By Jim Dalglish
A new comedy I’ve written with the indomitable Lynda Sturner will travel down to Princeton, NJ, this weekend for a staged reading at the McCarter Theatre, one of the nation’s most prestigious theatres.
Am I excited? Oh, yeah. Lynda? She is too. Which is saying a lot for such a sophisticated New Yorker like Lynda. Those New Yorkers. You gotta love em.
What’s the play about? Well, a lot of things actually. Families? If I wrote that you’d all yawn. The recession? Zzzzzzzzz. Robots? Hmmmmmm. Infidelity? Okay… I’m probably getting closer.
Every writer hates having to ball a play into a few words that’s supposed to pitch the premise and titillate. In a few sentences? Really. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just say the damn play is about “life”? No? Okay here goes…
The Goddamned Premise
A Talented Woman follows the exploits of a former doyenne of New York’s Upper East Side, who discovers she’s spent most of her adult life living in a house of cards. As the play opens, she’s destitute in a down economy. She shops at Daffy's instead of Bergdorfs. She takes the bus instead of a car service. She's given up the Met, MOMA, BAM, even botox. Nothing seems to help. The play follows Maxie’s humorous and heartbreaking journey to find her footing in a world she no longer recognizes.
Are you still with me?
Trust me… the play’s kinda good. At least that’s what my buddies at Boston Public Works – a great new organization I belong to tell me. My writing lab in Boston – the Accomplices of Interim Writers – helped Lynda and me pull it all together. So ask them about it. Guys? Help me out here, okay?
If that doesn’t convince you how about some awards and recognition?
Awards and Recognition
The play was named a semifinalist at the National Playwriting Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Center and was included in the "Best of..." festival at The Actors Studio in New York last summer. It also won the New Playwright, New Plays Competition and the Kaplan Prize awarded by Eventide Arts.
So it may actually be kinda… good.
Why am I so excited about having a reading at the McCarter? Maybe because it won a Best Play Tony last year for it’s Broadway production of Christopher Durang’s comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. It’s a regional theater in Princeton, New Jersey, but its influence is national in scope. It has a successful history of taking new works from their gorgeous theater in Princeton to Broadway. Lynda and I were thrilled to work with Emilia LaPenta, the McCarter Literary Manager and Mike Donahue, a hot young New York director.
Out of the Head and Onto the Boards
So many times you write a play and the only place you see it is in your head. Having a chance to get it up on its feet – not a whole production, but a reading – is a step in the right direction. And having a chance to hear it in front of the McCarter’s discerning audience is fantastic. With such tremendous actors it’s over the top.
Writing a play is effing impossible enough. But writing it with another person? I don’t think either Lynda nor I suspected what a ride that would be. Thrilling and frustrating and… a lot of other things. It took us four years. Much of the time we weren’t living in the same vicinity. Three-hour Skype sessions had to suffice.
I should write a primer about the dos and don’ts of Skype collaboration… Hmmmmm… Next blog maybe. On to working with the Sturner Woman.
Lynda is a former resident of New York, and I grew up in North Dakota. So at first glance we may seem like odd collaborators. But we found that combining two unique perspectives is just what was needed to make this damn play fly.
This is how we described our writing process to the Provincetown Banner in a feature story the newspaper ran about us a few years back:
Sturner: “It started when I gave this short play I had written to Jim to critique and he said…”
Dalglish: “…This isn’t a short play. This is a whole evening. You’ve got a tiger by the tail.”
Sturner: “I didn’t see what Jim saw.”
Dalglish: “So I cut a deal with her. We’d write it together.”
They had written another play before. A short piece called “Superlubricated.”
Dalglish: “It went well. I mean, we didn’t kill each other,”
Sturner: “We came close,”
Dalglish: “I’ve always loved Lynda’s work — both as an actress and a playwright.”
Sturner: “And I’ve loved Jim’s work as well. We’ve acted in each other’s plays…”
Dalglish: “…directed each other’s plays…”
Sturner: “…and interfered in each other’s lives.”
Yeah. That’s what writing with Lynda was like. Often times I wish we had recorded those Skype sessions. I just hope we managed to get the drama on the page.
The reading will take place this Friday, June 27, at 7:00pm at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. It will be directed by Mike Donahue and will feature some of New York’s leading actors. The reading is free and open to the public. To reserve seats, contact the McCarter Theatre by emailing Hilary Judis at email@example.com
Where: McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
When: Friday, June 27th at 7pm.
Director: Mike Donahue
Dramaturg: Emilia LaPenta, McCarter Literary Manager
Producer: Chelsea Mark Adams
Harmony – Rachel Covey
Peter – Ray Virta
Victoria – Miriam Silverman
Maxie – Patricia Hodges
Greg – David Furr
Christopher – Matt Saldivar
Find out more about the play
Find out more about Jim Dalglish