Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Green Room

The specific origin of the term ‘Green Room’ is lost to history. One story is that London’s Blackfriars theatre (1599) included a room behind the scenes, which happened to be painted green; here the actors waited to go on stage. When I worked at Twin Cities Public Television, our green room was where guests would wait before appearing live on television or in one of my video productions.

My own green room has now been emptied. The show will begin shortly. A new play of mine is about to be performed for the first time. So, once again, I’m back at the Steeple Center theater watching my imagined characters come to life; their words transferred from my script to the stage. It’s much the same and yet so very different from last summer’s creation of ‘Riot at Sage Corner.’

I thought an appropriate sub-title for this next new play ought to be:

‘Romance, mischief, good music and a doobie or two
After fifty years, what else would you expect?’

That seems to encapsulate the drama, trauma, and energy I hoped to create with this new storyline of a group of alumni finally gathering together once again after an absence of fifty years. So much had changed. So much had stayed the same. Last January, I visited this subject matter of my next play, in another blog entitled Taking Home Room Attendance.

Now all that effort last winter of telling a story about a fifty-year class reunion was coming to fruition and a play was being created by a very talented cast of actors. The performance dates have been set, the auditions held and rehearsals are in full swing. A very talented singer-songwriter has created two original songs for the show and the sets look marvelous. The actors have been ‘off book’ for some time now. It’s all coming back to me again.

After last summer’s sold out performances of ‘Riot at Sage Corner,’ I asked myself how I was going to follow up on that success with yet another play. There is always a tendency to play it safe and create something that is assured continued satisfaction. Some folks suggested a sequel of the story of Sage and Margaret Maple from ‘Riot.’ Hollywood has been doing that for years with their franchise series. But I wasn’t interested in repeating what I had already done.

In much the same manner that I’ve never been able to focus on just one genre at a time, say more of my successful westerns, I was never interested in just repeating myself. So, I retreated into the half dozen play treatments I’d already created and went searching for some inspiration. Each play treatment had a storyline that interested me to some degree. Finally, after a lot of pondering and toying with the characters, one seemed to stand out. A class reunion of a bunch of odd-ball characters who hadn’t seem one another for fifty years but still carried baggage from that period in their lives.

My own fifty-year class reunion several years earlier turned out to be the ignition point for this new storyline. It was fifty years of change, history, lost feelings, and old feelings resurfacing again. It was one big ‘what if’ and ‘what ever happened to’ that inevitably led to ‘can you believe’ and ‘I’m not surprised.’

My theory is that people don’t really change over time. We grow, we mature and we become more worldly but our core being remains pretty much the same. It’s only when drama or trauma sweeps into our lives that change can sometimes be forced upon us. And even then, it can be a reluctant change at best.

So that theory further begs the question; can a person reconnect on some new level given the past level of commitment, pain of breakup or reluctance to return to the past even at some surface level? Are the old status symbols of class ranking, social standing or financial strength still a part of that old equation? Or is there something of shared value that transcends all those old barriers to reconnect people at some emotional level? Can our respective pasts be bypassed for a new future together?

So, for all my characters in this new play, I had to ask myself if there could be a reconnection, reconciliation, or acceptance of the past all the while bravely facing the future. That turned out to be the genesis for ‘Club 210.’

I had to create representative characters that were interesting. Some could be stereo-types while others had to stand out as being different. Some turned out to be fictional but with a dose of reality to prop them up. Others were made up but interesting to me.

There were two intimidate settings, a home room and a dive bar once frequented by the group. Both places were cauldrons of memories, some good, some bitter-sweet, some forgettable. There would be plenty of conflict and a lot of humor. Both emotions would tie and pull my characters apart.

During the months that ‘Club 210’ came into focus and finally form, I found my voice with the characters. Now it would be up to them to tell their respective stories as best they can. They all have interesting stories I think my audience is going to enjoy. The Green Room is empty, the actors are in place. All I must do is listen and learn.

Who knows, there just might be yet another story in what they have to say.

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