Why would someone as famous and successful as an Anthony Bourdain or Robbin Williams, or Kate Spade choose suicide at the peak of their success? If recent events in the news hasn’t started that dialogue yet, look to the new Broadway Bound Theatre Festival featured production of ADELE’S WAY to open that discussion. For playwright Dennis Porter, the seed for this idea began several years ago and is now debuting next month at the festival. Here he discusses with LocalTheatreNY.com how the story was born, and how it has come to the New York stage with him as a producing playwright.
LocalTheatreNY: What is ADELE’S WAY about? What motivated you to write this play and why does the subject matter interest you?
Dennis Porter: Adele, a respected feminist academic in her early seventies, for no obvious reason has taken her own life. At the up-country farmhouse retreat she had long shared with her husband Tim, he is joined after the memorial service by their son, daughter and daughter-in-law to grieve, reminisce and strive to understand what motivated her and its impact on their future lives. I was initially inspired to dramatize the material by the real life suicide of a successful professional woman in the city a decade or so ago. My purpose was to think through the rational of such an act in someone like her in a challenging, character-led drama of our time that transcends a staged debate to become a lively work of dramatic art that manages to be savvy, quirky, occasionally witty and poignant as well as challenging.
LocalTheatreNY: Suicide is a tricky and engaging subject that generates discussion and perhaps even controversy in some circles. What discussions would you like audiences to have about your play? Why?
Dennis Porter: The discussion I would like to initiate in the audience is at the center of my play’s action in the on-going dialogue beyond the grave of the husband, who firmly supports his wife’s right to take her own life, yet goes on to celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of life on earth and one’s moral responsibility to those one is leaving behind.
LocalTheatreNY: Tell us about your writing process. How long have you been working on this play, how much has it evolved, where do you see it ending up as far as what we will see on stage at the BBTF?
Dennis Porter: Since I wrote my first version of Adele, there has been a significant increase in the number of suicides that occur in the United States and although the greatest number still remains white males, typically more and more women of middle age to elderly are choosing to end their own lives. And recently, of course, the puzzling suicides of a number of celebrities have made the subject even more topical.
I have done a minimal amount of rewriting since Adele’s Way was selected by BBTF back in March but that was at the behest of Lenore Skomal.
My earliest version of Adele’s Way goes back about eight years and it had a public reading at the Playwrights Revolution at Capital Stage Theater in Sacramento, California, followed by one at the HRC Showcase Theater in Hudson. But since I was working on other dramatic projects, it was not until about a year ago that I did a significant amount of rethinking and rewriting of ADELE’S WAY. And that is the up-dated version I submitted to the 2018 Broadway Bound Theater Festival, which will be performed in August.
I now consider that this latest version is more or less definitive. A lot of work is being put into this production including especially by two highly experienced professionals of the New York theatrical scene, my director, Joan Kane, and her husband Bruce Kraemer of Ego Actus. Bruce is my set, lighting designer and general adviser. My hope is that my play will attract the eye of some artistic director or manager and move onward and upward into some theater.
LocalTheatreNY: Who is your audience for this play? Who do you think will see it, and who do you thing should see it?
Dennis Porter: I assume my play would potentially appeal to an audience of people of all races and both sexes from about fourteen years old up. They would be thoughtful, open-minded people who are attracted by well-made, character driven dramatic works that raise important questions of our contemporary social life, questions that will sooner or later concern us all.
LocalTheatreNY: Where do you see the collaboration with director Joan Kane going in terms of the staged version, the story, the evolution of the work?
Dennis Porter: As far as my relations with Joan Kane are concerned, they are excellent. She is a highly experienced professional on the New York theater scene and with the help of Bruce we have put together a cast of first class actors along with a seasoned creative crew overall. We did a number of rehearsals together a month or so ago because my play was also selected as one of two award winners by TRU (Theater Resources Limited) and given a public reading at the Soho Playhouse on June 18.
LocalTheatreNY: How is the BBTF experience so far? What are your expectations for your involvement in the festival?
Dennis Porter: The BBTF experience has been largely positive because the support from the group’s staff has been very helpful. It also means I will be able to see a thoroughly professional production of my play on its feet in a pleasant theater at a highly respected festival. On the other hand, the requirement for someone like me, who is first and foremost a writer, to take up the producer’s role has been quite a struggle.
ADELE'S WAY can be seen at The Broadway Bound Theatre Festival beginning late August. The dates are Tuesday August 21st 8:30pm, Friday, August 24th 8:30pm, and Sunday, August 26th 1:30pm.
The festival will take place at the Theater at The 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (at 14th Street and 1st Avenue), New York, NY 10003 (Front desk is 646-395-4310). Tickets can be purchased by linking here: https://bit.ly/2LleMxD
The Story: When his wife Adele commits suicide, Tim retreats to their upcountry home with the remainder of their family to sort out their emotions. He finds himself vigorously defending his wife’s right to take her own life while internally struggling to justify it with his own personal pain and philosophy that embraces a celebration of life.
General Admission: $25 online / $30 at the door. Running Time: 85 minutes. No Intermission
*Please note this production is suitable for ages 15 & older.*