Monday, March 8, 2010

The Staged Reading Series: TILT. Meet Laurie Russell, the playwright.


Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Staged Reading Series includes at least one original script in its five-script season. This year's original script is TILT, written by Laurie Russell.

Laurie is a longtime volunteer at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette, both acting in and directing numerous productions. Some of her favorite playwrights are Tony Kushner, Larry Shue and Robert Harling.

"Tony Kushner is brilliant. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, he's just amazing," she said. "When I was stuck after writing Act I of TILT, I read an article about him in the Chicago Tribune. At the end of the article, he said 'Writing is mechanical. You sit down and you type. You don't wait for inspiration. You sit down and type.' So when I sit and type, that article with his picture sometimes is sitting there looking me in the face. I love Larry Shue because he throws a little bit of the unexpected in his scripts. And Robert Harling combines pathos and humor in his scripts. I think those always go hand-in-hand. You can be laughing one minute and crying the next."

Laurie shared the given circumstances at the start of TILT.

"The action takes place in a university town in the Midwest, but the location isn't stated," she said. "A young man enters his childhood home with another young man; they are a couple. And the first one explains that he has not told his family that he's gay. After that comes numerous family reactions to this news. Some reactions are positive, some are not."

She described the impetus for writing the play.

"I have always wanted to write a comedy that had some pathos in it, but I didn't want it to be syrupy," she said. "I wanted a hopeful ending, but not a 'Happily Ever After' one. It's not entirely about my family; there are some things completely out of left field. When I write a play, all these characters just start talking. I'll be out cleaning stalls in the barn and whole lines of dialogue will come to me."

Laurie shared what she gets from having her script completed and read in front of an audience.

"Our family has had all sorts of nice talks because I've worked with my son and my husband on the script. It's brought out a lot of dialogue among the family," she said. "It's exciting to have someone saying my words and to see how an audience will react. Something may seem hysterical when you write it, but the audiences doesn't respond at all."

Laurie said TILT's prospects may extend beyond the staged reading.

"I know a theatre in Ithaca, New York, that produces scripts about lesbian, gay and bisexual characters. I may send it to them for review," she said.

TILT will be performed as a staged reading on Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. in the historic Monon Depot Theatre in downtown Lafayette. The reading is a Pay What You Can event.

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