ETSU's '3 The Hard Way' Captivates All its Audiences

Adorned with short, choppy gray hair and thick square eyeglasses, she is an older woman wearing a leopard-print shirt with a scarf tied precisely around her neck. Linda Eisenstein’s Web photo might appear outdated at a first glance, but on closer inspection, the reader finds she is a modern day award-winning playwright with a fresh outlook on women.

She promises the audience it will always have suspense, emotional honesty, events that matter and at least one "aha" moment in her work, Linda said on her Web site, "As an audience, that's what I want to watch, so it's what I try to write," Eisenstein said.

Director and graduate student Pamela Adolphi hoped for many “aha” moments in ETSU’s performance of Eisenstein’s Three the Hard Way Wednesday (Oct. 25) at 8 p.m. in VA Memorial Theatre. “It just rings so true to life in that there are complications in everything and how you come to accept the individual to function as a whole,” said Adolphi, who directed the show as her master’s thesis in theatre. “I think people will cry. I think people will laugh. I think they may do it all at the same time.”

Three the Hard Way was Eisenstein’s first solo play title and also a “first” solo for the set and lighting designers and the director. "It is great to learn from others," Adolphi said. "I don't know if I would have ever found Linda if it had not been for this experience. I am an aspiring playwright myself. I can look to her for my own writing and for advice through her work and from speaking with her."

Patrick Cronin, professor and head of the theatre division at ETSU, and Eisenstein became friends through a professional's discussion board for playwrights and actors. After some discussion and looking up Cronin's resume she e-mailed him, Cronin said.

"Two years ago she sent me an e-mail saying ‘Do I have a play for you,’ " he said. "So I sent it out to the faculty and staff. We agreed on it and it's great. It is an all student play with the exception of me."

Three the Hard Way focuses on three sisters coming together after the death of their father, Albert. Each sister and her relationship with her father is revealed. Albert, played by Cronin, was a hustler in life and his ways have rubbed off on his daughters. He didn’t give them a normal childhood.

“No one would confuse Albert for a Father Knows Best … or even a Tim Allen,” Cronin said. “We give what we have and it’s never what they want.”

In the play, his character is an onlooker comparable to Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. He is a physical presence who tries to bring his daughters together after his death, Adolphi said.

Cronin said his favorite part of the play is when one daughter says, “You didn't know how to raise girls” and then Albert says, “I didn't see you as girls. I saw you as people.”

"He tried to make them fit into his world," Cronin said. "As a parent we do the best we can and that is what he has done."

Recently, Linda has done particularly well as a playwright. She won multiple awards for Three the Hard Way and for her other works as well, including the Ohio Arts Council Individual Fellowships award three times.

She has been a Gilmore Creek recipient and a member of outstanding theatres, clubs and institutions across the nation. Her work has also been acknowledged in Canada, South Africa, England, Australia and Northern Ireland.

In a 2001 Verge interview Eisenstein gave a piece of advice to new playwrights. “Theatre is a fringe art form nowadays without much money to be made- so a playwright is always engaging in a labor of love,” Eisenstein said. “Write what you love! Engage in our human emotions, show us something to care about.”

Three the Hard Way played to sold out audiences in ETSU’s Bud Frank Theatre, and during the Tennessee Theater Association Festival hosted by ETSU this year. At the festival, Eisenstein held a workshop on being a playwright. For more information on the festival, go to