It’s 1946 in Pittsburgh. An 18-year-old Andy Warhol finds himself in the basement of a working-class bar. Over the course of a summer, Andy gives and gets inspiration, guidance, and friendship from a surprising source in this fictional take on an apocryphal story of an American legend.
Andy Warhol’s Tomato is a work of fiction based on actual events in Andy’s life.
It’s 1946 in Pittsburgh. An 18-year old Andy Warhol, working his brother’s produce truck on a hot summer’s day faints from the heat. He is taken into the cool confines of Bonino’s Bar basement to recover. Bones Bonino, a self-made, working-class guy, has offered to watch over him until Andy’s brother finishes the route.
After Andy wakes up, he panics, thinking the sketchbook he’d had with him is missing. Bones assures him it isn’t and returns it to Andy. Andy reveals he’s just finished his first year at Carnegie Tech University. However, his poor grades have forced him to take a basic drawing class this summer. During the class, he’s required to have the sketchbook filled by the end of summer. If not, he’ll fail the class and be thrown out of school.
While recovering, Andy can’t sit still, even though being told to do so repeatedly, and accidentally breaks a picture frame with great sentimental value. Andy apologizes profusely, explains he’d pay to repair the frame, but has no money. Bones believes him. He senses this kid is as poor as he is talented, so he comes up with an idea. Bones has been trying to paint a sign to hang outside of his bar. Having glanced at a couple of Andy’s pictures, he figures this kid would do a good job. Bones makes him an offer. Paint the sign as payment for the picture frame. Andy agrees.
The next day, Andy arrives and starts working. While Bones is upstairs, Andy comes across a typewriter hidden under a pile of rags. Reading the pages tucked inside of the machine, it becomes obvious that Bones is a writer. When Bones returns, Andy asks him about it. He doesn’t get the response he expected. Bones, protective of his writing, tells Andy to mind his own business and just paint the sign.
Over the course of the afternoon, Bones tone softens a bit and they realize they have things in common. Catholicism, family, a work ethic. A friendship begins to form.
The outline done, Andy pledges to return the next day and finish. But he doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t return for over a week. When confronted by this fact, Andy gets a little too familiar with Bones, and Bones asks him to leave, not even finishing the sign. They argue to the point where Andy has a panic attack. Bones calms him down, helping him recover with a couple shots of whiskey. Andy, finally relaxed and feeling better tries to work on the sign but is in no shape to work. He needs to sleep it off. Bones orders Andy to rest and finish the sign when he wakes up.
Hours later, Bones comes down the stairs, Andy is awake, the painting is finished and when revealed, Bones is stunned. The sign is amazing. Bones sends Andy on his way, transaction complete.
The summer almost over, Andy sneaks into the basement of the packed bar, sketchbook in-hand, nervous and scared. He’s a day away from his last class and still has a few drawings left. As the basement seems to inspire Andy, he asks Bones if he might stay and finish his book, seeing that it’s due tomorrow. Bones agrees.
There’s one more thing Andy has come for. He is there to return some pages he took from the typewriter earlier that summer. He’d taken them in a panic when he heard Bones coming down the stairs that morning. Bones is infuriated hearing this news. We soon find it wasn’t just the act of theft that bothered Bones; it was the fact that writing is a hidden world never to be spoken of or discussed at the bar. As Bones would say, “The guys here can’t even know that I can type”.
Andy has read the pages and thinks they are great. In fact, he asks to read more of Bones’ work. Bones is reluctant, but eventually gives Andy more to read. He sincerely tells Bones he feels he has talent. Real talent. Hearing this from an artist he’s come to respect is humbling, exciting.
Bones confides in Andy that he’s waiting on word from a beer company for a slogan contest and he’s been told he’s got a great chance at winning. Soon the letter arrives. His slogan will not be used. Dreams dashed, he’s back to being just another guy behind the bar, like he always suspected.
Andy tries to comfort Bones, but ends up getting too intimate. In this time period, geographical area and atmosphere, the most common reaction to Andy’s comfort would be violence, but Bones is not like these other men, and nor is his relationship with Andy. Bones instead takes a paternal approach, letting Andy know he must be careful who he approaches.
After giving Andy his advice, Bones heads up the stairs to leave Andy to his work. Shortly after returning, Andy shows Bones his completed sketchbook. A couple of the drawings are of Bones, his wife, and his father. Andy lets him know, however, those he cannot give him. Those he needs for class. But this, “I made for you.” Andy reveals a 12” painting of a Tomato on the back wall. It’s meant to inspire Bones as he writes.
After finishing college, Andy will be off to New York, never to set foot in Pittsburgh again. But both men will have forever impacted the lives of each other from their interactions over the course of the summer.
This is art! We go to the theater for unique experiences and on rare occasions we’re rewarded with something transcendent. Something like Andy Warhol’s Tomato.
Mario “Bones” Bonino – 40s. Blue-collar. Owner of the bar. Self-made man.
Andy Warhol – 18. The artist at 18.
Setting: 1946. The Basement of Bonino’s bar— Homestead, PA.
Performance Royalties for AMATEUR and EDUCATIONAL Groups begin at $90.00 performance for theaters under 150 seats, and rise depending on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
Performance Royalties for PROFESSIONAL Theaters will be quoted as a box office percentage, with a minimum guarantee based on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement (see Materials).
Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement.
Stage Raw Recommended – Top Ten
“Amid the ongoing culture wars between urban-elite and blue-collar sensibilities, Melocchi’s period play slyly reminds us the division can be bridged by our fundamental need to create. In the process we can become something more than what our circumstances have shaped us to be.” –Los Angeles Times
“Andy Warhol’s Tomato is a strong and entertaining production about a unique artist.” –Stage Raw
“The play succeeds on every level. I highly recommend you see this small gem.” –Santa Monica Daily Press
“Inspired by this apocryphal tale, talented playwright Vince Melocchi fleshes out this bare-bones fiction with infinite delicacy and gentle grace. …Andy Warhol’s Tomato has taken a story from Andy Warhol’s early life and turned it into a play with a profound and timeless message for all.” –Splash Magazines
“Your heartstrings will be pulled.” –Broadwayworld
“Melocchi explores the mystery that is art through the interactions between a budding eccentric genius and a hard-working, seemingly unimaginative, bar owner. The play reveals the effect that their brief friendship has on each of them.” –Theatre Spoken Here
“Pick of the Week!” –Paul Myrvold’s Theatre Notes
“An intriguing, compelling character study, one that catches you up in its truth and sensitivity as the two apparent opposites begin to develop a kinship… creating flesh-and-blood characters that hold you in thrall from start to finish." –TotalTheatre.Com
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement. Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date, unless other arrangements have been made in advance with your Stage Rights Licensing Representative.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for Andy Warhol’s Tomato consists of:
10 Production Scripts / $130.00 (shipping included)
Production Scripts for Plays are professionally printed and bound with a full-color cover.
You will have the option to purchase additional Production Scripts at a discounted rate when you complete your Licensing Agreement.
Official Logo Pack Now Included! To help you promote your show, Stage Rights now includes a logo pack with your license. The logo pack includes high resolution versions (both color and black and white) of our show logo. The logo is the portion of the artwork with the title of the show. The surrounding artwork is also available for an additional fee.
Stage Manager’s Script – Printed on standard 8.5” x 11” 3-hole-punched paper, with the same page numbers and text as the Printed Production Scripts, but with more space on the page for notes and cues.