- Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
Napa Valley Playwright Takes Humor from Law Career to the Stage - Jerry Levitin, From Legal Career,
Jerry Levitin is an award-winning Napa Valley playwright with a knack for taking serious, real-life issues, finding the humor in those situations and then translating them into a play that is very entertaining on the stage.
This month, Levitin’s play “I’d Kill For a Parking Place,” based upon experiences inspired by his legal career, makes its Napa Valley premiere at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater in Yountville. The nine-show run opens on Friday, April 12 through Saturday, April 27.
A native San Franciscan, Levitin and his wife have lived in Napa for thirty years. His career has been varied. After law school he became a successful criminal defense attorney, and a law school professor, as well as being appointed as the San Francisco Traffic Commissioner. He is a published author, and even bought and transformed a Nob Hill apartment building into a hotel which when sold allowed for his early retirement.
It was in his role in Traffic Court, that Levitin became well-known. “I heard around 200,000 cases as a traffic judge,” Levitin recalls, “Therefore, I met a lot of people and gained a large following. If I heard an explanation for ticket that I had never heard before, I would dismiss it.”
In 2005, “I’d Kill For a Parking Place” premiered in SanFrancisco. While it is a mystery, and a whodunit, it also takes place in 1973 and therefore hearkens back to that time, a time when people, especially black people, were treated differently.
“If an audience enjoys mysteries, and crime solving, they will enjoy this play,” said Levitin, who used some of his own experiences to build the plot which is complex, comical and entertaining, with serious undertones.
The play opens with a grave situation, there have been a series of killings that a new homicide detective is challenged to investigate. The detective seeks advice from his friend, the traffic judge, who is an experienced criminal attorney. Throughout the show, the audience receives clues to try to figure out who did it. Was it the dentist, or perhaps even the traffic judge?
Levitin had a goal to become a judge, and in 2005 entered a closely-contested race for a Municipal Court seat. During the campaign, a Bay Area broadcast television news station slandered him with an investigative report questioning his leniency to his followers in traffic court. He knows what it is like to be wrongly accused. His opponents used this against him, and even though he led pre-election polls, he lost the race. He was cleared as the record held that he had listened to, and reduced fines for supporters of his opponents in the election as well.
He was called a “True S.F. Hero” by the San Francisco Chronicle and a man that was somewhere between “Santa Claus and Robin Hood.” Levitin was sympathetic to ticketed San Franciscans as he believed that the premise for most tickets were unjust.
I’d Kill For a Parking Place
By Jerry Levitin
Directed By Debbie Gargalikis Baumann
An original comedy, mystery, whodunit
Fridays and Saturdays, April 12 - 27
Lincoln Theater: 100 California Dr, Yountville
Available at the Lincoln Theater Box Office in Yountville, by calling 707-944-9900
Tickets online LincolnTheater.com
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