Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

A Long and Winding Road

Thursday, February 07, 2013

by C. Michael Wright
UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL Director & MCT Producing Artistic Director

C Michael WrightPeople often ask me how I choose the scripts we produce. Truth be told, it can often be a rather lengthy and involved process. Take Glen Berger's UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL as a case in point.

It was way back in 2001, when I happily stumbled upon the original Off-Broadway production. I was completely captivated by the story of a lonely Dutch librarian who rents a theatre for the night to share the tale of his funny and mystical pursuit of a delinquent borrower. To me, his journey was quite clearly about trying to find sense in a chaotic world full of seemingly random occurrences. It touched me in a very deep way. (Although the script had been written in 1999, I saw it right after the events of 9/11, at a time when we were all desperately searching for some meaning.)

When I returned to Milwaukee, I was determined to procure a copy of the script. I remember tracking down the playwright's agent and receiving the unpublished manuscript. Just like the librarian in the story, I found myself a tad obsessed. I really studied it, attempting to peel away every delicate layer of Berger's enigmatic script. Then I added it to my crowded book shelf.

A few years later, the published version crossed my desk and I reread the script with the same excited, inquisitive vigor. Once again, I placed it on the book shelf, but now it had worked its way into my "To Do (Someday)" pile.

As any theatre artist will tell you, "It's all about the timing."

I couldn't tell you exactly when I made the decision to finally produce this exquisite little jewel of a play, but one day I just knew I needed to direct it - and I knew I needed to direct my good friend, Jim Ridge, in it.

So I pulled the script back off my shelf and was surprised to find a handwritten postcard tucked inside. I'd totally forgotten that Jim Van Ess, a loyal theatre patron (and a retired Dutch librarian himself) had sent me the published version a number of years before, telling me how he had just happened upon the Off-Broadway production and how he had been completely fascinated by it. He wrote: "I hope someday this vehicle will find its way to Milwaukee."

I took that as a sign!

I owe many thanks to Jim for echoing my fondness for this wonderful play and for strengthening my resolve to produce it!

I also owe a debt of gratitude to the other Jim for being such a courageous explorer as an actor!

How I do love the tenacity of human beings! Just when things seem the most futile, we can turn a corner and discover new surprises and untapped joys - and the strength to keep on, continuing to explore life's mysteries…

That's a story worth telling at any time!

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