Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New York: REFUGE OF LIES, 2008!

Nov 14: tentatively, Lion Theatre on Theatre Row from July 31st to August 24th 2008

How exciting! I just got word from Steven Day of Day By Day Productions in New York that they've secured funding to produce my play REFUGE OF LIES in Manhattan in August/September 2008! Can you imagine? I made my first trip to NYC this April - now I've got a reason to head back there again.

The first draft of the play was written as part of the 24 Hour Play Festival at The New Play Centre in Vancouver in 1992 or 1993 or so, under the title "Flesh & Blood." Theatre & Company commissioned me to further develop the play, which premiered in Kitchener in 1994, directed by Stuart Scadron-Wattles and starring Ted Follows. There was also a reading of the play at the Art Within Symposium and Showcase in Atlanta, a couple years back. My friend J.P. Allen has worked hard on behalf of the play, sponsoring a reading in San Francisco (at which he met his wife, Janis!), and publishing the script through Ventana Press. He promoted the work to various theatres, and we had encouraging near misses at the Mark Taper Forum and the Magic Theatre, but apart from a community production at a large church in the midwestern United States, this will be the play's American premiere - its professional premiere, to be sure. And my New York debut!

One possible venue is the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village: "As New York's oldest, continuously running Off-Broadway theatre, the Cherry Lane has helped to define American drama, fostering theater that is fresh, daring, and relevant, for over 80 years." Sheesh.

(Quick update a few hours later: it's looking like Theatre Row may be the most likely venue. Where right now Peter Dinklage (THE STATION AGENT) is starring in a show directed by Ethan Hawke. They do it different in New York...)

(And another quick update, in the "How Weird Is This" department: just got this note from Janis DeLucia Allen, "Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day that we read the play here in SF. It's the day JP and I met." Happy anniversary! And I'm the one that gets the gift...)

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That's all for now, but I'll toss in some notes I jotted down in response to some questions a while back...

Q: We were looking through the play and curious on how you came up with the name.

A: Originally titled "Flesh And Blood," because of the communion element in the story, and because of the one Jewish school of thought that says you can only be forgiven by the person who's been wronged, "or by their flesh and blood."

But a local playwright and theatre critic had a play out at that time also called Flesh And Blood, so I asked him, and he preferred I change the title. So I had about three days to find a new title, started looking through the bible for cool-sounding pertinent quotes, loved the tie-in with both lying and the "hiding place" Rudi was building, and the idea of our sins being "hid in Christ."

Q: Structure?

A: Got the idea of the Jewish man's appearances from the incident of stopping at the stoplight / seeing the guy at the bus stop, which happened to me while I was prepping to write the play but which I attributed to Rudi. (I was in an altered state after viewing an amazing production of A LIE OF THE MIND at the Vancouver Playhouse - the bus stop event occurred at the south end of Granville Street, just before driving onto the Granville Bridge). So I played the story through, alternating between escalating scenes with him and scenes without him, and soon realized that his presence was correlated to the increasing threat to Rudi in "the real world" from the court case. The more extreme "dream occurrances" weren't really pre-planned, but came out during the writing of the first draft during a 24-hour playwriting competition: I think I was practically in a dream state myself while writing them, no exaggeration. I would fall asleep sitting up at the computer, wake up to find three pages of "j" or something.

Within the past few months I watched THE LAST WAVE, which I had seen 20 or 25 years ago and which made a huge impact on me at the time, though I could remember few details. I was astonished to see the escalating appearances of the aboriginal man outside the house, at the door, inside the house, etc., and to re-encounter the idea of "dream time" - I had completely forgotten about both aspects of the film, but clearly see the connection with my play.

I wove in the Paraguay flashback scenes and some present-time Simon scenes subsequently, to fill out the story.

Q: What about the character and cultural background that create the language style?

A: When I moved to Vancouver in 1978 to be a youth pastor, I was in a community church founded by a bunch of people who had left the Mennonite church, so I kind of picked up their culture by osmosis. (Fact is, I've ended up attending a Mennonite Church, but that's certainly after the fact of writing the play.) I'd also known some Dutch people here and there, so there's kind of a blending of the two cultures, as there would be in Rudi's marriage.

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