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AACT NewPlayFest and More!

Today is the last day of Gracefully Ending’s run at Theatre Arlington, so I thought I’d take some time to share some short notes about going down to see the show.

First of all, it was a weird coincidence to be in Dallas exactly one week before the shooting of five cops. Leah and I visited the Dallas Museum of Art one street over from where the violence took place, and we constantly remarked on how clean, modern, and quiet the city was. Everyone we met was nice (even the woman at the Asian Arts Museum who yelled at me for taking a sip of water while looking at Buddhist book covers… “16th century Brazilian wood floors do not mix with spilled water, Sir!” Oops. I was thirsty!)

And that niceness extended doubly so to the wonderful people of AACT, Theatre Arlington, and the Jack Ayre Foundation, all of whom contributed to help make my show a possibility. Jim Johnson, the man tasked with directing Gracefully Ending, did a wonderful job of interpreting my words and staging them into reality. And the actors were phenomenal. Especially Sherri Britton, the woman playing Margret, which isn’t an easy role, by any means. Karen Sunde, an incredible playwright and actress, read that role twice in developmental readings, and she killed it. So anyone taking over that role had large shoes to fill (as did all of the actors, in fact. I’ve been blessed with incredibly talented actors/actresses in many of my play readings. The part of Beth was read twice by Lisa Bostnar, who has more acting credits to her name than I have hairs on my head). But the nuances of the characters – again, especially Sherri Britton – were very well done. And the set was… Well, superb. I must have said it a million times after the show to various people, but it’s worth repeating: I felt like I drew a rough draft with my play and the actors, set designers, and director turned it into a beautiful painting. I couldn’t have asked for more.

The show had two reviews, which were all positive for the most part, and seemed to focus on the newness of the show when being critical.

From Theatre Jones:

“It’s easy to see why this script was chosen… Theatre Arlington’s production, directed by Jim Johnson, makes a case for it to become popular in other community theaters.”

“DeLauder’s depiction of the mother-daughter tension between Margret and Beth sometimes feels clichéd and facile, but nonetheless rings true. Johnson builds and paces nicely, and DeLauder treats these characters with respect; it’s obvious it comes from personal experience.”

From the Ft. Worth Star-Ledger:

“It is easy to see why AACT deemed this play to be worthy of production. It is one of those rare scripts that probably reads as well as it plays. DeLauder has a particular gift for dialogue, sometimes achieving poetic cadences. While this drama is largely dark and tense, he also knows when and where to plant bits of comic relief.”

So Leah and I were only down in Dallas for three days, but we were extremely thankful to be given the opportunity to go down. And it was quite a trip. In addition to seeing the show, meeting amazing people, and going to art museums for half a day, we also went to a HUGE water park (everything is bigger in Texas… Even the water parks) and snuck into the super ritzy Fairmont Hotel to use their bathrooms (we had shopping bags from the museum, so we figured we’d blend right in).

Up next is a couple of weeks performing with our theatre company – TOTL. We’ll be doing Biloxi Blues, one of my favorites by Neil Simon, and Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap.

After that, in August, I’ll be heading down to Abingdon, Virginia, to be a part of the Barter’s Festival of Appalachian Plays and Playwrights, and to hear The People at the Edge of Town read in a wonderful, historic venue. And I can’t wait. I’ve wanted to be a part of this festival ever since I heard about it. I actually submitted Gracefully Ending to the festival last year, but didn’t make the cut. I remember being so disappointed when I got that rejection e-mail, like the wind went out of my sails. Because more than anything, I think of myself as an Appalachian playwright.

After all, it’s right there in the title of this webpage: AJ DeLauder, A West Virginia Playwright.

Until next time.

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