Playwright Tom Dudzick grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and as a youngster got haircuts at a local barbershop that had a statue of the Virgin Mary in front of it. “The barber said that the Blessed Mother had appeared to him, so he commissioned a life-sized statue,” Dudzick recalls. “There was a mail slot so that people could write little prayers.”
Though Buffalo has gone through a number of transformations in recent years, the statue still stands. “The city has promised not to knock it down,” reports Dudzick, who became determined to write a play based on the statue. When research about his childhood barber proved to be less fascinating than Dudzick had hoped, he invented a tale of his own.
The Nowaks are at the heart of Dudzick’s Miracle on South Division Street, which takes on faith, family and the twists of life: A struggling actress requests permission from her family to develop a one-woman show about her grandfather—who hailed from Poland, met a sculptor on the boat over to the U.S. and had a vision of the Blessed Mother. But a deathbed confessional from the grandmother reveals that the miracle was not exactly what the family believed it to be.
Miracle on South Division Street has received a number of U.S. productions in recent months and is scheduled for no fewer than 10 more between now and June. This month the play bows at the Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre in Georgia, Montgomery Theater in Pennsylvania, the Invisible Theatre in Arizona and the Colony Theatre Company in L.A. Dudzick himself directs a production at the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo Nov. 15–Dec. 8.
The playwright, who now lives in Nyack, N.Y., is thrilled to direct in his hometown. “The audience will recognize themselves and their relatives in these characters,” Dudzick declares. “But you certainly don’t have to be from Buffalo to get the story.”