When I retired from full-time law teaching in 2004 I went back to other activities: playing tournament bridge, writing novels, and theater. In my youth (sigh) I did a great deal of theater, both as an actor and director, and it was ever a great love. I now own a collection of plays numbering in the thousands, very useful for outings of the “Whaley Players” (see “Elena Kagan and Me” May 23). When I was in my junior year of college I had a month-long debate with myself as to which career I should choose: law or theater. I settled on law (and that went very well), but the alternative yearning kept pulsing all these years. Starting in the fall of 2004 I began anew, and since then have been involved in ten productions either as an actor (best part: King Lear) and director (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and others). There are few things in life as pleasantly thrilling as waiting in the wings for the curtain to go up.
I will be directing a new play entitled “Closure” by James McClindon for two performances on Friday, July 16 and Saturday July 17 at 7:30 pm, for the Curtain Players Playwrights Festival (nice theater, well-known in the Columbus community, just north of Westerville OH.
The CP Playwrights Festival is an annual event. This year playwrights were invited to submit plays for consideration, and 176 (!) were received. From that number a CP committee chose two one acts and two full-length plays for performance this July. The two one acts will be performed the Friday and Saturday before my play goes on, and the other full-length the weekend after that. The plan is to demonstrate for audiences how plays are developed. So the first one act will be just a seated reading, the second will be a staged reading (with the actors carrying scripts), then “Closure,” which will be announced as a staged rehearsal production without complete sets, but “off-book” (memorized) and fully acted out. The final play is a traditional staging with an elaborate set and costumes, etc. After each performance the playwright, director, and cast will take questions from the audience.
When CP asked me if I’d like to direct one of the plays, I read them all, but latched onto “Closure” and hugged it tight to my chest. It’s a beaut: both side-splittingly funny and poignant at the same time. With a cast of four (and I have my dream cast playing it), the plot concerns an older man in Cambridge MA who has never been particularly loving to his son and daughter, but who’s trying to make amends right before his death. Whenever he takes a Percocet, a vision of the Virgin Mary appears to him, and she gives him major advice (see photo—in our production, just as she always was in the statues I stared at in wonder in church, she will be barefoot and dragging around a snake on stage). The father’s vision, however, is not of the real VM, but merely his imagination’s rendering, and this one’s got a smart mouth on her (“So, you’ve been taking advice from a Jesuit, have you? How many deities has he birthed?”). The play is quite wonderful, Broadway-ready, and I predict it will become a staple of community theaters across the country. It’s therefore a thrill to put on the first staged version of the show (albeit with limited scenery and costumes and only two performances). The author has asked that we make a video of the CP production.
If anyone reading this is in the Columbus OH area and came to see my show, I’d be very pleased, and much interested in your reaction. Contact info is at http://www.curtainplayers.com/reservations.php. Individual tickets are only $5.00.
"Douglas Whaley, Actor," August 14, 2010
"I Am an 89 Year-Old Jew," January 13, 2011
"Another Opening, Another Show: Doug is in 'Hamlet," April 29, 2011