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The urge simply wasn’t there—not until Schreiber planted the seed.That seed bore fruit very quickly: I wrote Satchmo two months later in a four-day-long frenzy of creativity.But at no time prior to or during those four days did I say to myself, If I were to write a play about Louis Armstrong, I could speculate about him in a way that wouldn’t have been appropriate in a biography.

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The photo, which is reproduced in Pops, shows Armstrong sitting in a chair before a performance, looking old, tired, and pensive.

I’d known from the time I first saw the photo that I wanted to include it in Pops, in which I describe it as portraying “the moody, introspective man whom the public never saw.” Then as now, it reminded me of something that one of Armstrong’s sidemen once said about him: “For all his popularity, Louis could be sitting in his dressing room and he looked like the saddest guy in the world,” Joe Darensbourg said. He’d be sitting with his horn in his hand, just looking at it, turning it over, looking at the bell, picking it up and blowing a little, that’s all.” Two months after I first heard from John Schreiber, Adams’ photo popped back into my head.

It’s the quintessential example of a picture that’s worth a thousand words, and as I thought of it, I suddenly saw in my mind’s eye the “stage picture” for the opening of Satchmo at the Waldorf.

A soulful, nuanced snapshot of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s late life beyond what any book-length biography could do alone, it’s biographical storytelling at its best and, as such, a justification for theater—as if we needed one.

I had to wonder whether the impetus for the play had been an essential something the author’s earlier biography of Armstrong, and indeed the subject’s life, left unresolved. Lloyd’s kind words, but what interested me more—and still does—was that second sentence.

If I read her right, she wanted to know whether I wrote Satchmo at the Waldorf in order to do something that I couldn’t do in Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

That’s a provocative question, one for which I don’t have a simple answer.

I wrote Satchmo after a theatrical producer, John Schreiber, sent me an e-mail in December of 2009 suggesting that Pops could be turned into a play and asking whether I’d given any thought to trying my hand at the task.

Until then I’d never given any thought to writing a play about Armstrong, or anyone else.

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