The Down Home in Johnson City, TN will host a reading of Jo’s play “Daytrips” on Sunday, March 25, at 7:30 pm.
Former members of The Road Company, Emily Green-Cain, Christine Murdock, Laurene Scalf and Eugene Wolf, will be reading the parts. “Daytrips” was first produced by The Road Company in 1988 at Blacksburg, VA, and received its regional theatre premiere at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in 1989.
In a 2008 interview, Carson said of the intensely personal piece, “God, that play was so scary to put on.” Because it dealt with her mother’s decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease and her grandmother’s growing confusion, Carson refused to stage the play in Johnson City as long as her father was alive. Not long after he died, Carson was diagnosed with cancer, and plans to produce the play were put off.
Having the play produced in Johnson City was something she wanted to do, however. Carson spoke with Ed Snodderly, co-owner of Down Home and a longtime member of The Road Company, about doing what she called a Month of Sundays — performances or readings of her work, including “Daytrips,” on four consecutive Sundays at Down Home — as soon as she regained her health.
“Of course, that didn’t happen,” Al Bentz, her longtime companion and literary co-executor, said. Carson’s cancer returned in August, and, in September, she died.
After Carson’s death, Murdock approached Bentz about doing a reading of the play. “We still want to do that,” she said of Carson’s Month of Sundays. Instead of four consecutive Sundays, however, there will be four seasonal presentations throughout 2012, beginning with “Daytrips.” Carson considered it her breakthrough work.
“After ‘Daytrips’ I began making my life as a writer,” she said in 2008. In addition to Blacksburg and Los Angeles, “Daytrips” was produced at the Hartford Stage Company, the Women’s Project in New York, on stages in St. Louis and Atlanta and at Barter Theatre. In 1989, it won the prestigious Joseph Kesslering Award for Best New Play in America.
Murdock, who performed in the Los Angeles production, will reprise the role of Pat. Wolf will return to the role of Rose, which he performed at Barter Theatre’s Stage II in 1999. Scalf will read the part of the narrator, and Green-Cain will play Ree. Laura Leal is in charge of stage direction.
“It’s a reading,” Murdock explained. “There will be no sets, no props, no costumes.” It will be Carson’s words interpreted by actors who worked with her, knew her well and understood her work. Down Home was the obvious choice for the venue because of its long association with The Road Company and Carson. “(It) has always been the place where The Road Company did plays,” Snodderly said. “We’re carrying on that tradition.”
“Jo would be very pleased to know that we were going to carry this on,” Bentz said. “The thing she was most insistent upon — she wanted to be remembered for her work, and this does exactly that.” Tickets are $15 and are available at Down Home and Morrell Music. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the restaurant will be serving food. For more information, call 929-9822.
Adapted from an article for the Johnson City Press by Jan Hearne