Batman” was our main deal. I remember my oldest at the time said that he didn’t have a gift for me for Father’s Day. I said draw me a picture of Batman. Over the years I saw the progression of his abilities as an artist. The Batmans got more and more intricate and fascinating as the years progressed. So “Batman” was our movie. To this day we are still waiting for the next one to come out.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing and dance to as a family?
TL: They were into Rap. Some of the Rap was camouflage. The song meant something else. There was that song “O.P.P.,” which I am not going to go into what that means. They thought they were really cute. One day while driving them to school “O.P.P.” was on and I got them to tell me what it meant. I told them that was nothing. I said to them The Beatles did that long before their Rap groups did that. They asked me what that meant. I said “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” do you know what that song was about? They didn’t. I told them it was about LSD. I tried to give them some information about my generation while they were enjoying their generation.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
AE: Who was your favorite actor growing up?
TL: Sidney Poitier. He was the template for all of us young African Americans actors. I also loved (Laurence) Olivier’s craftsmanship and I loved (Marlon) Brando’s imagination as an actor. Those were my three. I actually cut school to see Marlon Brando do “One Eyed Jacks.” I thought he was a brilliant, brilliant actor.
AE: What is the number one line people say to you when they see you on the street?
TL: Well they don’t come up with a line. You know the finger point I did on the show? That is what they will do. They won’t come up with a line, but they will look at me and they will do that finger point. I have to start laughing. That is what they remember.
If you want to get more info on the Ted’s play “The Journals of Osborne P. Anderson” which opens May 15th in Los Angeles, click HERE!