classes in Breeds of Dairy Cattle, Agronomy, Butchering, Poultry,
Pomology and other required courses, he wrote a historical play about
Shays' rebellion which took place in the 1780's near Amherst.
The play received a prize* from the Bureau of
New Plays, administered by the Theatre Guild in New York.
the conclusion of the Stockbridge courses Biel worked as a hired man
on dairy farms in New York State and New England. He decided to raise
cattle, the breed that won the bovine beauty contest at the New
York World's Fair in 1938. He bought a young Ayrshire bull calf from
the Stockbridge herd to found his own herd, and bought a small dairy
farm in Vermont.
During the long Vermont winters he was able to write plays and during
the warm seasons to take care of the farm.
When it became apparent that we would become involved in World War
II, Biel dispersed his herd, planning to enlist in the army. But first
there was a play he had to write; FORESTS OF THE NIGHT
about a farmer and his wife quarreling over their son's future. They
could have spared themselves because the war came and the son was
day he completed the play, Biel received his own "greetings"
as draft notifications began. FORESTS OF THE NIGHT was
awarded a prize by the Vagabond
Theatre in Baltimore.
the war Biel served for three years in North Africa and in the ETO.
He managed to write a one-act play, THE PATIENT SPINNER which
tells of a sargeant at an army stockade smitten by a young prisoner
about to be released. The attempt by the sargeant to keep the young
soldier nearby is the substance of the play. On his return from the
war, the play was produced by the Theatre Guild in New York and was
included by Margaret
Mayorga under the title THE DEVIL'S FOOT in her
Best One-Act Plays of 1945 (Dodd
Mead, 1946). Lewis Funke in a New York Times review singled it
out as "easily the best".
returning to Vermont, Biel wrote a full length play, WINNERS
AND LOSERS produced in 1947 by Associated Playwrights and
the Henry Street Settlement. It deals with a United States Military
Government Detachment and German civilians as the war in Europe comes
to a close.
this time Biel started work on a series of three narratively unrelated
set during the Civil War Era. The background of each is historically
accurate but the plays are fictional.
ON THE GOOSE concerns German refugees from the Revolution
of 1848 hiding fugitive slaves fleeing to Canada. United States law
required that fugitive slaves be returned to their owners. If the
Germans are caught hiding the slaves they will be fined, imprisoned
play was first produced by David Bryant at Williamstown, Mass., then
by Milton Smith at Columbia University and by Lucille
Lortel at the White Barn Theatre, where it was directed by Frank
Silvera. It was published at Purdue University.
second play, GONE FOR A SOLDIER, takes place near the
end of the war. A young southerner, fighting under his father's command
is wounded by a black soldier and invalided home in a town now occupied
by black troops. His mother urges him to take the Oath of Allegiance
to the Union and get paid for their cotton. But the young man insists
he will remain loyal and furiously denies her allegations that his
father has a black son serving with the occupying Federal troops.
sexually by the wound, the white soldier is unaware that his father
has already deserted the crumbling Confederacy and intends to go to
Brazil taking his son's fiancee with him. Should the father be caught,
the penalty for desertion is death and the son cannot refuse to help
him. In doing so he is obliged to negotiate with the alleged black
brother who refuses to admit they share a relationship. The young
Confederate is obliged to admire the black soldier's persistence and
pride. The Confederate father realizes that in addition to having
lost the war he has lost his son as well and takes what he sees as
his only way out.
first draft of the play was published in GAMBIT INTERNATIONAL
of London and a second draft received a cast reading at Theatre
at St.Clement's in New York, directed by Lynn Gordon.
WILDERNESS OF SHUR,
the third play, takes place during Reconstruction. A former slave,
now a Congressman, arrives in Washington where he and the Jewish family
that helped him to freedom before the war started, face the excesses
of graft and political corruption that ended with the almost but not
quite total victory of the slaveholders and their allies. The play
was produced by Woodie
King, Jr. at the New
Federal Theatre in New York, where it was directed by Gordon
Biel's other plays, A DOVE: FOR ALL THE GOOD IT DID
concerns peace activists and students supporting Henry Ford's Peace
Ship that sailed for Europe in1915. They intended to make peace before
World War I worsened and prevent the United States from becoming involved.
The narrative involves a father-son conflict that reflects the idealistic
youth and the cautious, experienced old. A rehearsed reading of the
play was done at the Hedgerow
Theatre in Rose Valley,Pa.
GOOD SUMMER'S WORK is a comedy about a farmer who runs off
to see the world only to find that the world has discovered the charm-and
the real estate profits in rural life. The play was directed by Fred
Stewart at Actors Studio Director's Project.
AND PRACTICE OF PLAYWRITING is a five character off-beat comedy
about a playwright who cannot get his characters to do what he created
has a number of one-act plays including THE ATTIC-LE GRENIER
that was done in both English and French by the same cast at the Festival
des Nations in Paris and later, only in English at the Boulder
Museum of Contemporary Art; FURTHER ADVENTURES OF QUEEN
ESTHER is a political Biblical parlor comedy and exegesis
on the Book of Esther in the Old Testiment. It was produced by the
Morningside Players in New York, directed by Harry Granick; THE
TRAGEDY OF MRS. JONES, a variant on the Pygmalion
story was produced at the New York State Theatre Institute and directed
by Shela Xoregos.
has had theatre criticism published in The
Nation and Gambit International and verse in The
Nation and Beloit
Poetry Journal. A volume of verse, ADAM
AND OTHERS, including a one-character short play is available
at selected bookstores or from the playwright.