First Stages

The Bloomington Playwrights Project and the Cardinal Stage Company are joining for "First Stages." It’s a new play workshop series. Five successful playwrights have each brought an unproduced script to be work shopped and then presented in a semi-staged reading with veteran directors and actors from the companies and IU.

The series opened with IU faculty member Dennis Reardon’s "The Misadventures of Cynthia M" directed by Cardinal Stage’s Randy White. It’s a play that’s involving, touching and often very funny.

Cynthia, read by Stephanie Harrison, is quite a character. She’s an angry working girl who first seems a viper, then a bit more sympathetic and finally almost surrealistically transcendent. She’s always struggling to shed her skin. One character, charitably says "She was born short of patience." Whether Cynthia’s making some extra money modeling lingerie for Busy Beaver or putting off her husband with her "not tonight honey nightgown," she’s always fascinatingly and surprisingly inventing herself .

The reading of Reardon’s "The Misadventures of Cynthia M." surrounds her with a varied troupe of accomplished actors.Tom Conner plays Cynthia’s beleaguered husband. John Kinzer was his avuncular uncle with Mary Carol Reardon as his sympathetic aunt. It’s part of Reardon’s outrageous sense of fun that all the other characters are "Johns." Bruce Burgun was Detective Johns. Mike Price played Percival St. John, the poetry professor who’s brutal honesty about her work evokes her love. S.G. Stratigos as an authoritarian evaluator, was Johnny B. Good. Jeff Grafton was Dr. John the astronomer, Megan Olive was Tiffany Johnson the bank teller that Cynthia holds up.

Although the "First Stages" production of "The Misadventures of Cynthia M." was a staged reading there was still plenty of drama. Somehow the stripping away of sets, costumes, and action focused my attention on the play itself. In the talk afterwards, playwright Dennis Reardon listened carefully and responsively. He agreed with one comment that a certain scene didn’t fit and said that it was a scene no one else will see. He defended some other parts and explained his strategy of framing the piece as a screen play to attract younger movie trained audiences.

Director Randy White said that while the script of Reardon’s play had not changed during the workshop some of the playwrights have used the process for substantial rewrites with new pages every day.

"First Stages" continues in the Bloomington Playwrights Projects theatre today with a five pm reading of "Fair Use" by Sara Gubbins and an eight o’clock reading of Mike Smith’s "Symphony in Three." On Saturday there’s a matinee of Kirsten Greenidge’s "Bossa Nova" at three and then "Onwards" by Glen Berger at eight.

You can find an interview with the BPP’s Richard Perez and Cardinal Stage Company’s Randy White on our Arts Interviews page .

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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