5th Wall’s ‘Writer’s Weekend’ portrays lit-retreats with funny, musical flair
While the rest of the country watched America turn a frightening shade of red on election night, I was being thoroughly entertained by some of Richmond’s finest talent in 5th Wall Theatre’s staged reading of Writer’s Weekend: A New Musical.
I can guarantee you I laughed more than anyone watching returns on CNN.
Elizabeth Brown [Julie Fulcher-Davis] is a has-been writer. Her nemesis, literary agent Roxanne Gold [Jacqueline Jones who also narrates the reading], has rejected her work twelve times. Brown’s given up the dream of being a novelist.
Instead, she leads writing workshops. She laments that this year’s participants are more depressing than ever: a former super hero idol turned playwright, a completely unoriginal wannabe mystery writer, a nerdy technical writer who loves trains, an angry upper-class beat poet and a star struck young science fiction writer who worships dragons.
Joining them is *the* Desiree Lamoure [Jeanie Rule], a romance novelist who has lost her mojo.
This motley group of writers dislikes each other intensely. They cling to the belief in the superiority of their genre. When Ms. Brown asks them to work in pairs and assigns them to write in their partner’s genre, there’s no telling what willensue.
As a writer who has attended writing workshops, I have met every one of these characters before.
Workshops can get very snarky and mean.
Private dick Ed R. Thompson [Mark Persinger] is paired with Sojourn Word [Carolyn Meade] the angst-ridden poet. She calls him “a puffy white man.” Desiree is paired with train-nerd Miles Stanley [Carlen Kernish]. She’s determined to bed him and get her groove back.
He’s determined to escape unscathed.
And my favorite pairing: Prescott W. Moore [Drew Perkins] serious playwright who once had fame as Captain Fabulous, and Zebula Nebulon [Julia Messer] the dragon-loving sci-fi writer.
How the pairs learn to work together makes for hilarious and heartwarming moments. Lyricist Rebecca Elizabeth Jones’ charming words give voice to all struggling writers swimming the sea of wannabes. Paul Robert Bartsch’s score is fun [drummer Charles Todd Woodson had the most incredible smile throughout the show], and V. Mark Covington’s original story is compelling. He captures the quirkiness, and dogged passion of writers at their worst . . . and their best.
The musical format provided for some truly standout moments. Sojourn Word rapping her pain was-in a word-stunning. And Desire and Miles provided the night’s steam. “I’ll have what she’s having” thought at least an audience member or two.
Who knew that a train throttle could be so . . . sexy?
Julia Messer [she’s only in high school!]could not have been a sweeter Zebula. Every time she opened her mouth to sing, angels took flight.
“Find that ‘reset’ button/Give yourself another chance/Let your story find its rhythm/Follow your hero – and dance,” sung by Zebula and Prescott, made me cry.
It was fitting that Writer’s Weekend was performed during National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo). All over the globe, writers like me are on a sprint to 50,000 words by November 30.
5th Wall Theatre’s mission is to “add the dynamic of the “fifth wall” to people’s consciences. The “fourth wall” is the “metaphor referring to the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage through which the audience sees the world of the play.” That “fifth wall” carries the production to another dimension. I will carry the words and the message of Writer’s Weekend with me to that illusive novel-completing finish line.
Time to let my story find its rhythm. Time to follow my hero. And dance.
lie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. She’s the proud mom of two young adult men and is slowly adjusting to having them both away at college. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is the newest member of the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
It more largely illuminates how hard it can be to forge both a satisfying career and a fulfilling personal life in an era that seems to demand superhuman achievement from everyone.September 19, 2016
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