The Blue Candle*
The Blue Candle is my most recent (unproduced) play. It is a combination Gothic horror story and spiritual examination, for lack of a better word, of an isolated family who are paid visits by a mysterious young lawyer and a formidable detective one stormy night (of course). The story goes all over the place, but makes its point in the end (I hope). It’s intense, for sure, and that is why I hesitate to offer it anywhere for production; it would require extremely good acting, as well as above-average production values, to truly hit it across. That’s not to say that it won’t get produced, for someone is always out there willing to take a risk in experimental community theatre.
Cast of “Closing Night”, by the Canal Fulton Players
Canal Fulton, Ohio
Closing Night had a two-year gestation period. It is a comedy/murder mystery/drama set in the world of Broadway theatre in the mid-fifties, focusing alternately on the backstage and onstage drama during the final dress rehearsal of a terrible play, DEADLY NIGHTFALL, which screeches to a halt following a shocking murder. The concept was to have a small handful of actors play the forty-three characters in the story. The stage version of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps gave me the inspiration, as it is done that same way. The idea worked on paper for CN, but not so well when staged. Part of it was my fault, in the writing, and part of it rested with the director, who attempted to create multiple gratuitous lesbian relationships among the characters, instead of straight romances, due to the usual lack of auditioning males. I don’t know that I would veto the production if I had to do it all over again, but I think I would insist on traditional casting, no matter where we had to go to find the male actors. Anyway, the double and triple and quadruple-casting only confused the audience, although I must say that the cast worked very hard at making distinct, separate characterizations for every role. That was my fault, again, but after watching the performances, I think I know what to do to cure the play’s ills and make it work. So, it was not a failure; more like a triumphant draw. Loved the cast and crew, and felt bad that the material wasn’t quite up to snuff, including the large quantity of cheap humor which had, to my dismay, crept into it over the writing period.
The successful production of Dot’s Journey as a staged reading in 2012 segued into an even more successful mounting by the Canal Fulton Players in September, on the St. Helena III, the very popular and well-traveled boat on the Canal Fulton towpath,was staged as a dinner theatre served outside the park center, with the first third played on land, and then the second third played aboard the boat as it was towed by a pair of horses downriver, and the final portion delivered as the boat returned to the dock.
What can I say? The charm of this experience of seeing my little play given such a production left me dazzled. Being a playwright is a unique endeavor. While you’re writing the play, it belongs to you and you alone. After the play has been released to a director and actors—especially in this case, as I had nothing to do with the actual rehearsals, etc, of this version—it’s like a boomerang effect. You hope it comes back to you in recognizable form, and the way it comes back, with the distinctive packaging and treatment it receives through the efforts of a particular cast and creative team, should only enhance your pleasure as the author. In the case of the Canal Fulton Players, this was wonderfully, fancifully, delightfully so.
It positively warmed my heart to see my story and characters brought to life by such a talented and enthusiastic company…the costumes, the imaginative staging (Dot and Totes peering into a window of the boat to represent their peeking out of a locked room; Irene West pedaling a bicycle along the towpath, Miss Gulch-fashion, in black dress and vintage hat while delivering a single line—to uproarious response)…and that chandelier, my God, that cardboard chandelier. The laughter of the audience, the warm feeling I had knowing that these people had paid to see my work and that the cast and crew gave willingly of their time and talents to make the evening (two evenings, actually), possible. That warm feeling has helped ward off a very cold reality ever since.
Will Dot’s Journey see another production? I hope so.
Below the Surface*
My first full-length play, Below the Surface, which I started writing in 1997, was finally “released” in staged reading form in 2011. Like most of my other work, it treads the same tightrope between legitimate and melo-drama in its tale of a super-dysfunctional family, a sudden murder, plenty of psychological suspense, and just plain psychos. The play was picked up by the Victorian Players of Youngstown, who gave it about the best, most respectful, and successful a first production as one could wish for, even unto asking me whether one of the characters would have magazines on her coffee table.
As with Dot’s Journey, the experience proved both unforgettable and highly therapeutic. And humbling. And nerve-wracking. To sit in the midst of a paying audience, watching such talented people bringing my work to life; to know that they invested many hours of their time and energy into something that only existed because of me…that was and is heady stuff. They will never know how much it meant at that particular time. I can never thank them enough.
*Available through the author only.