Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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

During Civic Theatre's Staged Reading Series, at least one script written by a local playwright will make its world debut. This year's original script is Puzzles by Laurie Russell, who also wrote the script for the staged reading of TILT in the 2009-2010 season.

Question: Why did you want to write Puzzles?
Laurie Russell: I spent a week with my mother and two of her 80-some-odd-year-old friends in Seattle. Here were three women who had been friends since kindergarten. My mother doesn't hear well, one doesn't walk well and the other drove like a crazy woman. I wanted to write something about older people who are still sharp, they're witty and fun to be with. I also wanted a fish out of water story, so that's why I threw in the teenager with the old folks. And I also wanted a play that did a show within a show. It really kind of wrote itself – I write characters who have their own little lives.

Q: When and where is the action set?
L.R.: I like taking a room and making it the set, that I have to work within that framework and people come and go. In Puzzles, the set is the rec room of the Lazy Days Retirement Home. It begins with an obnoxious couple visiting the home; they're getting divorced and they need someplace for their daughter to be. The director of the home doesn't want to take the teenager, but the family offers to buy a copy machine.

Q: How many characters are there?
L.R.: There are 15 characters in total, but it's mostly about Lily, the teenager, and this cranky, bitchy old lady named Mia. There's a conflict of worlds, and neither is very happy with where they are in their lives and what's going on. So they butt heads.

Q: What was the process of writing Puzzles?
L.R.: I usually know where I want to start and where I want to end. But I have a bad habit of writing some and going over it and over it and over it and fixing it. And then writing some more and going over it and over it and fixing it. And then I'll skip ahead and move back. It took me about a year to write Puzzles.

Q: How was writing Puzzles different from writing TILT?
L.R.: TILT was more personal. I certainly used from my life and attitudes in both plays, but TILT was more personal.

Q: What do you hope to get out of the staged reading of Puzzles?
L.R.: The same thing as TILT: the audience reaction, which allows for revisions. I can see if some dialogue is a dud. Also I can get their feedback when everything is said and done.

Q: What do you think about Civic Theatre's staged reading series?
L.R.: I love the staged reading series, but I wish more people would come. I think we offer a nice variety of shows that people may not be aware of. The best response would be for an audience member to say, "Oh, I saw that as a staged reading at Civic and now it's a production at IRT."

The staged reading of Puzzles will be held tonight, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the historic Monon Depot Theatre at the corner of 5th Street and North Street in downtown Lafayette. It is a Pay What You Can event.

There will be a question-and-answer session immediately following between the audience, the cast, the director and the playwright.

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