Salvation Road Opens Tonight

Salvation Road opens tonight with a cast of thousands ….

 

It has been a long process developing this play, a comic drama about a boy searching for a sister who has disappeared into a fundamentalist cult.

 

Originally a one-act for three actors (hated that version) the play underwent a massive rewrite in the summer/fall of 2008. I got up my nerve to stage the retooled one-act version, but on advice of a high school drama director — the fabulous Jennie Eisenhower — I developed it into this version, a full-length for 15 actors.  Jennie did not think the subject matter would intimidate a lot of schools, but the cast size–five to eight actors–would discourage a lot of high schools. A cast of 15 to 16 would be a much easier sell. With that in mind, I revised the play into a large-cast version. It subsequently received a developmental workshop at The Utah University Youth Theatre in 2011 as part of the American Alliance for Theatre in Education’s Playwrights in Our Schools Program.  This year the play was accepted for development during NYU’s New Plays for Young Audiences workshop at Provincetown Playhouse this summer. Ironically, the Provincetown project focused a full-length with a small cast (six actors doubling into nine parts).  This is the first time I’ve written a play with two versions–one aimed at professional production, and the other aimed at the youth theatre market.

 

 

The  Theatre Department of the Steinhardt School at New York University trains drama teachers — and there could be no better match for this play than a premiere of the full-length youthversion in a departmental production. It is a challenging topic for young actors and for their audiences, but I strongly believe young people have more going on inside than many of their teachers, and sometimes parents, appreciate.  My hope is that schools across the country will not be put off by the subject matter, but will embrace this play as an excellent opportunity for their students to explore issues of faith, spirituality, conformity, and control through the story of two boys caught up in the cult phenomenon.

 

The next stop for Salvation Road is a production at Walden Theatre in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 8-18. I’ll be going out there for a post-show discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Block, Part 5: The Exploratory Scene

Exploration is not always going to take you where you expect to go.

We’re back with my series on feeling my way through a draft of a new play. How to break through the block? In this installment, I’m looking at laying the foundations for an exploratory scene that might not necessarily make it into the play. This is my play about a man with an amazing memory, whose strange gift turns out to be a liability in the time and place (1930s Soviet Union) in which he lives.

 

In the opening scene that I posted previously, we are introduced to Alexei in the middle of an exchange between his psychologist and the NKVD agent who is questioning her. He enters the space as if he is coming into Natalia’s office at the hospital, rather than into the dingy office where the interrogation is taking place.

 

This introduction to Alexei and Natlia puts us immediately into the thick of their relationship. It also creates the   advantage of a high-stakes scenario for the doctor.

 

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After a Long Absence …

It’s been a month since I posted last. My apologies for my absence.  It was due in part to a family crisis.  My mother-in-law, who had been ill for several years, took a sudden, unexpected turn for the worst on Sept. 23 and died the following Saturday.

 

Doreen was a true lady who grew up amid a great deal of hardship but never saw herself as deprived. She lost her father at an early age, was sent away to Devon as a child to escape the Nazi bombing of London, and came of age at a time of genuine economic privation in post-war Britain. But she took it all in stride.

 

Even during the worst of her illness she never complained. And she slipped away quietly.

 

A rush of activity followed her passing—calling friends, relatives, making arrangements, simply sitting still and holding hands—the initial shock gives way to a grief that is expressed in so many different ways. Not always tears.

 

We struggled with finding the right words to remember her—and this is what we came up with to read at her memorial service on October 8:

 

Doreen Lucy Gregory,  Aug. 4, 1933 – Sept. 29, 2012

Anyone who met Doreen in recent years met a woman who had a great enthusiasm for life even though she was dealing with a debilitating illness.  “Life is sweet,” she said one day, and throughout her life, she found sweetness in many things, large and small—the pleasure of a brisk walk through Wentworth Woods, the excitement of holidays with family and friends, or the  taste of fresh picked raspberries from her own allotment.  Even an experience that was a hardship for many—being evacuated as a child during World War II—was a sweet one for her. She often said the five years she spent in Devon were among the happiest of her life.

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