Monday, December 9, 2013
Playwright Karen Zacarias talks about her original opening in DC
By Bob Keyes firstname.lastname@example.org
A real-life conflict prompted Karen Zacarias to write her spunky comedy "The Book Club Play."
The cast of “The Book Club Play,” from left: Peter Husovsky, Mike Ostroski, Robyne Parrish, Courtney Thomas, Janet Mitchko and Dave Mason.
"THE BOOK CLUB PLAY"
WHERE: The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St., Lewiston
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Oct. 25; 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Through Oct. 28.
HOW MUCH: $18; $5 for ages 18 and younger
INFO: 782-3200; thepublictheatre.org
"We had an incident happen at my book club," said Zacarias, who lives in Washington, D.C., and is resident playwright at Arena Stage in Washington. "It was about someone joining who didn't get along with everyone.
"It wasn't anything like the play, but the idea of what disrupts things was so interesting to me. Human beings being what they are, there is always rebellion when it comes to rules."
The journey from that incident to the finished play is long and winding. Zacarias began the process in 2005, and the play received its debut at Arena Stage last year, although there were several stops and starts in between.
The play opens Friday at The Public Theatre in Lewiston, launching the theater's 22nd season. The cast includes Robyne Parrish, Mike Ostroski, Peter Husovsky, Dave Mason, Courtney Thomas and Janet Mitchko.
Christopher Schario, The Public Theatre's artistic director, who will direct this show, describes "The Book Club Play" as a cross between the TV shows "Frazier" and "Friends," with a dose of reality TV.
The oddball makeup of the group surfaces for all to see when the book club becomes the subject of a documentary film. It's a funny story about friendships and how books connect us and reveal us, Schario said.
Zacarias will be in Lewiston this weekend to watch the play and talk to the audience about the production. Especially with a new play, the writing process is never done. "The Book Club Play" has been revised and rewritten many times, and Zacarias is open to making more changes.
The Lewiston production will be the fourth for this play, though the first since its official premiere at Arena Stage last year. An early version was staged in Maryland, and then in the Berkshires.
Zacarias liked the early version of the show, but feedback from audiences caused her to think twice.
"People loved the play, but I love my book club," she said. "After seeing the first version, I heard people say, 'I will never join a book club.' I didn't want people to leave with that impression. The first version was very, very fun, but it didn't address some of the issues I wanted to address."
Zacarias will listen to the audience again after the Lewiston shows, and make revisions if necessary. From here, the plays moves on to Cincinnati.
"I'm pretty confident the version I have now is the right thing. But I will listen," she said. "Is there room for another joke?"
Arena Stage is one of the few theaters in the country that pays playwrights to be on staff. Zacarias has the relative luxury of not only a regular salary, but health benefits for the duration of her three-year term.
Theaters hire directors, actors, designers and stage hands. But the one artist who rarely receives a salary is the playwright. Arena Stage pays its playwrights to create new work -- for its own theater as well as for theaters across the country.
Zacarias knew she wanted to write plays at an early age. She moved to the United States from Mexico as a young girl, and faced taunts from her peers for her accent. She spent long hours alone.
"I had these long dialogues in my head during the long walk home from school," she said. "I didn't realize it, but I was writing plays in my head. Dialogue is a natural form of storytelling for kids."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: