My overall message to this blog post is never give up on a writing idea.
Theatre is an interesting business. I was fortunate enough to discover it at an early age. I came upon it, through my parents, both Equity actors and my Godfather, Francis G. Cleveland who ran The Barnstormers Summer theatre here in Tamworth New Hampshire. Theatre seemed like natural fit so I studied it in college.
My first college lesson in theatre, came from my friend Mark. Mark was consumed with the theatre and he is to this day a very talented actor, who gets work. I don’t remember Mark, taking a show off. Every play he tried out for he was cast. When he wasn’t acting and wanted to put together a show, he got a bunch of actors together and directed the play. I admire Mark for his passion. The lesson Mark taught me was simple, if you want to do theatre, just do it, even if you have to put it together yourself. This is the second play, I have thrown together a bunch of people to perform a production.
Pigeons by the Charles has been a long writing process. The idea came from the sitcom, “Mad About You.” Through the years the play has been through countless changes. This fall I presented Pigeons by the Charles to the Barnstormers summer theatre. My idea was to cast it within the Barnstormers company and Zoom it. Before I presented the idea, I told myself if it sin’t accepted just put the play on Zoom anyway. It was rejected by the play reading committee. I had a feeling it would be, but as someone once said to me once, “you never know until you ask.”
Plan B was in effect. I had an advantage going for me. I was already working on a fundraising campaign for my Dad, called, The Cope Murray Campaign. I started to raise money to name a dressing room in my Dad’s honor at the college he taught at for thirty years. I decided to use my play as the next fundraising event. I ignored the enormity of the idea and started putting it together.
When I put the idea together, I decided it was just going to be a reading with someone reading the stage directions. As I moved forward into this play, I realized this could be a larger production utilizing iMovie.. Ideas were flowing. Since it was a reading, I wasn’t concerned with the age of my actors, so if they did not fit the age of the characters it didn’t matter to me. Actors are actors, they can make characters believable not matter what age. This opened me up to a huge amount of possibilities and a broad range of talent to choose. My cast consists of two friends from Johnson State, one I directed for a theatre company I started with a bunch of friends, a radio guy, one local musician, a woman I performed with abroad in Great Britain and one Barnstormer actor. I am grateful to them all.
The finished product is coming March 6th. I am planning to air it that Saturday at twelve noon on my Youtube channel.
I want to meet my technical staff and cast, who have not only made this venture a whole lot of fun, but believed in me and stuck with me through this process.
The Technical Staff.
Linda is one of my Dad’s biggest supporters and has become a very close friend. She is gregarious and fun and is always there for us when we ask her to do something. She’s our painter and decorator for our house. Linda runs a company called Able Painting. I was beginning this interesting journey when Linda came by to paint our kitchen. As I was telling her the idea, she came up with the idea for the set or background. She suggested Traci Crowell should paint it.
I’ve known Traci for what seems like forever. I played Baseball with her two Uncles. I never knew Traci was such a talented artist. I know now. When I announced I was putting Pigeons by the Charles on, she sent me an email and said, “I want to help.” Help she did. She created the background for our show. It is phenomenal. I can’t say enough about it and I have used it for posters, and for advertising.
Kim is another Johnson State friend. She is a multifaceted woman. She writes plays, fiction, poetry, directs plays, acts and even does Standup Comedy. Kim is always involved with something. I keep telling her to slow down. She goes from one play to another. Kim runs this non profit that promotes local Vermont Playwrights, called the Vermont Playwrights Circle. Since, I lived in Vermont and this is going out over the internet I asked her to promote this for me in her newsletter.
Oliver Ann Hinson-Stage Directions.
Oliver came to me and wanted to be involved in this production. She said she would the Stage Directions. I don’t think of her as the Narrator. I met Oliver through New England College. Way back in the seventies my Dad and his colleague Rich Rice, had started up a British theatre tour for students on the English Campus. In 1986 I was honored to be a part of the tour that Oliver was on. Oliver’s background is Stage Management and her Stage Management skills have been an important part of the process.
Matt Forest Esenwine-Kurt Denmark.
Matt has a background in radio and is a whiz at creating some amazing commercials. He also writes children’s books and does voice over work. I met Matt at WLFE/WWSR in St. Albans. My theatre career had been dormant until Matt told me a friend of his was starting a theatre company and was looking for actors for a Production called “Love Sex and the IRS. I played the IRS part who is supplied with plenty of liquor.
Pat Lescarbeau-Chet Brewer.
When three friends and I decided to start a community theatre group in St. Albans, I was asked to direct. I chose A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room.” I was in a production of the play when I was performing in England. I loved the play, because it was an ensemble piece. Pat was a huge part of this production. One scene is a birthday party. I had him play the little boy Brewster and had the audience roaring. Throughout the show, Pat showed his versatility.
Elle Russell=Julie Alexander.
I know Elle, by her maiden name Ellen Rodolfy. I met Ellen at Johnson. She tried out for a little one act I directed, ironically about college called Buddies. I have worked with Ellen on stage in various shows. Ellen was the last piece I needed. I saw her playing Julie. . I wasn’t sure she was going to do the part, but I had to ask her. Ellen has been there since day one. She pointed out inaccuracies in the script and while she was playing a scene, she would change something that worked. She has given me everything I thought she could for Julie. There’s a line in one of my favorite rock movies, “This is Spinal Tap.” It goes to eleven. That;’s the level Ellen kicked this show up to.
Christine Couture-Phyllis Crum.
Christine is another Johnson contact. Christine was our costumer for all the big productions and my Stage Manager for Buddies. Through our theatre experiences together, she has had to put up with rubber chickens named Matilida, When I had a myriad of costume changes during, “Play It Again Sam,” she had everything ready to go. Now she is in front of the audience and wow, she has had me rolling with laughter behind this computer screen.
Doug Shapiro-Blaine Morgan
Doug is a Barnstormer and professional actor in New York. He loves parrots. Doug was the first one who jumped on board on this project. He has become a good friend to the Murray boys. He kept after me about my craft until I finally get off my duff and did something. I am honored to work with a guy I have admired on stage for years. Doug has a wealth of experience in musical theatre. You’ll see that when you see the production.
Beverly Woods-Charlotte Van Nordstrom.
If you live in Sandwich New Hampshire then you may have seen our local guitar player around giving musical performances. Beverly also is a music teacher. Beverly came across one of my posts on the Tamworth and Sandwich exchanges and wanted to be involved. She has been a very valuable member of the cast and she helped improve the script.