Recorded music will be a big part of the play, partly because "Parker was the first jazz musician to say, 'I am an artist and you will accept me on my terms,' " Russell said. "This is not a message play. It's talking about genius, creativity and insanity, medical practices of that time--business relationships. It's about a guy who, in the course of the play, gets himself together. What I'm trying to do is freeze a moment in time." The play is fiction, based on fact.
"Bird got stranded out here. He was a heroin addict and hocked his ticket back East," Russell said. "Eventually he ended up in Camarillo."
Almost 10 years later, Parker died, a bum in New York's Bowery. The man who could create the beautifully singing, sinuous melody in "Yardbird Suite"; the swinging, charging romp in "Dexterity"; the free-spirited, maximum improvisation that pervades "Ornithology," and the elegant noodling on "Embraceable You," died a heroin addict and a pauper after being rushed to the home of Baroness Pannonica de Rothschild, the so-called patron of jazz.
The man who will play Parker, Wesley, got a master of fine arts degree at UCSD in 1977. He has since acted at several regional theaters, including the Oregon Shakespearean Festival and the Mark Taper Forum. He has been in the movies "48 Hours" and "Missing in Action" and television programs such as "Family Honor," "Knight Rider," "Special Bulletin" and "Atlanta Child Murders."
Michael Kantor is the director.