“Headstrong” by Patrick Link

This week’s production is of the play “Headstrong” by Patrick Link, starring Ernie Hudson and Deirdrie Henry.

L.A. Theatre Works presents the production of Headstrong, the new play by Patrick Link that examines the impact of concussions in football. The three-day session with actors Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (HBO’s Treme, NBC’s Heroes), Deidrie Henry (Beautiful Boy, Ebony Repertory’s A Raisin in the Sun), Ernie Hudson (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Ghostbusters) and Scott Wolf (Party of Five) will be directed by Bart DeLorenzo.

Headstrong is inspired by the ongoing struggles of professional athletes with head-related injuries, including, among others, Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, who suffered from amnesia, dementia and depression before his death at the age of 50; and Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters, who sustained numerous concussions as a player before committing suicide at age 44. According to The New York Times, “Head injuries, including concussions, particularly in the game of American football, have become a subject of deep concern, much study and even Congressional hearings in the United States.”

Link’s play looks at how one family handles the risks and tragedies associated with the game. When ex-NFL linebacker Duncan Troy’s son-in-law, a Pro Bowler himself, dies under strange circumstances, Troy (Hudson) and his widowed daughter (Henry) struggle with their own culpability, and whether the brain trauma he suffered in life was the price of football greatness.

“If you’re an NFL player,” Link said, “what do you do when the one thing you’re qualified to do-that can generate income for your family, the thing you’ve loved your whole life-might destroy your brain? In the interest of player safety, football has to change drastically, and that’s a change that no true fan of the sport wants to see. When science tells us that our traditions, our passions are flawed, how do we change? What consequence is severe enough to bring about change? If brain damage isn’t enough…what is?”

Headstrong received its world premiere in New York last spring, presented by the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Project, an initiative designed to stimulate artists to create credible and compelling work exploring the worlds of science and technology and to challenge the existing stereotypes of scientists, engineers and mathematicians in the popular imagination.

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