So much is happening around the theater that it is really hard to fathom that we are only into week three of the season! It was a pleasure to have playwright Sean Grennan on site during the rehearsal of his world première “Now and Then.” Not only was he here to collaborate with our company members, but he also hosted a pre-show seminar and a post-show discussion.
Sean’s wife, Kathy Stanton, was able to take a few vacation days to fly in from New York to see the production. Kathy is a performer in the Broadway cast of “Wicked” in which she portrays Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Crage Hall – and has for more than 10 years.
Once “Now and Then” was on its feet and the cast was earning standing ovations at curtain calls, Sean had a few moments to sit and chat. I hope you enjoy our conversation below:
Q. What sparked your interest in writing?
A. I was writing stories from the time I could write. It was an early interest of mine. I always got good grades in English class and I was an English major at Northwestern. However, I started out as an English teacher for about two years and then became an actor. I think I was still drawn to storytelling. It wasn’t until I got a fluky break that I realized that this is what I really wanted to do.
Q. What excites you about “Now and Then’s” creative team?
A. I’ve had great experiences at the Players with the premières of “Making God Laugh” and “The Tin Woman.” In terms of my writing “voice,” I think I’ve made the most strides here. In that time, I’ve gotten to know the talent pool here pretty well. Since I’ve also lived and worked around the country, I can say that I would honestly put the Peninsula Players up against any other group, anywhere. We are all about telling the story. Sarah Ross’s sets, Steven White’s lights, Michael Tutaj’s sound, what Tom Mula, I and the actors are doing; everyone here is passionate to tell a good story as well as we can. No one is cutting corners or phoning it in.
Q. How are actors’ character choices surprising you?
A. It’s always a surprise the first time you hear the script out loud. You think, “Will this show be the one where everyone realizes what a fraud I am?!” But these are some extremely talented folks who bring a ton of experience and surprises to each rehearsal. Some of my best rewrites have come because of questions raised by the actors or the director. They also ask the tough questions that help me get the script as close to “bulletproof” as possible. I won’t be at rehearsals for other productions of the show so we’re making the script, intentions and the thousands of ellipses, as clear as we can.
Q. What was the spark for “Now and Then?”
A. I think I’m writing more personally as I go now. There’s a character in this show that has regrets – is nearly strangled by them. There is that in me as well. But there’s also love, sacrifice, humor, a lot of things. As I’m getting on, I see that it’s all a mash up of joy, sadness, wins and losses. And the things that you thought were important maybe really aren’t so much. I guess that perspective, as limited as mine is, inspired this show.
Q. How do you describe comedy-drama? Does “Now and Then” fall into that category?
A. Most of my work falls into that category. As above, I think it’s all mixed up. And I like a good joke here and there. I think when an audience is laughing, or crying, or both, they’re open and engaged and care about the people on stage, maybe seeing themselves up there. For me, that’s the best.
Q. Do you identify with your characters when you’re writing, or do you find yourself taking sides with them?
A. I do identify with characters to greater and lesser degrees, but I know that I always have to write them from what they believe – Richard III thinks he’s a great guy! Even if what they believe is hurtful, or bad or stupid, it’s what they believe. Now I will have people “fail” or “lose” because of their beliefs or weaknesses but I always have to take their side to have a play. Once, years ago, when I was writing an industrial show, the client asked me why everyone had to disagree? Why can’t they all get along? Because that’s not drama, that’s not life, that’s boring. There’s no growth or redemption if everyone is well adjusted and agreeable. Also, I’ve never met those people…
Q. What is your writing process like? Are you a computer, typewriter or pen and paper type of guy?
A. I’m absolutely a computer guy. I know that some writers swear by pen and paper, but they haven’t seen my handwriting. My grade school nuns thought I was the spawn of Satan. Not only am I left handed, but my cursive looks like it was done by a orangutan.
Q. Do you have a motto for your life?
A. Try to be kind. It goes a long way.
Q. What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
A. “Can we do your play for free?”
To enjoy more of Sean’s humor, join us for “Now and Then” on stage through July 1. Audiences have been enjoying this funny fable about life, love, dreams and the heart.
If thrilling, deadly mysteries are more up your dark alley, then you are in for a treat when “Miss Holmes” takes the stage July 4. Visit www.peninsulaplayers.com for more information or to buy tickets.
New this season! The Box Office is closed on Mondays during the performance season. You can call the Box Office at (920) 868-3287 Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. We hope you will join us by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine!