Last Saturday, the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA hosted a book launch party for my new anthology, Lend Me A Tenor and Other Plays. It was wonderful to see so many friends there. We had about 300 people in all, including Mark Russell (maybe my favorite comedian of all time), Roxanne Roberts from the Washington Post, Janet Griffin, who runs the Folger Theatre – and every known member of my own family. Maggie Boland, the Managing Director of Signature Theatre, hosted the event with her usual graciousness.
In addition to much sluicing and munching of hors d’oeuvres, we did some readings from three of the plays included in the anthology, Shakespeare in Hollywood, Moon Over Buffalo and Lend Me A Tenor. It was fun trying to come up with excerpts from each of these plays that would stand alone and could be performed with only a little introduction. (I failed to come up with a good candidate from Leading Ladies. I suppose I could have used Act One, Scene 2 (and the beginning of Scene 3).)
We opened with the first few pages of Shakespeare in Hollywood, where the columnist and radio personality Louella Parsons (played by Valerie Leonard) is broadcasting live outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre just before the opening of the movie version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Max Reinhardt (played by Hugh Nees). For those of you who have a copy of the anthology, this excerpt can be found on pages 233-237 (that was a hint to buy the book).
Ian Merrill Peakes, who just got nominated for a Helen Hayes Award as Best Actor, played movie exec Jack Warner, and Erin Weaver (who was Aggie in the Kennedy Center reading of Sherlock!) played Warner’s love interest, Lydia Lansing.
Next, we did two related excerpts from Act II of Moon Over Buffalo (pages 120-123 and 136-141 of the anthology …). The first one is the scene in which George (Ian again) comes in drunk, thinking Charlotte (played by Holly Twyford, also up for a Helen Hayes) has left him for good as a result of his infidelity. Erin played their daughter, Hugh played their manager, and Valerie played Ethel.
The second excerpt was the beginning of the next scene when the daughter Roz is “on stage: at the start of the company’s production of Private Lives and her father George (still drunk) doesn’t show up … then finally does show up dressed as Cyrano de Bergerac.
We ended the readings with a short scene from Lend Me A Tenor - the one where Tito (Hugh Nees) and Maria (Holly Twyford) have a shouting match in the bedroom in Scene One (pages 24-25 of the anthology – oh, come on, just get on Amazon and buy it).
I’m immensely grateful to all the actors who volunteered their time to lend their amazing talents to the afternoon. I’m equally grateful to Signature’s terrific staff, including Jennifer Moss Kincade, Bethany Shannon, Kevin Bradley and Kendrick Maxey.
I wish that everyone reading this could have been at the event.
But for those who weren’t, you could sort of relive it by buying the anthology... : )