Carl Cherry Center’s 'Talk to Me' monologues surges on in its third year.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
“Fleeting but meaningful flings,” they’re calling it. “They” are the creative minds behind Carl Cherry Center for the Arts (just “the Cherry” to friends), and “it” is this weekend’s Talk to Me monologues program: three days packed with punchy jabs of monologues and soliloquies starting with two days of Shakespeare, Odets, Tennessee Williams and more than a dozen others, as read/performed by local theater luminaries, ending Sunday with the winners and honorable mentions from the months-long playwriting contest, “One-on-One,” performed by their author.
“[Monologues] can be such a forceful medium,” says Cherry Center Executive Director Robert Reese. “They are the best nucleus of emotion and speech.”
Like the short story, these works of compact prose work double-time, telling intimate little narratives, attached to big themes, with brevity. Now in its third year, Talk to Me has elicited the stuff from the established and the unknown, locals and out-of-towners. The three honorable mention scripts for “One-on-One” come from locals including Salinas High School teacher Patricia Parks, retired actor Len Perry and Gateway Center admistrator Michael Lojkovic.
The two winners of this year’s competition – the panel of five judges can choose one, two or three winners – hail from other parts. Elizabeth Gray is a Southerner who studied English Language and Literature at Oxford. Her first play, I Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath, premiered at the Cherry two years ago.
“[It’s a] one-woman comedy about the hallucination [Plath] had when her head was in the oven,” Gray says.
The edgy piece, which Gray performed, went on to Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival where it won the Fringe First award for “Innovative and Outstanding New Writing,” and then toured Europe. For “One-on-One,” she retreated for a week – to the same cabin in the woods of North Carolina in which she wrote Plath – to pen “Crooked,” a one-act monologue set in the waiting room of a plastic surgeon’s office where a woman in her 30s (Gray) waits to get some scars removed. In the meantime, she talks to another woman (the audience) about physical imperfections, facial symmetry and beauty in a deceptively innocuous “conversation” that reveals deep psychological and social issues.
(Gray will stay in town to perform again at the Cherry Nov. 27-29, this time a one-woman suite of Southern literature called Grits ‘n Grace, including excerpts from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, John Kennedy Toole’s acidic and funny Confederacy of Dunces, Faulkner, Twain and others.)
The other winner is impressively credentialed Brooklynite Bruce Stutz, a two-time author, former features editor for Audubon Magazine and editor-in-chief of Natural History magazine, and an award-winning environmental writer.
His winning piece, “The Vanishing,” drops in on a man on the verge of turning 50, who is struck with an existential mid-life crisis in which he ruminates about traveling, history, and all manner of disappearances. “[My wife’s] father vanished,” the man tells the audience. “He vanished slowly, first into his Johnny Walker and then, after his stroke, into his memories.”
“The Cherry’s been so open to innovation and experiment,” Gray says. Here, here.