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"On Golden Pond" by Ernest Thompson

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Romance is a younger character’s genre. Most romance novels, romantic comedies, chick-flicks, and lovey-dovey stories focus on the thrill of newfound love. Most romantic plays follow the standard format:

  • Boy Meets Girl
  • Boy Loses Girl
  • Boy Gets Girl Back

The story might end with a kiss, an engagement, or even the exchange of wedding vows. Rarely do these story-lines go further than the honeymoon. That’s why I value romantic plays that go beyond “happily ever after.” Ernest Thompson’s heartfelt drama On Golden Pond does exactly this. It is a touching, funny look at a loving marriage in its “golden” years.

Overview:

For the past forty-eight years, Norman and Ethel Thayer have spent their summers in their cabin on the shores of Golden Pond. The play involves a strained father-daughter relationship and “grandfatherly” bonding with an upstart teenager. But the soul of the play is the sometimes feisty, sometimes sweet interaction between Norman and Ethel.

Production History:

On Golden Pond was written by Ernest Thompson when he was 28 years old. The off-off Broadway production began in 1978. It starred Frances Sternhagen (who won a Tony Award for her performance) and Tom Aldredge.

After a successful Broadway run, On Golden Pond became a motion picture starring Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn (who both won Oscars for their roles). Because the script explores the twilight years of a man’s life, and because the film is the final performance of Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond is one of the most emotionally stirring film adaptations of a play.

In 2001, a live television production of On Golden Pond premiered. It starred legendary thespians Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and was directed by playwright Ernest Thompson.

The script and production rights for On Golden Pond are available at Dramatists Play Service.

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