Oral Biography to Star Fictitious Dilettante

At one time or another, almost everyone has had imaginary friends. But very few have ever written about them, much less written a detailed biography of them.

But that hasn't stopped a group of about 40 Harvard students from becoming closely acquainted with a dilettante named E.A. Boone, a fictional character whose life and times they are trying to capture in an oral biography called the Boone Project.

The biography, the transcript of taped interviews with people playing characters who knew Boone, is the brainchild of Mather House juniors Brooks Hansen and Nick Davis. They say they were strongly influenced by the recent biographies of Norman Mailer and Edie Sedgewick, both of which were also based on interviews.

Hansen and Davis spent much of the summer developing Boone's life and writing detailed descriptions of 50 of Boone's friends and acquaintances. Portrayed by 40 students, these characters tell their stories and anecdotes for his biography.

Boone, born in 1946 in San Diego, was a freewheelin' artisan, who never stayed in one place for long and dabbled in a little of everything. Not only was he involved in acting and comedy, but also he wrote a fairly successful off-Broadway play and a novel that received mixed reviews. In 1978 he was killed when his motorcycle collided with a margarine truck.


Hansen says the actors are "very free to do what they like with their characters." He said he wants to make the biography as life-like as possible, explaining that "we're not writing the book, we're executing it."

At the first meeting of the cast on September 30, Hansen and Davis passed out information packets containing a synopsis of Boone's life, excerpts from his book and play, and descriptions of each of the 50 characters.

The actors will spend the next three to four weeks getting to know their roles and meeting with each other, and the two organizers hope to start taping interviews by December. The culmination of the project will occur at a post-mortem showing of Boone's artwork, to which all his friends will be invited.

One major obstacle opposing the successful completion of the Boone Project is money. Hansen estimates that transcribing the 50-70 hours of interviews from tapes onto paper will cost roughly $5000.

Hansen and Davis are considering applying for grants from the Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts and have a number of interested publishers (but no offers as of yet). The planners said that they have not let this uncertainty disrupt their plans for the Boone Project.