After weeks of planning, casting, weeding, building, sewing and rehearsing the grand lady of summer theaters, Peninsula Players, has opened its 79th season! Jump starting the line-up of shows is a world premiere by Sean Grennan. The same playwright who wrote the Players hit comedy, “Making God Laugh.”
Sean has again written a poignant, heartwarming comedy. Here a young woman struggles to accept the jump-start that life has given her when she receives an unexpected heart transplant while a family deals with grief for the son they lost.
Where does a playwright get their ideas and inspiration? I asked Sean that question and more. Here is what he shared with me:
Q. Are you excited to return to Peninsula Players? A: I’m very excited to be back at the Players. I had a wonderful time here with “Making God Laugh,” and I’m thrilled that we’re getting to do the premiere of “The Tin Woman” here. Greg Vinkler and Tom Mula have lined up a terrific cast for me. So good in fact that, if the play sucks, it’s absolutely my fault.
Q. What are you looking forward to doing while in Door County? A: I have friends who have a getaway place up here. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of them. They will be sick of me in no time! Additionally, I have a new dog, Hank, who came along. I want to find him a good dog run and playmates, ASAP. He’s a great guy, but is young and has a lot of energy. If I’m going to be able to focus on my job, I need to wear him out. A tired dog is a good dog!
Q. What was the spark of “The Tin Woman?” A: The original idea came from my sister, Erin, who saw an article about a woman who got a heart transplant and eventually met the family of the donor. From there it took off into directions that I hadn’t anticipated. It also happened at a time in my life when I was personally dealing with a lot of upheaval. I had some serious health issues and my wonderful father-in-law declined and passed. For me, and for a lot of writers, things in your life push their way into your work.
Q. Do you know anyone who has had a heart/organ transplant? A. I don’t actually, but I personally have had a lot of hospital time in my life (don’t ask…) So, the scenes in the hospital room and surrounding medical stuff is very familiar to me.
Q. Did you have a goal when writing the “The Tin Woman?” A. The play sort of took its own course in the early going. I started out thinking it might be a romantic comedy, but other issues that were more relevant to me kept insisting on being heard. With this, and most of my shows, I think I’m looking at what it means to be human, to be people in families, to be here for a short time, like that. Getting to my age I’ve had the opportunity to look back a bit, to see more and more of the arc of my life. While I really don’t know the answer, I think if there is any meaning in life to be found at all, it’s in connection, that we need to connect to each other, to help each other or just be in touch. Those moments and exchanges seem the most important to me now. Check with me next week…
Q. Do you identify with your characters? Or do you find yourself taking sides with your characters in discussions? A. I identify with everyone pretty much. As with “Making God Laugh,” most of these characters are people I know and love or know and love despite of themselves. And there are pieces of my own life here but also things I’ve observed in those close to me. I think everyone in this play has a legitimate point of view, I really haven’t written any bad guys. That they grind each other’s gears is just life, not evil incarnate.
Q. What is your writing process like? Are you a computer, typewriter or a pen and paper type of guy? A. Every morning I get up and trot Hank down to the dog park about seven. His pal’s owners have regular jobs so if I don’t get there on time, we’re s.o.l. We get back around 8:15 or so and then I try to have my butt in the chair in front of my computer no later than nine. (I write on a computer.) I do that for about three hours till lunch. The rest of the day is spent doing the business part of writing and also my wife’s bidding.
Q. What questions do you ask yourself while writing? A. Wow, these are good questions. I didn’t make it up but one question you always have to ask yourself when you write is, “Why disturb the nice silence of the universe?” I write for a number of reasons, to make people laugh, to examine something I think about, to work out my own problems and make an audience pay to sit and watch that, to make money and more. I have written straight-on light comedies that aren’t designed to change the world, and I fervently believe that’s a very worthwhile thing to do. Sometimes humans just need to laugh, and that’s a blessing. Other times, I try for both laughter and maybe some tears, some statements, if you will. And above all, I always try to write characters that an audience can relate to. If someone tells me they see themselves or their families or their friends in my show, then I feel I’ve written well and someone should buy me a scotch right away! Writing for the theater is an art form that is unique in that it’s not complete till an audience has reacted to it. If a bear writes a good play in the forest and no one sees it, there is no play. Stupid bear…
Q. Are you looking forward to making your Players stage debut in “And Then There Were None?” A. I’m excited and terrified, thank you.
Q. Do you have a motto for your life? A. I’ve had several. Lately it’s “try not to be a jerk.”
Q. What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work? A. Why don’t you do your shows on Broadway?
If you want to see Sean’s “The Tin Woman” it is on the Players stage through July 6 and then you can catch Sean acting in the next two shows, Agatha Christie’s thriller “And Then There Were None” and the frighteningly, funny farce, “The Mystery of Irma Vep.” For more information or tickets visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone 920-868-3287.