They say that home is the place where they have to take you in. But what if you don't want to go? And just what do you call home when you're all grown up? These are some of the question asked and maybe answered in the new play Wise Man, by David J. Loehr, presented at the Masonic Hall in downtown Madison this December.
Geoffrey Sagemiller is a famous novelist on the cusp of his sixtieth birthday, his greatest work--and his greatest competition--behind him. "The literary lion in winter," as he puts it. He's too old to be young, but too young to be old. Or is he? And what is the difference between maturity and growing up? His daughter Ellen isn't so sure there is one, at least going by Geoffrey's example.
The play begins when Geoffrey calls Ellen with urgent news, but asks her to come home before he'll tell her the news. They may be estranged, but some things are more important. So she comes home, only to find everything seems normal, Geoffrey working on his latest novel and his second wife. A second wife not much older than Ellen herself.
And then, he won't tell the big news...
"This is a story about family," said Loehr, Riverrun's artist-in-residence. "Family in all their mischievous, misguided, manipulative, ultimately loving glory. There's a sense of not being able to see the forest for the trees." Audiences may recognize these characters as they watch the play. "If you've ever had a family," he said, smiling, "then you'll probably enjoy this story."
But it's not just a dysfunctional family circus. "Geoffrey and his daughter are two sides of the same coin, they know each other too well, and they enjoy fencing with each other," said Jim Stark, artistic director of the theatre, who will be playing the role of Geoffrey. "While there is certainly tension and anger there, the two of them are all too happy to verbally joust with one another. It's their form of connection at this point in their lives." Which begs the question, is this a comedy or a drama?
"It's funny, it's sad, it's ridiculous, it's poignant," said Loehr. "It's a little bit of everything, really. What can I say? It's Christmas time."
"The story is also about second chances," noted director Lori Hedges. "Knowing when to see them and when to take them."
The show came about in an unusual fashion. For the last two years, Riverrun has presented company member Nick Newell in the one-man show, Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol. Happily, Nick was cast in a traditional production of the original Christmas Carol at the Trinity Rep in Providence, RI. However, that meant shifting gears and finding something else to produce in Madison, and fast.
Fortunately, most writers have notebooks filled with ideas, snippets of dialogue, vague concepts. "I remembered an idea for a short story," said Loehr, "and when I read the outline, I realized there was a full scale play in it. Best of all, it was already designed to be a Christmas story." They quickly mobilized a cast based on the outline, and Loehr went to work. "One of the luxuries of working as an artist-in-residence with a regular group of actors is that I can write with specific faces and voices in mind. That was good in this case, since it saved a lot of time in the writing process."
The production marks the beginning of Riverrun's fifth season performing live theatre in Madison and elsewhere. "It really is a gift for the community, a production written, directed, produced and performed entirely in Madison, for Madison, in thanks for five years of support in the arts."
This is also the first time the company is presenting an earlier, Sunday evening show. On December 21, the show will start at 6.oo pm, not 8.oo pm. "We have gotten enough requests for an earlier show on Sundays that we thought we'd try it out," said Stark.
This is Loehr's second full-length play to be produced by the company, the first being The Rough Guide to the Underworld in the fall of 2006. Wise Man shares with that play a rich sense of humor and an understated romance at the heart of the story.
"Seriously," said Stark, "if you've ever loved someone, you should see this play."
Performed at the Masonic Hall, 217-219 E. Main Street, in downtown Madison, Indiana.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for students and seniors.
You can purchase tickets directly at our tickets page with a credit card through the PayPal system, the safest way to pay online. If you prefer to buy your tickets in person, they are on sale at the Village Lights Bookstore, the Madison Mercantile and the Madison Visitors' Center, all in downtown Madison. You may also buy them at the Masonic Hall on the night of the performance.
You may also reserve a seat by calling 812.496.0201 and leaving a message with your name, phone number, email address and your preferred show times. If your preferred show is sold out, we will contact you and arrange for another time; otherwise, your tickets will be waiting at the door. And you can also reserve tickets by emailing tickets at riverruntheatre.org.
Note, the Sunday night performance starts at 6.oo pm, not 8.oo pm.
The doors will open approximately one half-hour before showtime.
Jim Stark is the artistic director and co-founder of the Riverrun Theatre Company. For Riverrun, he has performed in RiverWords in Madison and the tour of Professional Skepticism, which Riverrun also co-produced with the South Carolina Repertory Company. He also played several roles in Riverrun's production of Under Milk Wood. Most recently, he played six roles in Riverrun's production of The Rough Guide to the Underworld. His professional acting credits include theatres from Boston to Chicago, and south to Hilton Head Island, and abroad in Cyprus, Hungary and Japan. He is a member of Actors' Equity, the Chair of Theatre at Hanover College, and a regional representative for the Society of American Fight Directors.
Julie first performed with Riverrun in the short play Penguins during our Theatre on the River outdoor festival at the 2004 Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. She has worked extensively behind the scenes, stage managing during A Night in November and teaching as part of our The Play's the Thing workshops for children of all ages. This is her first full-length production onstage with Riverrun. She graduated with a degree in theatre from Hanover College.
Tamara is an Associate Artist with the Riverrun Theatre Company. You may remember her from Marion Bridge, performed in Madison and New Washington in the fall of 2007. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hanover College. A Hanover native, she is a professional musician based in Louisville, Kentucky. She has two collections of music available through iTunes and CD Baby, among other places. She has worked with Stage One Childrens' Theatre in Louisville. She also performed with Riverrun in The Sapphire Comb in the fall of 2005.
Chris made his Riverrun debut in March and April 2008 in the show One Good Marriage.
More info coming soon.
David is the artist in residence and co-founder of Riverrun Theatre. He is primarily a writer. The Rough Guide to the Underworld premiered in the 2006 season. Keeper was performed here and filmed in 2004. The original ten-minute version of A Report of Gunfire was part of the third annual Louisville Playwrights' Festival in 2006. A full-length version of Gunfire premiered at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C. in July 2008, and will be coming to Madison in the spring of 2009. His Penguins was one of the short plays at Riverrun's Theatre on the River in the fall of 2004. He has edited and contributed to RiverWords, Riverrun's signature performance piece, a collection of monologues and stories about river life. Written on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, The Silence Between Lines of a Poem premiered at the Hanover College Theatre ten days later, with all proceeds going to charity.
He directed The Silence Between Lines of a Poem, with Jim Stark performing on stage. He has also directed several of his own short plays at the Hanover College Theatre, including Cross Purposes, To Speak for All the Dead, and Last Call, a set of six ten minute plays.
Outside of writing and directing, he has designed artwork for Riverrun, Pet Fish Productions, the Indiana Shakespeare Festival, the Hanover College Theatre, the Arden Theatre of Indianapolis and more. He appeared onstage as the Second Voice in Under Milk Wood. He designed the sound for all of Riverrun's productions, as well as the sound and lighting for Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. He has a wife, two children, two cats and too many outlines stored in his notebooks.
He is a member of the Playwrights Center.
Lori is a 2006 graduate of Hanover College where she earned her B.A. in Theatre and Communications. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Motion Picture, Television and Film at the Academy of Arts University. While at Hanover, Lori appeared in Royal Hunt of the Sun, Raised by Wolves and Am I Blue. She also appeared in a Spectrum Production of Women with Casseroles, a Riverrun production of RiverWords at Riverrun's Theatre on the River, and Madison CenterStage productions of Frankenstein and Spain. She is the founder of the community theater group, The Court Jester Players, with which she has directed The Clock Struck Twelve and The Apple. She made her professional debut as a director last spring with the Riverrun production of One Good Marriage. Lori has also produced and directed two films: a documentary called, Where the Rivers Meet: A History of Carrollton, KY and a short film titled Among Shadows Lori and her husband, Troy, live in Hanover with their six sons, four dogs, and four cats.
Wanda has worked with Actors Theatre of Louisville. She moved from Los Angeles, CA, where she taught costume construction at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising at UCLA. She has worked at the Mark Taper Forum, Hartford Stage, the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and Utah Shakespeare, to name a few. Costume designs include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Hatfields and McCoys, Shenandoah, Hamlet, The Fantasticks, and Julius Caesar. She has also been a guest artist with the Hanover College Theatre, designing costumes for several productions in the last few years. For Riverrun, she designed the costumes and some set pieces for The Sapphire Comb, The Rough Guide to the Underworld, Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, A Night in November and Marion Bridge.