When The Promise Was Broken (Rebroadcast)

Aug 28, 2019

Cover of the book When the Promise Was Broken: Short Plays Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen
Credit Smith and Kraus Publishers

Two Kalamazoo area playwrights say the idea for a book of plays inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen was first hatched “six or seven years ago.” It finally took off when the chair of Western Michigan University’s Theater Department said “then do it.”


The book When the Promise Was Broken: Short Plays Inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen was published last year. An interview was first heard in November of last year. WMU Theater Department Chair Joan Herrington edited the book. She says they started soliciting plays from playwrights, but not knowing if they were Bruce Springsteen fans. She says the two typical responses were “you must be insane” or “this is the thing I’ve been waiting for my entire life.”

Tucker Rafferty who teaches theater writing and improv for KRESA’s Education for the Arts wrote the play Glad for the Company, which is inspired by the song Nebraska. The song itself is an adaptation of the movie Badlands. The song Nebraska and the movie Badlands are based on the story of Charles Starkweather, who murdered 11 people over an eight day period in 1958. Rafferty says two things he wanted to focus is that the character “Charlie” is headed to the electric chair, and that he’s not sorry for his actions.

Extended Version of the interview

Steve Feffer’s play Growing Up or I was a Teenage Bruce Springsteen is inspired by a live version of the song Growin’ Up played in Cleveland in 1978. It includes a long section in the middle where Springsteen tells a long story of his teenage years and difficulty at Catholic school. Feffer says he wanted to capture the impossibility that a kid from Freehold, New Jersey can grow up to be one of the world’s biggest stars. Feffer says he also wanted his play to capture the “exuberance” of Springsteen’s live shows.

The Title When the Promise was Broken is a lyric from the song the Promise. Rafferty says he was disappointed that for years the song was not released, but only played live in concert. He says the song is appropriate for this collection of plays, which includes many flawed characters.