George McGee wrote “Digging for Diamonds: A Phrenological Thriller” for himself. But, when it was selected last week as one of eight 10-minute plays for the 2nd annual Kentucky Festival of New Plays in November, the Georgetown College theatre professor was asked to direct his comedy/thriller as well.
Now that “Digging” was an open book, McGee decided to share the experience with three of his former student Maskrafters. Alums Adam Luckey â€™99, James Hamblin â€™99 and Ed Smith â€˜88, now – Chairman of the College’s still relatively new Theatre & Performance Studies department, readily agreed to be his cast. This set up the first time these four giants of Georgetown’s theatre tradition have worked together on a play.
“This will really be fun working with them again…and, there’s enough respect for everyone’s opinion that being friends won’t be a problem,” McGee said before the first read-through this week. “I’m really looking forward to this because, unlike with students, I don’t have to teach these guys how to act. This is just fine-tuning and helping each other reach the next level.”
McGee also appreciates the opportunity to showcase the progeny of GC Maskrafters for Louisville-area alumni and prospective students and their parents. Mark Nov. 18-20 on your calendars!
Special: The Venue
Our Georgetown collaborators will share a special, new stage at The Bard’s Town, a just weeks-old restaurant, theatre and lounge at 1801 Bardstown Road in Louisville. The second floor cabaret-style theatre will allow 70 patrons to enjoy the festival and a meal if they choose.
The fare is fun with names like the Bard Burger, a Steakspeare Sandwich and Taming of the Stew. Proprietor Doug Schutte said early favorites include a hummus trio and an Italian sausage made-from-scratch from an old Sicilian family recipe. See www.thebardstown.com for more.
Schutte, a former executive director of the Kentucky Theatre Association and co-producer of The Bard’s Town Theatre operation, said “the festival of new plays really fits because back in his day Shakespeare was creating new stuff. Sponsors are the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop, Inc and The Bard Town Theatre.
He guaranteed plenty of parking at The Bard’s Town, which is only three minutes from the Waterson Expressway and in the heart of the Highlands area, corner of Bardstown Road and Speed Avenue.
Special: The Format
Executive producer Bill McCann, Jr., who is bringing the festival to The Bard’s Town after an inaugural attempt at Midway College, said,” I think it will be wildly popular here. And, if you don’t like one, there’s another 10-minute play coming right up.”
The eight plays will be performed back-to-back with short breaks in between, Thursday-Saturday evenings, Nov. 18-20, plus a Saturday matinee. A fifth showing is possible on that Sunday if the festival sells out.
Five of the plays are by Kentuckians; three come from elsewhere. Thirty states were represented in the 182 submissions. Four came from Canadian provinces, three from Australia and one from Slovenia.
“What I am pleased with is the tremendous diversity,” said McCann, whose own play, “There is No Wrigley Field,” was selected. One selection focuses on a fight over whether a mouse should be killed or not; one is set in Iraq; another is set in Africa where a woman is facing stoning for her alleged adultry; another is about judging quilts. For more, check McCann’s blog at http://517playwrights.blogspot.com/
McCann, who is still somewhat dazed from reading 70 play entries, could only remember that George McGee’s play commanded a lot of attention for two reasons: 1. “It’s a comedy,” and 2. “he has a serious point to make.”
Special: George’s Play
Writer/director McGee loves the 10-minute play concept “because it forces you to identify the issue or conflict and get at it.”
“(‘Digging’) is a comedy… friendship is tested…individuals are tested…faith is tested…do we believe in redemption? Do we believe in fate? Do we believe in ‘it is what it is’?…timing is everything.”
“‘Digging for Diamonds’ deals with mental, physical and emotional issues – relationships and friendships – and for 10 minutes this occupies every part of the brain,” McGee said.
The story: Two friends are trying to find a diamond in the Arkansas State Park Diamond Fields. Mal (James Hamblin) is getting married and his fiancÃ© will not have a blood diamond for her wedding ring. Mal thinks the only way to be sure itâ€™s pure is to dig it by his own hands. They have been there seven days with no luckâ€¦his best man and best bud, Pud (Adam Luckey), has just about had enoughâ€¦besides, Malâ€™s fiancÃ©, Wanda, hates Pud. Slim (Ed Smith), who works in the diamond field’s gift shop, brings a new problem to the mud pit. Things reach a boiling point between the two friendsâ€¦when something happens to change everything!
McGee acknowledged the idea actually started four years ago with Hamblin, who was in New York, “telling everybody he had an idea for a screenplay. Eventually, I asked if I could take a whack at it.”
Then, he discovered the Kentucky Festival of New Plays online. “I liked the idea they were encouraging Kentucky writers and I figured the (second) festival wouldn’t be bombarded like the Humana Festival at (Louisville’s) Actor’s Theatre,” he said.
McGee was told his first submission (“At It Again”)Â was too short in length.”Digging for Diamonds” was his second entry, but he really thought that play had too many technical challenges to be picked. Wonderfully that turned out not to be the case.
Meanwhile, festival coordinator Bill McCann, Jr., asked McGee if he would be a “reader” of play submissions from outside Kentucky. The three entries eventually chosen would not be in conflict with the five selected by in-state playwrights.
Anyone who has been supporter of or acted in any College Maskrafters production during McGee’s 28 years here should try to see this coming-together of four special Georgetonians.
“When you get my age, the relationships become more meaningful,” McGee said. “Yes, it will be a treat to work with these guys again.”
Most likely there will be at least one open rehearsal of “Digging for Diamonds” in the Pearce Lab Theatre on campus around Nov. 14 or 15, McGee said. Stay tuned and maybe treat yourself.