The daughter of two Protestant ministers who met at a Pittsburgh drama school, Rachael Bail of McLean was exposed to writing, speaking and acting as she grew up in the small cow town of Arcadia, Fla. Bail recalls her parents quoting Shakespeare as they did chores around the home. Her mother was also a speech teacher and taught poetry and monologues to Bail.
"And she had me give a lot of [presentations] in the church or at meetings of clubs she was a member of," Bail said. "I have always enjoyed [being] in front of a crowd."
After retiring in 2001 from a career in journalism, Bail has been able to pursue her passion for drama and writing. Although she managed to work on a few novels and plays while writing for newspapers and raising children, she now has dedicated more time to her hobby.
She currently is taking two courses at the Writers Center in Bethesda, Md. One is an acting course for writers and the other is a novel writing class where she is revising her novel "Rome in the Heart." She is also working on a new anti-war play called the "Cat's War" where cats circle the globe in an AWAC's plane and look down at what is going on in the world.
INFLUENCED BY HER travels, politics and current events, Bail has written at least 10 plays, five of which were selected by the National Press Club for readings by professional actors.
"I am perhaps not the best judge of talent but she comes up with novel ideas for plays she has written and has done a very good job of it," said Gordon Smith, member of the National Press Club's events and speakers committees. "The club has encouraged and will continue to encourage her play writing career."
Her play "Emily and I" will be presented by the National Press Club's Events Committee, the Playwrights Forum and the McLean Drama Company at the Press Club at 7 p.m. on June 13. The play is the story of an American woman married to the American consul in Rome who divorces her husband, marries a CIA officer and disappears in McLean. Bail calls "Emily and I" a romantic mystery.
In addition to being a novelist and playwright herself, Bail formed the McLean Drama Company in January 2001 to support local actors and writers.
"I wanted to form a drama company to present new plays by area playwrights," Bail said. "There have been great plays written through the ages starting with the Greeks but there is a need for contemporary plays to explore the issues of modern life."
Bail said she plans to have an organizational party in the fall to work up to the production of one of her plays at the Alden Theater in June 2004. The group will also hold readings of plays and theater discussion groups throughout the year.
While Bail now is focusing on writing novels and plays, she spent most of her career as a news writer. She became the editor of the DeSota County High School newspaper but it was not her first experience with journalism.
"In addition to the speeches I gave as a kid, two boys and I started a neighborhood newspaper at age 8," Bail said. "It lasted for a few months."
Bail also became the assistant editor of the Florida State University newspaper where she graduated as a journalism major.
Bail started out at the Tampa Daily Times covering men's clubs and obituaries before moving to New York. There, she wrote for "Women's Wear Daily" and became the cosmetic editor.
"[It] was a great job because cosmetic people are constantly throwing parties," Bail said. "At Christmas, they poured the gifts in — makeup, perfume, purses."
WHEN HER HUSBAND at the time Herbert Baumel was offered a job as a concert violinist of the Venezuelan National Symphony, she moved to Venezuela for six months. In Caracas, Bail worked for Fairchild Publications and taught English to Spanish-speaking adults at the Centro Venezolano Americano.
Five years later, Bail was still teaching English but this time she was in Rome educating Italian officers who were going to Fort Benning, Georgia under NATO. Baumel had received a Fulbright grant to travel to Italy for two years to play sonatas with an Italian pianist. In addition, Bail also wrote a column for the "Rome Daily American."
"That was another job where I had more parties than I could go to," Bail said.
After returning to New York, Bail spent her time raising children and working on her novels. She wrote three novels and a play called "A Treatment of the Decameron" about the plague in Italy.
Bail's daughter Susan Baumel remembers her mother writing and can recall when a shipment of Bail's book, "Alec Templeton's Music Boxes," arrived at home.
"My first real memory of my mother is of her bringing in these boxes of books that had just been published," Baumel said. "I was probably only 4 or five. I remember seeing these boxes so new and being impressed by that."
BY 1972, Bail had moved to Florida and was as an education editor and columnist for the Florida Times Union.
"It was very interesting because this was the time when they were having the big integration push," Bail said.
Bail and her children moved to McLean in 1974 where she worked for Voice of America. She edited international news broadcasts and as a correspondent, she covered the Supreme Court, the Organization of American States and the Congress. Bail also reported from Italy, Russia, Spain, and Vietnam on trips to these countries.
Bail retired from Voice of America in 2001 but has just begun to realize her interest for play and novel writing.
"It is something she has wanted to do for a long time and something she takes great pleasure in," Baumel said. "Because of the intensity of her devotion to it, she has achieved a fair amount of success in a relatively short period of time. Her plays have been well received and attended."
"Emily and I" will be presented at the National Press Club, 13th floor of the National Press Building, 529 14th St. N.W. at 7 p.m. June 13. Admission is free but reservations are required. Call 202-662-7501.