Ever wonder what it would be like to write a play and have it professionally performed in a theater before a paying audience? Think it can't happen in Fort Wayne? Think again.
Fort Wayne native and South Side High School graduate Nancy Carlson is having her play “The Ladies in Cabin 10” performed as part of the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival on Friday through Sunday at the auditorium of the Allen County Public Library. Additional performances of Carlson's play will also be June 11-13 at the same venue.
The three-day Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, which is organized by the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, focuses on local playwriting talent and will highlight the first-, second- and third-place winners of the Northeast Indiana Playwright contest. The festival will also include a workshop that focuses on the business side of producing a play, as well as a panel discussion on the do's and don'ts of submitting a play to the Northeast Indiana Playwright contest.
“It was unbelievably exciting and rewarding — totally priceless,” Carlson said about winning first place in the contest. “Just being named one of the top five finalists was delicious, but winning was the frosting on the cake.”
“I've written guest columns for the News-Sentinel for about 25 years, so many of your readers might be familiar with my sense of humor,” Carlson continued. “‘The Ladies in Cabin 10' tries to be a small glimpse of life; it tries to bring laughter into the lives of the audience and happiness into their hearts.”
The play's director, Jeffrey Moore, an associate faculty member of the IPFW Department of Theatre and also a Fort Wayne native, feels the play's humor is one of its strong points.
“First, it's a very funny play,” Moore said. “The characters have whip-smart senses of humor. Second, they know each other well, so there's an easy rapport among them. They can rib each other with gusto, and they're all willing to take as well as they give. And finally, they seem very real to me.
“But the play also has a warmth and gentle spirit,” Moore said. “The characters are people who have problems, like we all have. They deal with setbacks and tragedies, which we hear about as the play goes on. If I had to give a one-line summary of the play, it would be ‘Steel Magnolias' meets ‘My Fair Lady.'”
Moore and Carlson also seem to have found an easy working relationship that has fueled the creative process for both.
“Nancy is such a positive, generous spirit, and very open to input for this first production,” Moore said. “It's exciting and anxious for a playwright to hear their words out loud for the first time. ‘Ladies' was named the winner of the playwright contest for good reasons. Ninety-eight percent of the play we'll perform is the play that Nancy submitted for the contest. But it is a creative collaboration. It's a ‘giving birth' of sorts, and Nancy will eventually hand her ‘baby' over to a team that says, ‘Thanks, now we'll take it from here.' That's a scary kind of trust, and part of my job is to respect what she intends.”
“I am absolutely delighted with the way they are approaching this production,” Carlson added. “Jeff Moore has been extremely open with me during the rehearsals, asking for my input and listening to my reactions. As I see the actors creating themselves, and reading the lines, it has given me ideas as to how to develop each person better.”
Though actors are usually leery of performing in a play without a track record, Moore says he has an experienced and solid cast that has gelled as an ensemble.
“I'm lucky to have such a strong cast,” Moore said. “Some I knew personally from theater circles in town, like Susan Domer, Maggie Kohl Hunter, Michael Young — all actors who have been in many shows in the area, but I was also pleasantly surprised by Judy Whitney and JoAnne Kirchner. I didn't know them before the audition, but they tickled me with their energy and their attitudes. I wanted a group who could make strong choices on the fly and find a quick sense of ensemble, and these actors brought that to the table.”
“It's an enormously warm-hearted play that declares life is good, warts and all, and it's even better with friends,” Moore added.
“I think the Playwright Festival is a great thing,” Moore said. “There is so much creative talent in Fort Wayne and the area. It's good for our theaters to give writers a local forum to work their craft, and for local audiences to become aware of the talent we have so close to home.”