This weekend, Cary Players will present a world premiere of RUBY RED, a domestic drama written by Cary playwright Phil Lowden and staged by local director Jaret Preston. Admission is FREE — but a $5 donation is suggested — for three performances at two Cary venues: at 7 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center and 7 p.m. Aug. 6 and 2 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Herbert C. Young Community Center. (NOTE: In addition to the three performances commencing this evening, the show played three Cary retirement communities: Jordan Oaks on July 30th, Carolina Preserve at Amberly on July 31st, and Glenaire on Aug. 1st.)
“In 2007, Steve Roten, a member of the theater faculty at Meredith College, conducted a workshop on beginning playwriting, sponsored by the Cary Players,” recalls dramatist Phil Lowden. “Steve encouraged me to develop a crude two-page idea for a play into something more. It was about two land-rich and cash-poor families wrestling with the temptation to sell their properties to a greedy developer. That basic idea grew into RUBY RED over the following two years, with a lot of additional encouragement and feedback from Laurel Wetzork, one of the founding members of the Cary Playwrights’ Forum.”
Lowden, who doubles as the show’s producer, adds, “RUBY RED went through three complete rewrites. The most extensive one followed about six months after an intensive read-through by a dozen actors from the Cary Players. It would have come earlier, but the feedback was so on-the-mark and overwhelming that it took some time to process. The major change was paring down unnecessary dialogue and substituting action for exposition wherever possible.”
Director Jaret Preston notes, “We have only made very, very minor revisions during the run of the show. The author has been through Cary Playwrights’ Forum and other group readings spent many, many months modifying and growing the script. So, when we got our hands on it, it was in a great shape to be put up on its feet and seen by the public.”
For RUBY RED, playwright Phil Lowden says, “The inciting incident is the death of Lloyd Dobbs [Harvey Joyner], the crotchety Vietnam vet neighbor of the main characters, Jack and Anne Wells [Tracy Fulghum and Joanna Herath]. Jack, the main protagonist, sees Lloyd’s death as an opportunity for him to go in with Lloyd’s three children [Nick Karner as Lemuel Hollis Dobbs, Bonnie Stack as Bridget Dobbs, and Rob Steinberg as Mike Dobbs], the presumptive inheritors, and make millions by selling his wife’s land and theirs as a package deal to a local land developer. He knows that Anne, however, does not want to sell. So, as the show begins, he tries to arrange the deal on the sly.
“When Anne, the main antagonist, finally finds out and tries to head Jack off at the pass,” Lowden explains, “the play’s main conflict between their diametrically opposed ideas of the meaning of ‘home’ comes to a head. As the implications of Lloyd’s death affect all the characters in different ways throughout the play, the major dramatic question becomes: Will Jack and Anne’s marriage survive? In the end, it turns out that a simple patent thornless rose, the Ruby Red, delivers each of them to a better place than they thought possible.”
The rest of the cast includes Lyman Collins as Marshall “Poke” Hankins, Gilly Conklin as Millie Vanderbergh, Mika HuVard as Abby Rose Hankins, Stephanie Rinehart as Claire Wells, Gary Watts as Herman “Stony” Bennington, and Tim Wiest as Royce Llewellyn. Rob Steinberg also plays Young Lloyd, and Stephanie Rinehart portrays Young Bridget.
“There are so many characters and small plots that fill the show, however, ultimately it comes down to Jack and Anne, who have been having marital problems, a distance has grown between them,” reports director Jaret Preston. “With the death of a neighbor, who leaves a large portion of land behind, it brings things to a head where decisions will be made that will take their relationship to its breaking part or bring them back together. With a variety of characters spinning around them and dealing with their own emotional distresses, this leads to a sense of wonder, sadness, and laughter as all of their situations collides.”
In addition to playwright-producer Phil Lowden and director Jaret Preston, the Cary Players creative team for RUBY RED includes fight choreographer Steve Whetzel, properties manager Robin Hughes, and stage manager Jeff Enoch.
Phil Lowden says, “The set consists of an upstage center door which represents the main entrance to the Wells’ house. The door is flanked by black curtains to form a wall. At the end of the curtain at far stage left is an entrance to an invisible hallway leading to the kitchen. Another curtain stands a few feet downstage and stage right of the door to form another wall in front of an invisible stairwell. Furnishings include a couch, a coffee table, and a console table with a high padded chair.”
He adds, “The lighting is primarily a subset of house lighting for most of the scenes. For two scenes, the only illumination is from a single light that creates a shadowy effect on the characters in the scenes…. The costumes are primarily street clothes, with the exception of an Air Force pilot flight suit and a nurse’s uniform, which appear in the final scene,” says Lowden.
“The major challenge [in staging the world premiere of RUBY RED] is the large number of different venues,” claims Phil Lowden. “The six shows take place at five different venues. Orchestrating the movement of set pieces and cast members to all these different places, and adapting the set to the various performance areas, is a logistical feat of monumental proportions.”
Director Jaret Preston notes, “We did this show on the ultimate shoe-string budget. Also, we are not just performing this production in one venue … we have a total of 5 different locations where this show will perform. So, our set and props have to be moved and transported while still giving a great experience for the patrons. This show was meant to be a special event fundraiser for Cary Playwrights’ Forum and Cary Players, so costs were looked at every step of the way.”
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 3rd CARY CITIZEN preview by Lindsey Chester: http://www.carycitizen.com/2010/08/03/local-playwrights-debut/.
Cary Players present RUBY RED, a world premiere by Phil Lowden, at 7 p.m. August 5 in the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, 119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, North Carolina 27513; and 7 p.m. August 6 and 2 p.m. August 7 in the Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27513.
TICKETS: Admission is FREE (but $5 donation suggested).
BOX OFFICE (information only): firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRESENTER: http://www.caryplayers.org/. VENUES/PARKING/DIRECTIONS: Page-Walker Arts & History Center: http://townofcary.org/. Herbert C. Young Community Center: http://townofcary.org/.
OTHER LINKS: Cary Playwrights’ Forum: http://www.caryplaywrightsforum.org/ (official website).