TTW Bonus Feature: Timeline of Events

 
This is the timeline of events developed for Thicker Than Water. Note: This was developed from the backstories and improvisations prior to the improvisations of the final scene (the play itself). Some things changed from this document to the final show. (As an example, we combined Jack’s sisters Lolita and Maggie into just Maggie for clarity’s sake in the final show.)
 

Date Event Improvised?
Dec-1919 James McDougal buys Market Drug on the corner of Market and Ferry in Newark, NJ and renames it McDougal Drugs.
Mar-1920 James meets and begins to court Ada.
Sep-1921 James and Ada are married.
Aug-1922 Matt born in Newark, NJ to James and Ada.
Jan-1924 Rodney born to James and Ada.
Mar-1925 Orville born to James and Ada.
Oct-1927 Audrey born to James and Ada.
Oct-1933 Matt begins to help out at the store, working the soda counter after school.
Jan-1937 Matt begins to take on more responsibility, managing inventory and filling prescriptions.
Aug-1937 Matt and James become best friends working together every day over the summer.
Feb-1939 Matt begins to date Maria, an Italian-American girl from school.
Jan-1941 Matt proposes to Maria and they set a December wedding date.
Dec-1941 Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. Matt and Maria put their wedding plans on hold and join the Marines, along with Matt’s brothers.
Feb-1942 Matt is stationed in Hawaii. Maria works in a munitions factory.
Jun-1942 Matt is injured in the Battle of Midway. He receives a Purple Heart and is stationed again in Honolulu, serving as a supply steward for the naval ships based there.
Dec-1945 Matt is discharged and returns home to Newark.
Feb-1946 Matt marries Maria and begins studying pre-med at a local community college.
May-1946 James dies unexpectedly from a massive coronary. Matt is devastated. He drops out of school and takes over McDougal Drugs.
Jun-1946 Matt and Maria move into his family home with Ada.
Dec-1946 Lolita born to Matt and Maria. They are thrilled, though Matt secretly hoped for a son.
Nov-1947 Mary Margaret born to Matt and Maria. They call her Maggie.
Sep-1948 Maria gives birth to a stillborn son. Both are devastated. Ada doesn’t hide her opinion that Maria’s working in the drugstore was responsible for the death of the child. Maria won’t let Matt touch her for almost a year.
Jan-1949 Matt finally persuades Maria to resume marital relations. The sex is not the same. Maria wants to keep her marriage but is fearful of getting pregnant so the sex is reulctant and something to just get over with.
Feb-1949 Maria’s worst fear is realized: she’s pregnant.
Sep-1949 James Giacomo McDougal III is born to Matt and Maria. Matt is over the moon that he finally has a son. They name him after his grandparents and though Matt wants to call him Jimmy, Maria insists on Jack. Matt concedes.
Oct-1949 The constant fear and worry of her pregnancy has taken its toll on Maria. She vows not to have sex again unless Matt wears protection. Matt refuses. While overjoyed to finally have a son, this is balanced by watching his marriage wither and die over the next few years. Maria resents the fear, pain, and anquish caused by her son and never really warms to the boy.
Jan-1950 Maria begins abusing painkillers. Matt enables and hides her secret, even from the children. Ada takes on the mother role to the children with Maria unable and unwilling.
Jun-1957 Matt can take no more and threatens Maria with divorce if she won’t get treatment. Maria asks for some time, then has a religious vision. She leaves for a convent. Matt is left to break the news to the kids. He tells the the girls together and then the younger Jack by himself. Yes
Sep-1960 The morning after the Nixon-Kennedy debate. Jack schools Matt on the virtues of Kennedy while Matt begins to try and instill a work ethic in his son. Yes
Apr-1965 Matt confronts Jack at home after he blew off an inventory session at the store with Matt and the girls. Jack was chasing a pretty girl, Matt is furious that Jack’s word means nothing and that he seems to have no regard for his familial responsibilities. Yes
Sep-1967 Matt asks Jack to postpone his senior year of High School and help him rebuild McDougal Drugs, which was burned in the July riots. Matt believes they can get Jack a family hardship exemption from the Draft, giving him an extra year (as he would then resume High School and be exempt for the following year as well). Jack can’t understand Matt’s desire to rebuild a business he mostly despises running, and encourages him to pursue a dream, but Matt insists on rebuilding. Jack tells him that Ada has saved $2900 for him and that he intends to use that money to travel and see the world after graduation and that he needs time to think about postponing and helping Matt. Yes
Sep-1967 Jack will not postpone school, but agrees to assist his father after school and on weekends to rebuild the store. Matt will take what he can get. Yes
May-1968 Matt and Jack have successfully rebuilt the store and share a beer together the night before the store’s re-opening. Jack was present less than Matt hoped but more than he feared. Matt tells him it’s been the best time of his life, working together. Yes
Jun-1968 Jack graduates from High School.
Jun-1968 Jack is drafted into the US military for service in Vietnam. Jack discusses possibly fleeing to Canada with Matt, but doesn’t consider it a real possibility. Jack insists on being the one to tell Ada. Yes
Jul-1968 Jack is sent to Fort Dix, NJ for Basic Training.
Sep-1968 Jack is shipped overseas to Da Nang.
Sep-1968 Jack’s unit is assigned to “clean-up”, traveling to areas that have just seen battle to gather, identify and document as many of the remains of fallen US troops as they can.
Dec-1968 Ada dies of a heart attack. Matt finds her collapsed on the kitchen floor. He calls Jack in Vietnam to give him the news. Both are devastated. Yes
Mar-1969 Jack, after seeing a counselor about his struggles in dealing with what he’s seeing on the battlefields, begins to keep a journal documenting his experiences, feelings, and observations. It becomes his lifeline in dealing with the tragedy all around him.
Nov-1969 After a reasonably good 18 months since re-opening, McDougal Drugs begins to struggle.
Feb-1971 The business struggles at McDougal Drugs continue to worsen. Matt begins drinking heavily.
Dec-1972 Matt hits Phil (Lo’s husband) at Christmas Dinner. Lo refuses to speak to Matt.
Mar-1973 Maggie, fed up with Matt’s continual drinking and lectures on how she’s raising her kids, cuts off contact with Matt.
Nov-1973 Jack is wounded by enemy fire and is hospitalized.
Nov-1973 After 2 weeks in the army hospital, Jack is discharged and sent back to the states on a plane full of newly-released POW’s. He spends the flight talking to them about their stories, their families, and what they will do when they get home.
Nov-1973 Matt sees a lawyer about filing for bankruptcy for McDougal Drugs.
Nov-1973 Jack arrives home to surprise Matt on Thanksgiving Day only to find him drunk and suicidal. Jack convinces Matt that he still has things to live for and Matt backs away from the ledge. They discuss Jack’s experiences in ‘Nam and Matt fills Jack in on the recent family developments. They drink together, watch the game, and burn the turkey. Yes
Nov-1973 The next morning. Matt convinces Jack to help him fix up the house to sell it. Jack agrees to give him a couple of weeks and encourages him to stop drinking. Jack agrees to try to smooth things over for Matt with Maggie. Yes
Dec-1973 Matt tells Jack about his spiritual awakening. He has given up drinking and has found God. Best line: M: Jack, you won’t believe it.. I found God again. J: Where was he? Jack tells Matt that he’s glad he’s OK, but that the time has come for him to go. He’s going to stay with a friend in the city. He has to make his mark. Matt is disappointed, but understands. He offers inappropriate sex advice and makes Jack uncomfortable. The two reminisce about Jack getting and losing his license on the same day (after getting caught with buddies and a 12 pack). Matt encourages Jack to follow his own path. They literally arm wrestle before Jack departs for the city. Yes
Dec-1973 Matt files for bankruptcy and closes McDougal Drugs.
Feb-1974 Matt gets a job driving a truck and delivering snack foods to grocery and convenience stores.
Apr-1974 Matt, out making deliveries on Good Friday, encounters a charismatic catholic and is convinced to attend services at his church.
Apr-1974 Jack runs out of money in NYC and moves in with friends.
Jun-1974 Matt meets Angie and begins to court her.
Aug-1974 Matt proposes and he and Angie become engaged.
Sep-1974 Jack discovers that a woman he’s been seeing is pregnant. He takes her to have an abortion the folowing week.
Nov-1974 Jack sells a four part serial based on his journal writings of his trip home with the POW’s to The Atlantic.
Nov-1974 Jack travels to Newark to celebrate Thanksgiving with Matt. He shares the story of his first writing sale with Matt, who is overjoyed for him. Matt tells him about his born-again experience and that he’s met and is engaged to Angie, including that he gave Angie Maria’s ring. Jack is thrilled for him, though he expresses his own doubts and insists on the supremacy of evolution and science overall when Matt tries to sell him on religion and faith. Matt expresses his desire for Jack to meet the right girl, settle down, and have grandchildren. Jack insists he’s still young and is not ready to settle down. Matt defers. Jack, because it’s his last and only option, asks if Matt can loan him money until his first check from The Atlantic comes through. Matt offers other solutions, Jack pushes back (“This is always how it is… I ask for help, I tell you exactly what I need, and you decide that you know better how to help me…”). Matt eventually agrees, no strings attached. Yes
Dec-1974 Jack comes on Christmas Eve to help Matt decorate his tree. He has to break the news to Matt that he can’t come tomorrow because he has a reception that’s important for his budding writing career. Matt is heartbroken as Maggie and her family are coming and were going to meet Angie. Matt tries to convert Jack with the wet cat food analogy, but Jack resists. Strongly. Matt tries to convince Jack that until he lets go of his anger, he won’t find happiness. Jack tells Matt to lay off Maggie tomorrow. J: “I know you’ve told her her kids are going to hell.” M: “Well just between her and I. I didn’t say it in front of the kids.” Matt gives Jack an engraved leather diary, while Jack gives Matt the money he borrowed and a copy of his first published article. Yes
Mar-1975 Jack is diagnosed with Prostate cancer.
Apr-1975 Matt goes to see Jack in the city after Jack no-showed Easter the prior day. Jack simply forgot and explains to Matt that he just moved and had a lot on his mind. Matt reveals that he has been diagnosed with prostrate cancer and hasn’t told anyone. Jack insists that he tell Angie and to begin treatment. Matt is reluctant to have his prostate removed because it will result in sterilization and he and Angie are hoping to have a child. Yes
Apr-1975 Jack goes home to see Matt with the intention of telling Angie if Matt hasn’t yet done so. Matt has. They have prayed about it, seen another doctor (who happens to be a fellow congregant), and decided to treat the cancer with prayer for the time being. Jack is infuriated and refuses to support Matt’s decision. Matt refuses to relinquish the opportunity to have another child. J: “How many patients has Dr. Miller cured with his miraculous prayer approach?” Jack wants Matt to do something, Matt insists he is and that they just have to give it time. Jack storms out with “You want me to give it time? Fine. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” Yes
May-1975 Jack meets Mart Crowley at a literary party. Crowley is a writer and playwright who had broken barriers a few years earlier with The Boys in the Band. He and Jack click instantly. As they began to spend time together, they become great friends. Jack loves the stories that Mart tells and Mart loves Jack’s writing. He tells Jack that he has a gift for writing about people in a way that makes them feel real and encourages him to mine more personal territory. Jack begins to research a piece on religion and how it has affected his family.
Oct-1975 Jack comes home to share his new article (“Jesus Christ and the Three Bears”) with Matt before it is published. The article details Jack’s skepticism of God and faith and his outright antagonism towards organized religion. It also reveals how it has and continues to (in his opinion) harm his family. Matt is infuriated, humiliated, and almost can’t even speak to him. Jack insists that he’s trying to help Matt, but Matt can’t see it as anything but exposing their family secrets to the world. Jack won’t apologize and walks out. Yes
Nov-1975 Matt, at Angie’s insistence, meets Jack for coffee. Matt shares with Jack the embarrassment that the article has caused him in the church and how humiliated he is. Jack refuses to apologize for the article, claiming that he has touched many lives. The article has gotten him a permanent position with the Atlantic and has made him one of the magazine’s hottest writers, which only serves to make Matt feel more betrayed. Jack reveals that not all the family feels the same, as he’s been in contact with Maria and she’s proud. Matt, despite everything, can’t help but ask how she is. Matt reveals that his strategy has worked: he is cancer free. And Angie is pregnant. But Jack will never know his brother, because Matt can’t trust him. Jack wonders why he can’t be forgiven but Matt says it will take time. Jack, feeling hurt, misunderstood, and that asking for time is hypocritical of a Christian man, leaves. Yes
Apr-1976 Matt writes Jack a letter forgiving him for the article, but disowning him at the same time. For while he’s forgiven him, he can’t trust him. He wants no further contact with Jack until he accepts Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. Until that time, he is dead to him. Jack is devastated.
Jul-1976 John (Johnny) McDougal is born to Matt and Angie. There are complications with the labor and Angie dies in childbirth. Jack finds out from his sisters and wants to reach out to his father but Matt sends word through Maggie that his sympathy is not welcome.
Dec-1978 Jack publishes an article on the Jonestown Massacre and the victims’ remaining families.
Apr-1979 Matt discovers that his cancer has returned. With a vengeance. He is given only a few months to live.
May-1979 Jack receives a Hillman Prize for his article on Jonestown.
Jul-1979 Jack can respect Matt’s wishes no longer and goes home to see his dying father. The girls have taken John for the day to celebrate the 4th of July. Yes