New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House is inspired by parties that took place every New Year’s Eve at playwright John Frank’s grandmother’s house in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.
Park Slope in 1960 wasn’t the trendy urban oasis for young families it is today. Rather it was a typical New York melting pot neighborhood where established Irish families were looking wearily at the Italians who were moving up from below Fifth Avenue while the Italians themselves were looking over their shoulders at the influx of Puerto Rican immigrants staking out their pieces of the American dream.
The country was about to get a new president and many hoped it would signal an end to the gray flannel suit mentality of the Eisenhower years. Little did they realize how much the country was about to change over the next decade.
Characters in the play are based on Frank’s aunts, uncles, parents and, of course, his grandmother. Some characters have the same names as real-life people, but all have morphed a bit into characters to aid in our story telling.
At those parties, the children were normally in the living room watching television while the adults sat in the dining room and regaled each other with familiar stories. Luckily, Frank often went into that wonderful room to hear those stories. You can see him in the background in the photo in our left-hand column and above, listening for the day when he would create New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House.