Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Staged Reading Series: Roman Cokes. Meet Jeff Spanke, the playwright.


Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Staged Reading Series includes at least one original, previously unproduced script in its season. This year's original script is Roman Cokes by Jeff Spanke.

Jeff teaches world literature, communications, film literature and reading at North Montgomery High School in Crawfordsville. He said his interest in playwriting comes from his passion for all forms of story telling.

"While oral communication remains, perhaps, my fallback, I wanted to experiment with the theatrical medium of narrative," Jeff said. "Since I can’t paint, and my golf game needs work, I figured this was the best use of my summer."

Q: Who are your favorite playwrights and why?
J.S.: I enjoy Bill Shakespeare, Neil Simon, Noel Coward, William Inge, and Tennessee Williams. Explaining why would be like trying to explain how awesome Paris was to someone who’s never been there: the futility of the task ultimately confounds the pursuit itself.

Q: What is the plot of Roman Cokes?
J.S.: The plot of this show isn’t as important as its execution. In truth, very little happens at all, save for an odd conflation of social-critique/who-done-it/classic redemption tale

Q: What was your process for writing Roman Cokes?
J.S.: I imagine that my “process” for writing Roman Cokes would sound an awful like someone’s process for raising a small child. Its conception was a wonderfully intimate and hopefully memorable experience. The gestation offered both times of great joy and growth, but also tremendous uncertainty, pain, and gas. At birth, I was instantly taken aback by the manifestation of months of hard work and sacrifice, but then, upon further glance, I noticed the odd array of blemishes, bruises, and other irrevocable imperfections. Its first steps signified an awkward beauty coupled with the hope for brighter, more sturdy future jaunts. With the ensuing weeks came a longing for a return to a simpler time, before obligations and parental dilemmas. Then came the potty training…you get the idea.

Q: What has the rehearsal process been like to date?
J.S.: Rehearsing for your own show is a lot like being schizophrenic: the voice doesn’t go away, you see things that aren’t there, you when nobody’s listening, and you find yourself publically defending/chastising figments of your untapped psyche. But, in the end, you can’t escape it because it’s who you are, and you are special.

Q: What are your thoughts on the staged reading series, as a whole?
J.S.: Honestly, I believe the staged reading series should not only continue, but should do so with the dedication and passion it deserves. It truly offers a unique opportunity to escape the theatrical confines of a set, costumes, and blocking, to sort of transcend the medium itself and expose the narrative for what it truly is. Staged readings should not be considered a “lighter” form of more conventional theater, but rather an entirely separate and equally valuable creative entity. And now you know the rest of the story.

Roman Cokes will be performed as a staged reading on Tuesday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the historic Monon Depot Theatre at the corner of 5th Street and North Street. Audiences are suggested to pay what they can for admission.

Immediately following the reading, there will be a Q&A session between the audience, the playwright, the director and the cast.

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