“On Golden Pond” writer opens new room in Mansfield in 2022


MANSFIELD – When a strike by Hollywood actors threatened to stop production of “On Golden Pond” in the summer of 1980, actress Katharine Hepburn called the Screen Actors Guild and pointed out that there were about 17 minutes left. to the main cast for have been living since both were 70 years old.

The guild gave in and “On Golden Pond,” the story of cantankerous retiree Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) and his wife, Ethel (Hepburn) won Oscars for Fonda, Hepburn and a young screenwriter who lived in Mansfield named Ernest Thompson.

Thompson returned to Mansfield on Sunday, December 5 to share stories and answer questions about the making of “On Golden Pond” at the newly renovated Massachusetts Music & Arts Society center on South Main Street.

Thompson will premiere his new play, “Ask / Answer”, at MMAS in January 2022. Thompson will write, direct and perform in the play with actress Pamela Lambert.

The piece is inspired by Lambert’s own experience with colorectal cancer 10 years ago, Thompson said. It’s about two people meeting in a colorectal clinic, their shared experiences, and how one works to prove their worth to the other. All communication takes place through texts and memes.

For Thompson, a good story should have heart, hope and humor. He said “Ask / Answer” has all three.

“If you can make an audience laugh, you can take them anywhere,” he said. “It’s very funny despite the subject.

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Thompson said when MMAS artistic director and education director Dori Bryan Ployer, a breast cancer survivor, read the script, she called it “hope.”

“You will walk out of the theater knowing that everything will be fine,” Thompson said.

Thompson recently connected with MMAS when he and his wife, Kerren, were visiting the area. Thompson moved to Mansfield, he was about 8 years old. Her father, Theron Thompson, was the principal of the school. The family lived where the current gas station is next to the Xfinity Center from 1957 to 1960. Their backyard was the Great Woods. Thompson would skate on the Norton Reservoir in the area where the arts center is located.

Last summer, Thompson and his wife were returning home to New Hampshire after visiting family in Mattapoisett and decided to make the long way back to Mansfield. They stopped at the MMAS property to have sandwiches on the picnic tables near the reservoir and to use the portable toilets.

“We were entering without permission,” said Thompson.

When Thompson saw MMAS Executive Director Ken Butler come out of the building, he stopped to talk to him and explained that he lived nearby.

“I said, ‘What’s going on in this building? And he said ‘We’re building a theater,’ ”Thompson recalls. “And that always catches my eye.

“I said, ‘I also work in the theater.’

“And (Ken) said, ‘Did you ever write something that I heard about? “”

Thompson introduced himself and Butler after recovering from his surprise showed them around. They decided it was a chance meeting and that they should do something together.

The screenwriter of

“My philosophy is that I was going to do (the play) somewhere, why not do it in Mansfield?” Thompson said.

“What a great place to develop a coin,” he said of MMAS. “I love the privacy of a space like this.

“If I can be of any help in any way, it is my pleasure, because theaters should survive. I hope this is the start of a great friendship. I am excited about building a partnership (with MMAS) that will last for years.

In addition to debuting “Ask / Answer”, Thompson will be touring “On Golden Pond” with Leslie Ann Warren and Barry Bostwick this spring and a novel will be released next fall. Now 72, he first played Norman himself two years ago.

“On Golden Pond” is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary as Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Universal Pictures show the film in select theaters nationwide for a limited special engagement.

If you’ve never seen the film, or want to see it again, MMAS is hosting its own special screening on Wednesday, December 15 at noon at Showcase Cinemas in Foxborough. Thompson will be in attendance and answer questions after the screening. For tickets, go to www.showtix4u.com.

“Ask / Answer” will open January 19 at MMAS and run through February 13. For tickets and more information, visit mmas.org.

Editor-in-Chief Donna Whitehead can be contacted by email at dwhitehead@wickedlocal.com. You can also friend on Facebook. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to Journal News Independent today.


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