Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Taking Homeroom Attendance

The man approached me at my ‘Meet the Author’ presentation last September. He had seen my play ‘Riot at Sage Corner’ a month earlier and quite enjoyed it. Turns out, he was an old classmate of mine that I hadn’t seen in over fifty years. This Cretin Alum had become a fan of my writing too. Now anyone who has read my books and seen my play is a true fan of mine.  

We chatted briefly and he bought several more of my books. It was fun to reminisce, if ever so briefly, about life back in high school. But it was one of his comments that made my day and set the wheels in motion. I owe that fellow a huge debt of gratitude for fueling a fire that became a conflagration of exploding ideas which then morphed into my next play ‘Club 210.’

‘Club 210’ is the result of an over-active imagination force-feeding my head images of a fifty-year high school class reunion. ‘Two Ten’ was my home room back at Cretin High School. During that initial encounter my classmate casually remembered that I was in home room 210 at Cretin while he was in another home room down the hall. By the time the evening was over, ideas were cascading out of my head and on to paper. The story line focused on an eclectic group of individuals who had graduated the same year and all came from the same home room.  It was where they hung out, sang songs and misbehaved. Hence the title: ‘Club Two Ten.’

My own fifty-year class reunion a few years earlier played a big part in churning up the waters of ‘what ever happened to…’ Fifty years had passed and few of my classmates had traversed a straight and narrow and predictable pathway through life. Most of us had experienced some detours, disappointments, surprises, challenges, awesome adventures and wonderful relation-ships. I wanted the same things to happen to my characters in the play. Life events that were, at once, believable, happy, sad, fulfilling, sometimes shocking, longing and soul-satisfying.

As it is evolving through its many draft forms ‘Club 210’ will encompass universal themes such as the challenges of growing old, high school romances, ‘forever friends’ and success and failure at life and love. Ultimately it is a self-examination of what has passed with those folks for a life. If pressed, I would describe the play as a lighthearted drama with some serious moments. Oh, and there’s original music too.

I’m tapping into my memories of the sixties to mix them into a brew of conflicting emotions for my characters. It’s not a nostalgic trip back in time as much as wallpaper for my characters lives back then. That washboard of past laundry will reveal much of the present day lives of my characters. It’s been a fascinating journey thus far. They’re teaching me more about themselves every time we meet at the keyboard.

I also learned a lot from last summer’s production of ‘Riot at Sage Corner.’ That venture provided me with invaluable lessons in the art and craft of play production. Watching the actors perform on stage I was struck by the fact that they had all begun as just a figment of my imagination. I created that old hippie, her sidekicks as well as the rigid and uncompromising Margaret Maple. All those voices heard inside my head so long ago were being repeated by actors mimicking my imagined characters. I hope the very same thing will happen again next summer.

The lessons learned were easy to list and yet hard to define. Last summer I had to learn team work, the idiosyncrasies of small town America, clashing and compromising personalities and life in Community Theater.

There is still a long road ahead. Many more drafts, surgical edits and subtle nuances will be needed to flavor the story line. There will be critical readings by friends and then a cold reading of the entire script by professional actors. All that before it gets back to Minnesota and the real work begins.

It will be a while before the reunion takes place. It’s scheduled for August of this year. You are all cordially invited to attend. It’s going to be a blast.

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