The Frank Rizzo Project
Theatre Exile explored ways to dramatize the story of Frank Rizzo, a polarizing Philadelphia political icon. Rizzo, who served as police commissioner (1967–71) and mayor of Philadelphia (1971–79), presided over the city during a time when many Americans were frightened by attacks on the status quo. For many, Rizzo became a champion to protect their values, while others viewed him differently. Theatre Exile has produced many world premiere theater works, but had never before commissioned a play for development. Founding Artistic Director Joe Canuso directed the process, working closely with Pew Fellow and award-winning playwright Bruce Graham and actor Scott Greer to shape a script from a variety of sources, including a biography by S. A. Paolantonio and with a special emphasis on group discussions with longtime residents of South Philadelphia—the area where Rizzo lived and where Theatre Exile is based. "It is not our intent to portray a hero or a villain," Graham said, "but a complex man who rose to power at a turbulent time in America."