Next Line, Please

The Lehman Trilogy

By David Lehman | March 26, 2019

One day last week, I opened the newspaper and saw a full-page ad for a new play titled The Lehman Trilogy. After half-a-dozen previews, the play will open on March 28 and have a limited run at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. The play traces the history of the Lehman family, noted financiers and philanthropists. Three Lehman brothers emigrated from Germany in the middle of the 19th century. They and their descendants lived the American dream. Notable Lehmans include a governor of New York, a distinguished judge, a World War II air force hero, and many assiduous art collectors. There is a Lehman wing in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; a Lehman College in the Bronx; and of course, Lehman Brothers was a major investment firm on Wall Street. The firm’s collapse in September 2008 made quite an impact, though by that time the company was no longer in the hands of anyone named Lehman.

As someone who shares the name, I have sometimes met people who assume I’m a member of that famous family. I am not, though the confusion can prove entertaining, and I got some mileage out of it in my memoir, One Hundred Autobiographies, which Cornell University Press will publish in October.

When your name is in the headlines or in the title of a play, you get interested, and my wife and I would like to see The Lehman Trilogy. We should have acted sooner because the only tickets available on dates when we have no conflicts are selling for $400 a piece, plus fees. So we won’t see it until (and unless) it gets reprised.

But an idea occurred to me: Why don’t we turn this situation into a prompt? Take your name and write “The — Trilogy.” It can (but doesn’t have to) be three parts, but no part should be longer than five lines. Some novels are said to “span three generations.” Here’s your chance to do that in verse—or to do something completely different. Have fun with it, and deviate from fact as you will.

Deadline: Saturday, March 30, midnight any time zone.

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