Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Betty Plays by Pamela Hobart Carter

“How would you like to guest blog?” Arleen asked. Give me an assignment and I’m there. Maybe I like assignments as much as I do because so much interests me that it helps to have external forces constrain my natural desire to go off in all directions at once. So here I am while Arleen meets her self-imposed deadline to complete a draft of the second novel in her trilogy before the next term begins.

Recently, I gave myself and three other playwrights an assignment. The four of us love the work of a particular actor friend who has a raft of physical issues that make conventional roles impossible. She can no longer march and stand and jump for hours on end as she did in Mother Courage only a few years ago. Wanting to see her on stage again pushed me to come up with our pending production and to produce for the first and last time in my life. When I described the idea to the others, they set aside some pressing tasks and started writing for this one. We each wrote Betty Campbell a short play through which she can sit. We dubbed our project, “The Betty Plays.”

I’ve written for Betty before. The first time, I didn’t know I was writing for Betty. Director Paul Mullin (another of “The Betty Plays” playwrights) cast her as the matriarch, “Joan,” in my play Rondo and I came under her spell. On our ride home from the Rondo reading, my husband said, “Everyone should be writing for Betty.” I took his words to heart.

Over the last couple of years Betty Campbell has become a muse, my “Joan”: I want to hear her deliver my scripts. I imagine her voice reading my speeches as I jot them. I hear the mixture of power and fragility. A couple of weeks ago I had the enormous pleasure of hearing her read through all of the scripts for “The Betty Plays.” I know Betty is a marvel, but she blew my socks off. She was funny, sharp mysterious, and credible.

Stylistically distinct, the four plays demonstrate Mrs. Bet’s versatility. One playwright set Betty in the old west as Mrs. Primgarten, grande dame of a mining town. She gets to preside from her parlor chair as she addresses their lawman. Betty is a psychiatrist on a mission to save a young man in my play. I don’t want to give too much away, but in another play, Betty perches on a rock on a sea-swept island. The fourth short puts Betty in the cockpit of a small plane under dire circumstances.
The assignment panned out. Betty will be on stage for three performances this fall.

“The Betty Plays” directed by Julie Beckman
4 World Premiere plays
presented by Theater Schmeater  
1500 Summit Avenue  Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 324-5801

The Shipwrecker by Scot Augustson, Clochettes d’Argent by Paul Mullin, The Prescient Dr. Primrose by Pamela Hobart Carter, Leo and Kat are Flying by Jim Lapan and Paul Klein and “Lethal Cotillion,” a short film by Scot Augustson

September 23, September 30, and October 7, 2012, 4 p.m.
Ticket Prices: $10 in advance. $12 at the door.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Well done, Pam. I'll be there.