This morning, as I was driving up to my writing project’s tech team meeting at Poughkeepsie Day School, I was thinking about Lanford Wilson, who died two days ago at 73. A well-respected, Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright with a slew of plays to live on after him and I’m sad that I never got a chance to meet him and thank him for writing a play just for me, Tally’s Folly.
It was a summer afternoon and I was back home in Ellenville visiting my family. Tally’s Folly was playing at the Shadowland, our town’s renovated gem of a theater.
My friend Eileen, who worked at the theater, had been raving about the production and left me a ticket at the box office. The audience was light and I found my perfect seat, 5 rows from the stage, center section, in the middle.
As a kid, my passion for movies was ignited right around that same seat when the Shadowland was strictly for movies .But when a troupe of young actors and a passionate director from NYC moved into town, they took over the rundown theater and restored to its former glory for plays.
As the house lights dimmed to black, and the voices around me hushed, I wasn’t really expecting the tidal wave that was coming my way. Just an old boathouse, a gazebo, a lamplight and for just two actors and the magic of Wilson’s words.
Simple. Simple and challenging and demanding.
For two hours Wilson held me in Lebanon, Missouri as unlikely lovers, Sally Talley and Matt Friedman met and fell in love on one very long 4th of July 1944.
And I fell with them. Fell for the words of Wilson, because isnt’ that all there is to a play, the words? Of course we need to actors to breathe life into the words for us, using their voices, their bodies, the stage and props around them, but first it’s the words.
I remember that summer afternoon…I was so transformed by the experience of falling in love that I returned again and again to move with them. Twice at least, maybe three times, I can’t remember exactly.
Of course since then, I’ve seen the whole Talley triology and this one in particular, with well-known actors but that first time on that Saturday afternoon in July, I felt the fireworks.
I’m closing my eyes right now as I finish this Slice to be with Wilson and Sally and Matt again…glorious!