“If this production does its job, there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house in the final two minutes, but they’ll be tears of joy,” said Roy Proctor, Richmond’s Northside theatre legend and writer of The Hollow. “Given the church’s enhanced staging capabilities after a recent major renovation, it promises to be a damn good show.”
The Hollow, Proctor’s first play, will open this Saturday and Sunday January 31 and February 1 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond as the opening of their First UU Presents series.
The play has been staged in New Orleans and has toured Wales. In 2012, it was performed at the Richmond Triangle Players theatre in Scott’s Addition, but it didn’t take long for Proctor to allow the show to be staged again.
“When Fricka Raycroft…approached me about doing the play at her church, I didn’t need persuading,” said Proctor. “Especially when I found it would be fully produced with attention to setting, costuming, lighting, music and even the slide show that the script suggests. As far as I’m concerned, this is the world premiere of The Hollow.”
The Hollow is presented as a series of letters and postcards between Lloyd and Clay, two 73-year-old gay men who are reunited at their 55th high school reunion. A familiar story, but not normally involving two older gay men.
“Older gay people have been marginalized in most of human history,” said Proctor. ”Indeed, they’ve often marginalized themselves. Gay people tend to become invisible as they age, invisible to each other, even invisible to themselves.”
In the playwright’s note in the script, Proctor forbids memorization of the correspondence. Proctor noticed while directing plays in the past that older actors has a full dramatic range but a hard time remembering lines.
He noticed the opposite with young actors.
“I thought, ‘what if I could write a play in which actors had to read their lines?’” said Proctor. “No memorization allowed!”
Proctor was the Arts Editor and Theatre, Art and Movie Critic at the Richmond News Leader from 1974 until the paper was folded into the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1992. He stayed with the Times-Dispatch until 2004.
Since writing The Hollow in 2012, Proctor has written three two-act plays and 36 short plays, ranging from 55 minutes to “Vanishing Act”, a play lasting only one minute.
“I once asked an editor at The Richmond News Leader how long my theater features and reviews should be,” said Proctor. “He said, ‘Say what you have to say, and then have the good sense to stop.’ Every theme and every dramatic situation demands its own length.”
Following each performance, there will be a Q&A with Proctor, a part of the staging that he believes is essential.
“Feedbacks give the audience and the playwright and the actors a chance to interact in a very personal way and to nail down, for each of them, the meaning of the play,” said Proctor.
The production begins the 2015 season of the First UU Presents and admission is a $5 donation at the door.