Behind the Curtain

Official Blog of International City Theatre

The Secret Diary of an ICT Summer Intern: The Man Behind Former Attorney General Francis Biddle

August 13th, 2014

Skeleton ClosetICT’s upcoming play Trying by Joanna McClelland Glass is her personal account of working as a young secretary to the aging Francis Biddle, former Attorney General to FDR. Although Biddle’s accomplishments are impressive (he graduated from Harvard, became Attorney General, and was Chief Justice of the Nuremberg Trials), they are not what make Biddle an especially intriguing character. Instead, it is Biddle’s expression of raw human nature that shows how even the most successful and seemingly untouchable human beings have skeletons in their closets.

Glass tells the Courant, “This was about a man who was dealing with his impending death, and what was occupying him had nothing to do with his accomplishments.” In his old age, Biddle was forced to come to terms with himself not as a former Attorney General or Chief Justice, but simply as a human being. biddleHe became frustrated and acted out in anger because he was unable to do certain things like walk without limping or remember specific information, so he would compensate by priding himself on his Harvard-level smarts to avoid doubts of his capability. As an elderly man, Biddle was haunted by the loss of one of his sons and the fact that he never had the chance to know his own father. Biddle’s involvement in the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II ate at him, developing a guilt-ridden grief within him that would never dissipate. The title of “Harvard Grad” or “Attorney General” didn’t mean much to him anymore. It was the pain of losing a son, the ache of never knowing his father, and the shame of promoting the mistreatment of thousands of American citizens that lingered with him in his last days.

Although a man of many achievements, Francis Biddle cannot be simply dismissed as a distant historical figure. The personal touch of Trying shows that he, like all of us, has things that haunt him. Watching Biddle, as successful and respected as he is, battle his ghosts reminds us that each and every one of us has a deeper story.

Our ghosts – so different, yet inherently the same – are what define us.

– Milena

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