Who can divulge collected stories? Lake Dillon Theatre presents "Collected Stories," a play about the morality of publicizing private moments
DILLON – Who has the right to make another person’s intimate life stories public domain? Is it only the person who lived the life, or can someone else gain fame and fortune from the passions and pains of another? What if the stories are told within the context of a trusting friendship and later show up in print?
The Lake Dillon Theatre’s production of “Collected Stories” examines these and other questions about friendship, trust and betrayal. Ruth Steiner (actress Lennie Singer) is a prominent short-story writer who becomes a graduate student’s mentor. The student, Lisa Morrison (Kelly Ketzenbarger), reveres Steiner and soaks in her words of wisdom – such as using other people’s tantalizing stories and not always worrying about their feelings. But when Steiner gave the advice, she never imagined a student would take her words to heart and turn them against her.
Through the guidance of her teacher, Morrison blossoms into a mature writer, but her success leads to Steiner’s downfall. Steiner shares stories about her torrid love affair with a poet and later discovers Morrison wrote a book detailing her life experiences.
“(Steiner) tells the student tidbits about what makes a good writer and story, and when the student learns too well and writes the story, it’s horrible. It’s betrayal,” Singer said.
Morrison doesn’t view it as a betrayal, but rather as an homage. She believes by telling the stories, Steiner gave them to her to use as she wished.
“There’s going to be a lot of questions of whether or not she had not only the legal right but also the moral right to tell her teacher’s story,” Singer said. “There’s a lot of emotional levels that are uncomfortable. It makes you squirm, but it’s a really powerful piece.”
“Collected Stories,” Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer Prize-
nominated play, is loosely based on a legal battle between an English writer and the person on which the defendant based his story.
“It’s intellectual in the way that it’s a debate about what constitutes ownership – ownership of a life,” said director Gary Ketzenbarger. “What is the dimension of a private life when you consider writers – what’s OK to write and what’s not? Ideas are integral to the play, (but) it’s a far more personal play about people than it is cerebral.”
Because characters drive the story, Singer and the Ketzenbargers faced the challenge of bringing compelling, honest characters to life on stage.
“It’s very naturalistic acting,” Gary Ketzenbarger said. “There’s not a lot of comedy or song and dance, so there’s a lot of focus on character work and just plain acting. It has to be a deeply personal play for the actors.”
Rather than telling the actresses exactly how their characters should act, move and talk, Gary Ketzenbarger allowed them to evolve into their characters slowly by researching writers mentioned in the play, drawing on personal experiences and reading through the script.
“For me, it was really going to places emotionally because I’m the same age as the character and have an artistic background too,” Singer said. “There were a lot of similarities, and I had to go to some emotional places that were tough to bring up this character.”
Since the play raises a lot of questions, Lake Dillon Theatre will host special talk backs with writers after the productions Saturday, May 24, and Saturday, June 7.
“Collected Stories” runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays May 15 through June 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, and seating is reserved. To make reservations, call (970) 513-9386.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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