subscribe: Posts | Comments

The Velocity of Autumn

1 comment

Wigglesworth VelocityLab Theater opens 2016 with The Velocity of Autumn by playwright Eric Coble, a play that revolves around an 80-year-old artist who demands her independence in the face of her family’s insistence that it is time to move into an assisted living facility. And so Alexandra has barricaded herself into her NYC brownstone with enough Molotov cocktails to take out the Velocity of Autumn 01block. When her estranged son returns to mediate the situation, their past love and pain make for beautiful and wickedly funny theater. “Bracing, honest, and often deliciously funny… Anyone who’s even reached the crest of middle age will have an innate feeling for this admirably drawn woman,” says The New York Times. “Sublime and penetrating….” states Variety.

Performances will take place on January 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22 and 23. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481.  There will also be an opening night reception, starting at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and $25 for adults at the door. The theater also offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Louise Wigglesworth comes out of self-imposed retirement to play Velocity of Autumn’s Alexandra (01-16-16)

Alex 02SOn stage now at the Laboratory Theater of Florida is Eric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn. It stars Louise Wigglesworth as a 79-year-old artist by the name of Alexandra and Mark Haffner as her estranged son Chris. The two reunite after Chris’ siblings, Michael and Jennifer, decide that it’s time for mom to move into an assisted living facility and Alexandra barricades herself inside her Brooklyn brownstone with several dozen Molotov cocktails that she’s threatening to light on fire if the kids call in the police to have her forcibly removed.

Velocity 07Playing the part of Alexandra is something of a reunion for Wigglesworth, who’d made the painful decision to give up the stage about a year and half ago. “I was beginning to have some vision issues and, I thought, there are a lot of young actors coming up …. But then I read the script [for Velocity of Autumn] and I so understand this woman – I so understand the cumulative losses one experiences and how they affect you and how they frighten you – that I had to audition for the part.”

Velocity 14She also fathoms Alexandra’s artistic lifestyle and sensibility. In addition to being an actor, director and a writer, Wigglesworth is also an accomplished oil painter and art educator. “I’ve been painting since I was 29 years old,” Louise divulges. “I started oil painting as a hobby, but when I started teaching [drama], I took some classes in [painting], and got a certification as an art instructor as well as a drama teacher.”

As a fellow painter, one scene in particular really struck a responsive chord with Louise. The walls of Alexandra’s apartment show the telltale signs of numerous paintings that once hung salon style from her walls. Chris asks several times Velocity 20what’s become of the paintings, but Alexandra keeps changing the subject and steering the conversation away from that subject until finally, she blurts out that she had to take them down because they scared her to death. Why, Chis asks. And she quietly responds that on day she looked at them and couldn’t remember painting them, never mind what inspired her to create them in the first place.

“As I said, I’ve painted for a whole lot of years,” prefaces Louise. “I paint with the Pine Island Art Association and exhibit my paintings with them. Velocity 210My paintings are dear to me and when I look at each of them, I know where I was, who I was with and what inspired me to paint it. I cannot imagine what [Alexandra] must have felt to look at a painting and not remember anything about it. That would be horrible. “

Of course, understanding your character is only part of the challenge when an actor undertakes to play a role, especially in theater, and Wigglesworth admits that this part, in particular, was difficult in a number of respects. “There were two big challenges in playing the part of Chris and Alexandra 02SAlexandra that both frightened me and made me very humble,” Louise recounts introspectively. “Number one was the incredible line load because, you know, she never stops talking. [My co-star] has three big monologues and a lot of “Mom!”s. But Alexandra …. She just never stops talking.”

But a moment later, Wigglesworth amends this Chris and Alexandra 03Sassessment. “Actually, it’s not just a matter of knowing your own lines. You have to know the other actor’s lines as well so that you know when to say your own lines.” Which means that if you go off script by either flubbing your lines or dropping dialogue entirely, you may not only deprive the audience of critical information, you risk derailing your fellow actors because now they are uncertain of when to step in with their own lines. “That’s a terrible responsibility,” Louise adds. “So you really do have to know the whole show.”

Chris and Alexandra 05SAnd then there’s the issue of vocal stamina. “In the final scene, Alexandra does a lot of yelling. You have to build up to that,” Louise explains. “You cannot just pick up the script and do that without blowing out your voice completely. So I did have to go back and do some vocal work to get that to happen.”

But the results have been well worth the effort. “I was lucky. Mark and I just seem to have the right chemistry. We work things out together and have fun doing it. We understand the characters.” And that Chris and Alexandra 10Scomes across to the audience.

Wigglesworth also hopes that their performances lead the audience to a better appreciation that every elderly person they meet on the street, in a lobby or inside a store has their own story. “I hope people who see the show start to remove stereotypical thinking,” says Louise. “Here’s an example. Estelle Parsons, who played this role on Broadway two years ago, played it at age 87. Hello! She runs. She takes weightlifting classes. She does Pilates. She’s 87.” And she remains at the top of her game, just like Betty White, Angela Lansbury and Rita Chris and Alexandra 13SMoreno and dozens of other elderly actors who continue to astound us with their performances in theater, television and film.

It’s like the story about the man who is riding the subway with his three children. The other passengers become increasingly irritated because the man sits preoccupied while his kids run around, scream and carry on without a word of reprimand. But the passengers’ perception changes when they learn the man and his kids are on the way home from the cemetery where they recently buried his wife, their mom. It’s easy to fear, hate or be impatient with a stereotype. Understanding and empathy only come when you get to know a person’s actual story.

Chris and Alexandra 26SYou can enjoy Louise Wigglesworth and Mark Haffner as Alexandra and Chris in The Velocity of Autumn at the Laboratory Theater of Florida in the River District. Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

And you can see Louise Wigglesworth’s paintings at the Pine Island Art Show on Valentine’s weekend. Click here for date, time and location.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Mark Haffner returns to the stage as prodigal son, Chris, in Eric Coble’s ‘Velocity of Autumn’ (01-14-16)

Velocity 10Returning to the Lab Theater stage tonight are Louise Wigglesworth and Mark Haffner who star in Eric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn. Wigglesworth plays 79-year-0ld Alexandra, whose physical and mental faculties have slipped to the point where her son, Michael, and daughter, Jen, insist that she can no longer care for herself and has to trade in her beloved Brooklyn brownstone for an apartment in a Connecticut assisted living facility. Alexandra disagrees so vehemently that she has quarantined herself in the brownstone with dozens of homebrewed Molotov cocktails which she is threatening to Velocity 13light if Michael and Jen persist in their demands. But Michael and Jen have their own secret weapon: their gay artist brother Chris who left New York 20 years ago and has not been back since. Haffner plays the role of Alexandra’s prodigal son.

Haffner is an Emmy Award winning music, video and entertainment professional working for over 25 years as a writer, producer, songwriter, singer, voice actor and creative director for TV, film and radio ads and programs. He studied jazz composition, piano, and sax at North Texas State University and completed his BBA in Music Business at Belmont University in Nashville. Prior to moving to Southwest Chris and Alexandra 17SFlorida to raise his three children, he established his career in San Francisco and Los Angeles working with broadcast and film clients worldwide. He has recorded his original music works with the Seattle Symphony and composed the theme for the Magical World of Disney on the Disney Channel.

Haffner advanced his acting skills through voice-acting by working with and learning from some of the world’s top voice actors in L.A. Though he has worked extensively on dramatic and narrative storytelling projects in film and TV, The Velocity of Autumn marks his reintroduction to the theatrical stage since being a student actor and performer. Mark tells Chris and Alexandra 26Sthat his real mom is a “museum mom.”

You can see Mark and Louise as Chris and Alexandra on the Lab Theater stage in The Velocity of Autumn. Please see above for the remaining play dates, times and ticket information for this production.

______________________________________________________________________

 

Louise Wigglesworth’s performance as Alexandra in ‘Velocity of Autumn’ is meaningful and memorable (01-12-16)

Alex 02SOn stage now at Laboratory Theater of Florida is Eric Coble’s Velocity of Autumn. It is a two-person play, with actor/director Louise Wigglesworth reprising the role of Alexandra, a 79-year-old artist who finds herself slipping both phsyically and mentally to the point that her daughter and one of her sons want her to vacate her Brooklyn brownstone and move into an assisted living facility in Connecticut.

Alexandra is one tough cookie, but Wigglesworth plays the part with aplomb, studied sensitivity and Alex 01Sa healthy dose of self-deprecating humor. She plays the part with an understated charm that provides the audience with a window into the mind of an intelligent, creative individual who is experiencing the incessant and inevitable eroding away of her body, her mind and her very identity.

In the hands of a less accomplshised actor, the audience could easily dismiss the character of Alexandra as a dottaring old woman who is Velocity 07consumed with her own selfish wants and desires. Or by dramaticizing the relationship conflict between her and her estranged son, she could have shifted the emphasis of the play away from the issues of aging and the oxymoron ensconced within the term “aging with dignity.” But Wigglesworth resists the temptation to portray Alexandra as angry or embittered. Rather, she keeps her frail and vulnerable and, in so doing, she makes her so real and three-dimensional that it is Velocity 14easy for the audience to empathize with everything she is going through – even if you are not 60 or older and beginning to experience these infirmities on an all-too-regular if not daily basis. And that’s what makes her performance both meaningful and memorable.

Wigglesworth is an actor, director and playwright who has worked in theater all of her life. Possessed of a Master of Arts in Theatre from Catholic Univesity, she taught secondary and college theater programs in New Jersey before locating to Florida. Her acting credits include Bernaarda in The House of Bernarda Alba, Mary Winrod in The Rimers of Eldridge, Ethel Chris and Alexandra 10SThayer in On Golden Pond, Mother in Women Beware of Women, Leda Largo in her own play, Final Stage, and Mrs Trotsky in Variations on The Death of Trotsky, all for Laboratory Theater. Other roles have included Mrs. Gottleib in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Lucille in The Oldest Profession for Theatre Conspiracy, and Abby Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace. Productions of her original full length plays include Coercion by Playwrights Round Table, Seasonal Migrations at Foundation Theater, her stage adaptation of Albert Camus’ The Plague for The Laboratory Theater of Florida. Her play Real Art was a Chris and Alexandra 22Sfinalist in the City-wrights Anthology and moves on to professional production in February. On January 25, two of her 30-minute plays, Penumbra and Play Until You Win will have a staged reading at Theatre Conspiracy.

Louise teaches playwriting at Lab Theater, is a member of the Board, a member of The Dramatists Guild, and of the National League of American Penwomen.

You can see Louise on the Lab Theater stage as Alexandra in The Velocity of Autumn through January Chris and Alexandra 25S23. Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

The play is sponsored by Neuropsychiatric Research Center of Southwest Florida. The theater will be holding talk-back sessions after the performances on Thursdays, January 14 and 21, and Sunday, January 17, with Dr. Frederick Schaerf, who conducts clinical research trials on Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as other community leaders who work with patients with dementia and other cognitive disorders.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

In spite of gravity of aging issues at play in ‘Velocity of Autumn,’ playwright, Wigglesworth and Haffner make audience laugh (01-11-16)

Velocity 01On stage now at Lab Theater in the downtown Fort Myers River District is Eric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn. Don’t let the contrived set-up or hype for this play to keep you from attending.

The play revolves around an 79-year-old artist who demands her independence in the face of her kids’ insistence that it is time to move into an assisted living facility. Alexandra is so adamant Velocity 07about staying in her beloved Brooklyn brownstone that she has barricaded herself inside with enough Molotov cocktails to take out the block. Her son, Michael, and daughter, Jennifer are so distraught over their mother’s threats that they induce their brother, Chris, to return from New Mexico to mediate the situation. Only thing is that Chris hasn’t see or spoken to Alexandra for 20 years, and their reunion makes for some wickedly funny albeit bitterly poignant theater.

Velocity 10In truth, Coble did not have to resort to the artifice of having Alexandra threaten to blow up the block to make the conflict between her and her children work theatrically, and an argument can be made that all that nonsense about Molotov cocktails and self-immolation serves only to distract the audience from the real gravamen of the show. And that’s simply that Alexandra’s real enemy is not her officious son and daughter or even the prodigal Chris, but the indignities which age brings us all, especially as the autumns of our lives accelerate toward their inevitable denouement, namely that eternal winter that is death.

Chris and Alexandra 02SFirst are the increasing frailties of the body. When she awakes in the morning, her feet hurt. “How can sleeping cause your feet to hurt,” Alexandra asks her son with no small measure of exasperation. Her inability to walk deprives her of one of the aspects she loved most about living in a cultural hub like New York City – visiting the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Met and the Chris and Alexandra 03SGuggenheim. And the older she gets, the more clothing she has to wear, prompting her to remember an elderly librarian she knew as a child who would always wish her the ability to “stay warm.”

But as bad as the body’s betrayal may be, it’s the loss of her cognitive abilities that befuddles Alexandra most.

“Proper nouns are the first thing to leave the body,” Alexandra complains when searching for a word that expresses an idea she’s desperately trying to convey. Chris and Alexandra 05SShe loses her train of thought so often that she resembles a conductor who’s been left behind on the platform to ponder what to do next. And in the middle of one tense exchange with her son, Chris, she inadvertently calls him Michael. I mean, really, who hasn’t called one of their children or pets by the wrong name. Or perhaps I’m just telling on myself, although I can recall with painful clarity how my mother used to say, “Tom, Steve, John or whatever the hell your name is,” and she’s now 86 and still in full possession of all her faculties.

Chris and Alexandra 13S“What the world is taking away from me, what time is taking away from me, what God is taking away from me … is me,” she tells Chris with fervor. Coble uses the story of Alexandra’s paintings to starkly illustrate this point.

The set for this play is a beautiful, well-crafted upscale interior befitting an artist who has apparently experienced a fair degree of success over the course of her career. But oddly, there are faded areas on the walls where paintings once hung. Her paintings. And her son Chris asks pointedly what’s become of them. Alexandra replies that she had to take them down because they scared her so much. They scared her because she couldn’t remember the stories Chris and Alexandra 15Sbehind them any longer. Hell, she couldn’t even remember painting them or that she was the artist who’d made them. And so she locked away her life work, her artistic output measured not in years, but in decades.

Removed from her walls, the paintings could no longer mock her failing memory and mental acuity. The same cannot be said of her son, Chris and Alexandra 17SMichael, or daughter, Jen. Always assessing and ever vigilant for the slightest slip of memory or physicality, they force her to continually confront all that she’s lost and has yet to lose. “Don’t look at me like that,” she snaps at Christopher when he, too, looks askance at her after a mental lapse. Coble does not afflict Alexandra with Alzheimer’s, although in the early and middle stages of that dread complex, the victim is aware of their fading identity even if they are powerless to articulate what’s happening to them. Nay, Alexandra knows she is fading. She knows what she no longer knows or can remember. And she resents Michael and Jen for constantly Chris and Alexandra 22Srubbing her nose in it by looking at her with eyes filled with pity, remorse and accusation. Isn’t it enough that she’s slipping away? Why do they feel the need to constantly remind her that she no longer the Alexandra that she once was?

Because he’s been away for 20 years, Chris hasn’t been around to see the daily erosion of his mother’s physical and mental state. And so for Coble’s purposes, it’s enough that he’s been gone, and the playwright does not feel the need to explain why he left in the first place and hasn’t been in touch since, other than to say that Chris and Alexandra 24Shis father likened his being gay to a malodorous piece of Gorgonzola cheese. But the danger here is that Coble has to make Chris far less defensive and Alexandra far more forgiving than a son and his mother might be expected to be under similar circumstances.

To their credit, Louise Wigglesworth as Alexandra and Mark Haffner as Chris don’t give the audience much time to become waylaid by these rather obvious infirmities in the characterization, Chris and Alexandra 25Splot and dialogue. They play their characters with just the right amount of sentimentality and angst to keep the audience focused on the real issue under consideration: the lack of dignity associated with the aging process and our limited ability to ameliorate that fact or make meaningful compromises with it or the people in our lives who are most affected. Unless it is through humor. Through the ability to laugh at ourselves and our plight.

For this, Coble, Wigglesworth and Haffner are to be Bows 01Scommended, because in spite of the gravity of the issues they explore, they make us laugh. And in making us laugh in spite of it all, they endear us to both Alexandra and to Chris.

Which makes the ending to this play that much more satisfying. But for that, you’ll have to buy a ticket and see the play for yourself.

Please see above for remaining play dates, times and ticket information.

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Lab Theater announces dates of ‘talk-back sessions’ to follow select performances of ‘Velocity of Autumn’ (01-04-15)

Wigglesworth VelocityEric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn opens at Lab Theater in the River District on January 8. “The play exposes the many indignities of aging and one woman’s refusal to just ‘get out the way’ while everyone else’s life goes on,” asserts Lab Theater Artistic Director Annette Trossbach. “The banter between mother and son is playful and soulful. It’s a delight, and not one to be missed.”

Haffner 032The action starts when an aging artist’s children decide that her declining mental acuity and physical health preclude her from living alone in her Brooklyn brownstone. She disagrees so violently that she whips up dozens of Molotov cocktails and is threatens to take out the block rather than be forced into an assisted living facility.

Given the issues involved in the play, Lab Theater is hosting talk-back sessions after the performances on January 14, 17 and 21 with Neuropsychiatric Research Center of SW Florida’s Dr. Frederick Schaerf, who conducts clinical research trials on Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as other community leaders who work with patients with dementia. Please see above for ticket information as well as other play dates and times.

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Exposing indignities of aging, ‘Velocity of Autumn’ will be followed by talk-back sessions after select performances (12-29-15)

Wigglesworth VelocityEric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn opens at Lab Theater in the River District on January 8. “The play exposes the many indignities of aging and one woman’s refusal to just ‘get out the way’ while everyone else’s life goes on,” asserts Lab Theater Artistic Director Annette Trossbach. “The banter between mother and son is playful and soulful. It’s a delight, and not one to be missed.”

Velocity 05The action starts when an aging artist’s children decide that her declining mental acuity and physical health preclude her from living alone in her Brooklyn brownstone. She disagrees so violently that she whips up dozens of Molotov cocktails and is threatens to take out the block rather than be forced into an assisted living facility.

Haffner 032Given the issues involved in the play, the production is being sponsored by Neuropsychiatric Research Center of Southwest Florida, and the theater will be hosting talk-back sessions after select performances with Dr. Frederick Schaerf, who conducts clinical research trials on Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as other community leaders who work with patients with dementia.

Please see above for play dates, times and ticket information. Seating is limited, so don’t wait to secure yours.

 

______________________________________________________________

 

Lab Theater Artistic Director Annette Trossbach predicts that local audiences will connect deeply with ‘Velocity of Autumn’ (12-28-15)

Velocity of Autumn 01Eric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn opens at Lab Theater on January 8. It is an interesting choice given that the play deals with issues revolving around the ravages of aging and loss of independence that all of us will encounter one day, whether personally or in connection with our parents.

In a nutshell, Velocity is a two-actor play. The mom is Alexandra, an 80-year-old artists who demands her independence while her children insist it is time for her to move into an assisted living facility. But they run into resistance of the highest order when she barricades herself into her Brooklyn brownstone with enough Molotov cocktails to take out the entire block. Christopher is her estranged son, and when he returns to Annette Amediate the situation, their past love and pain make for beautiful and wickedly funny theater.

“Velocity relies on excellent writing, a strong storyline, a skilled director, and skilled actors,” states Lab Theater Artistic Director Annette Trossbach. “Audiences who have seen the tell-tale signs of Alzheimer’s Disease encroach upon Annettetheir loved ones, who have had to make the heartbreaking decision to put a loved one into an assisted-care facility, and the aging audiences who demand their hard-earned independence while also watching their bodies fail – all these people will connect deeply with The Velocity of Autumn.”

Issues like these are particularly relevant to Southwest Florida audiences.  Issues relating to aging and living independently into our 80s and beyond are particularly relevant to area audiences. Velocity 10According to a report released earlier this month by online data aggregator Headlight Data, the Fort Myers-North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton metropolitan area now has the highest percentage of Baby Boomers of any mid-sized metropolitan area in the nation, accounting for 30 percent of the area’s population. And of the top 10 cities with the highest median age in the country, three are on the Velocity 04west coast of Florida, with Cape Coral coming in at number 3.

“Florida receives a lot of retirees and we’re starting to see that Baby Boomer population flock down to Florida,” said Chris Engle, president and chief data analyst of Headlight Data. “Your population is much older on average than the average (metropolitan area) in the U.S.”

Not only are Boomers starting to experience the challenges associated with aging, many are dealing Velocity 08with end-of-life and life care issues with one or both parents. The decision to place a parent in an assisted care facility can be gutwrenching for both parent and child.

“We will be having at least one post-performance talk-back panel that includes professionals from The Neuropsychiatric Research Center of Velocity 09Southwest Florida, Shell Point Retirement Community and Calusa Harbor Senior Living Community, some Alzheimer’s patients and their families, the actors and others to share in a discussion with the audience about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, warning signs, etc., but also to talk about sensitivity and independence,” Trossbach adds.

Haffner 032Under the direction of Dr. Frederick W. Schaerf (right), the Neuropsychiatric Research Center of Southwest Florida has been conducting FDA-approved clinical research trials since 2001 on, among other conditions, Alzheimer’s Disease, Memory Disorders (Mild Cognitive Impairment, Age Associated Memory Impairment), Mood Disorders, Parkinson’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury, Osteoporosis, and End of Life Studies.

Shell Point Retirement Community is one of several Southwest Florida centers that offer continuing care contracts that enable residents to enjoy fully independent lifestyles with the assurance of unlimited assisted living and skilled nursing care should the need arise.

Wigglesworth 01Located directly on the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, Florida, where residents enjoy spectacular views, Calusa Harbour is a full-service, resort-style senior living community offering spacious and comfortable apartments for independent living and assisted living, as well as skilled nursing care, rehabilitation services, outpatient therapy, and respite/short stays for those with more specialized needs.

Directed by Dr. Ken Bryant, The Velocity of Autumn Haffner 02stars Louise Wigglesworth as Alexandra and Mark Haffner as Christopher. Performances take place at the theater, which is located on the corner of Second and Woodford Avenue in the downtown Fort Myers River District. Please see above for play dates, times and ticket information, and continue reading for more articles, news and announcements about this production.

______________________________________________________________

 

‘Velocity of Autumn’ takes playful look at issues of aging gracefully and living independently late in life (12-27-15)

Velocity 05The Velocity of Autumn is the third in a series of plays by Cleveland playwright Eric Coble known as “The Alexandra Plays,” a trilogy of stories about the same witty, strong-willed character at different stages of her life. The first, A Girl’s Guide to Coffee, features Alex, a 20-something wrestling with her artistic bent and desire to explore the world while toiling as a barista. The second, Stranded on Velocity 07Earth, takes place about 20 years later, when Alexa is a frustrated painter dealing with her role as wife, mother and commercial graphic designer and wondering whether putting down roots was the right choice.

“I was intrigued by the idea of how your identity, relationship to the world and commitment to art change as you age,” Coble told American Theatre’s Christopher Johnston in April of 2014. The story Velocity 10for the third play was inspired by his experiences with his aging mother, who, with his help, remains in her home close to his, as well as with his grandparents, neighbors and even older actors he knows. “Alexandra’s a fiction based on about a hundred personal truths,” Coble states.

The Velocity of Autumn swirls around Alexandra, Velocity 06a 79-year-old artist in a showdown with her family over where she’ll spend her remaining years,” press notes state. “In Alexandra’s corner are her wit, her volcanic passion and the fact that she’s barricaded herself in her Brooklyn brownstone with enough Molotov cocktails to take out the block. But her children have their own secret weapon: estranged son Chris who returns after 20 years, crawls through Alexandra’s second floor window, and becomes the family’s unlikely Velocity 03mediator. No sooner are the words ‘Hi, Mom’ uttered than the emotional bombs start detonating. The Velocity of Autumn is a wickedly funny and wonderfully touching discovery of the fragility and ferocity of life.”

As explosive as the setup sounds, Coble’s script Velocity 09takes on a tone that’s more playful than menacing, noted Entertainment Weekly following the play’s Broadway premier. “After surviving the initial verbal attacks, Christopher finds a way to connect with his stubborn mom. It becomes clear that their mother-son dynamic is as volatile as the Molotov cocktails surrounding them. In the course of the play, the two go from combatants to co-Velocity 04conspirators to parent and child, starting the cycle over again. They both accuse the other of abandonment. They affirm themselves as the two creative weirdos of the family. They listen to each other’s litany of complaints -hers about the indignities of aging (”Another friend dies. Another body part shrivels”), and his about the indignities of being a not-quite-actualized artist in middle age. Their familiarity with each other’s conversational rhythms gradually returns after so many years apart.”

Velocity 08The play strikes a sentimental chord with audiences wherever it is produced. Talkbacks following the show are routinely well attended, with people eagerly sharing their own experiences with aging parents. But the themes involved in the dramedy appeal to a niche audience, which explains why The Velocity of Autumn does well in community theater but only enjoyed a five-week Boomers 01run on Broadway in spite of starring Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons and four-time Tony winner Stephen Spinella.

Issues relating to aging and living independently into our 80s and beyond are particularly relevant to area audiences. According to a report released earlier this month by online data aggregator Headlight Data, the Fort Myers-North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton metropolitan area now has the highest percentage of baby boomers of any mid-sized metropolitan area in the nation, accounting for 30 percent of the area’s population. And of the top 10 cities with the highest median age in the country, three are on the west coast of Florida, with Cape Coral coming in at number 3. (Clearwater is no. 2 Velocity 01and St. Petersburg is no. 5.)

“Florida receives a lot of retirees and we’re starting to see that baby boomer population flock down to Florida,” said Chris Engle, president and chief data analyst of Headlight Data. “Your population is much older on average than the average (metropolitan area) in the U.S.”

Velocity 02How many will eventually hole themselves up in their homes, condominiums or apartments with a floor littered with Molotov cocktails remains to be seen. But many of them are already experiencing the problems faced by Alexandra and Christopher in The Velocity of Autumn – either personally or through their own parents. So from that vantage, the play should enjoy broad appeal to Southwest Florida theater audiences.

The Velocity of Autumn opens January 8. Please see above for play dates, times and ticket information.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Auditions for ‘Velocity of Autumn’ being held at Lab Theater on Sunday, July 12 (07-06-15)

Auditions for Lab Theater’s 7th season will be held on Sunday, July 12 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the theater, which is  located at 1634 Woodford Avenue, on the corner of Woodford and Second Street in the Fort Myers River District.

One of the plays that is being cast is The Velocity of Autumn by Eric Coble. (See above for performance dates.) The storyline begins when 80-year-old Alexandra barricades herself into her NYC brownstone with enough Molotov cocktails to take out the block. She is an artist who demands her independence while her family insists it is time to move into an assisted living facility. When her estranged son returns to mediate the situation, their past love and pain make for beautiful and wickedly funny theater.

The two characters being cast for this show are:

  • Alexandra, aged 79, who takes on the world with grit and wit, and using her intelligence and will to wrestle the “diminishments that come with old age” – the legs that don’t work the way they used to, the mind and memory that clog up like an old engine, the fearful knowledge of the slow decay of her body and mind.
  • Christopher, aged 50s, who is Alexandra’s estranged gay son and middle aged drifter; having been away for over 20 years, Chris is ashamed of not having come home earlier but is grateful that he hasn’t seen his mother’s physical and mental decay. A painter like his mother, he rekindles a bond with his mother.

Actors will be auditioned on a first-come, first-seen basis. Actors should come with a 1-2 minute comedic and/or dramatic monologue. Actors should be prepared to do cold reads. Actors who are not available on July 12 may send a resume and headshot to: Casting, c/o The Laboratory Theater of Florida, PO Box 334, Fort Myers, FL 33902.

___________________________________________________________________

 

Dr. Ken Bryant to direct ‘Velocity of Autumn’ for Lab Theater in January (05-25-15)

Ken and Stella 1SLab Theater opens 2016 with The Velocity of Autumn by playwright Eric Coble, a play that revolves around an 80-year-old artist who demands her independence in the face of her family’s insistence that it is time to move into an assisted living facility. The play will be directed by Dr. Ken Bryant.

Dr. Bryant has worked a lifetime in theater, designing, directing, acting and teaching theatre in colleges across the country. He ran the Tennessee Ken Bryant as Scrooge 1Williams Fine Art Center in Key West as its Artistic/Executive Director, was stage manager with Miami City Ballet, and even staged the opera The Marriage of Figaro in Poland. His many theatrical adaptations of classical plays are still being enjoyed and workshopped for college students in the United States.

At Lab Theater, Ken has previously directed Deathtrap, Mr. Marmalade, Amadeus, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Five Kinds of Silence and The Nosemaker’s Apprentice. Two seasons ago, Bryant Ken Bryant as Scrooge 4directed and gave an impressive one-man performance of Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol.

Dr. Bryant joined the Lab Theater family when he played the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father in Hamlet. Since then, acting roles have included Brabantio in Othello, Stanley in Death of a Salesman, Shelly in The Rimers of Eldritch, Wulfric in The Nosemaker’s Apprentice, and the infamous Ruckley in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

In addition to his long and illustrious creative resume, Dr. Bryant holds a Master’s degree in Shakespeare and a Doctoral degree in Dramatic Criticism. He is very proud to sit on Lab Theater’s Play Selection Committee.

See above for play dates, times and ticket information.

  1. Tom,
    I can’t wait to see this play. Mark was my producer for 3 years and I learned so much from him. He was the one that said, “Leoma, never leave the house without those glasses because people love them”. He is brilliant and one of the best fathers on the planet. And, I have never ever met a more talented man. Is there a better word that talent? Brilliant.

    I hope you get the chance to spend some time with him. He could be on your drop tab list one day.

    Love Always,
    Leoma

Leave a Reply to Leoma Lovegrove Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *