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GROB: Please allow me some shameless self-promotion

By James Grob, [email protected]

I’m inviting you to escape for a couple hours this weekend.

I want to escape with you, just for a little while, from the negative things that are going on in our country, in our world, in our community. There are a lot of people who are really angry about some things, and honestly, no matter what side you come down on in regard to any of these polarizing issues, you have every right to be angry about them.

I have no desire to argue with you, no desire to fight with you. You’re not going to change your mind due to anything I tell you, and I’m not going to change my mind due to anything you tell me. Perhaps some day, but not today.

I just want to laugh with you a little and cry with you a little for a couple hours. I simply want to forget all the turmoil and be entertained, and entertainment shared is so much more enjoyable than entertainment all alone.

There will be a lot going on in Charles City, as the community celebrates our nation’s birthday. There are plenty of fun things going on locally to help people of all ages escape, and I hope to partake in some of them, and I hope you do as well. If you can, do them all. Charles City does the Fourth of July the right way.

Specifically, I want you to join me and some of our mutual friends and neighbors at the wonderful and historic Charles Theatre Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon. Our much-heralded local theater group, the Stony Point Players, will be presenting a few short, one-act plays. I love watching plays, but these plays are special to me, because I wrote them.

I wrote some of them years ago, and I wrote some of them just recently. Some of them have been presented on stages all over the world many times, and some of them will make their world premiere debut this weekend at The Charles.

Yes, that hack general assignment reporter/columnist/photographer who scribbles drivel for your local rag, questions politicians passing through town, praises local entrepreneurs and philanthropists and tunes into school board meetings so you don’t have to — that’s me — I’m also a pretty accomplished playwright. I’ve written over 100 plays, had over 50 productions on four continents, earned a few national and regional awards and have had two full-length plays published.

It makes me uneasy to promote myself like that, but I’m proud of my playwriting. There’s not much money in it, unless you live in New York under the lights of Broadway. I do see some royalty checks almost every month, usually from a theater group hundreds — maybe thousands — of miles away. The check is usually big enough to pay for a modestly-attended pizza party, and maybe if I’m lucky, some new wiper blades. I can’t quit my day job.

The real reward, for me, comes when something I write gets produced at a venue close enough for me to go and watch it. And this weekend, it’s within walking distance of my front door. I’d like it very much if you walked with me.

If you do, you’ll see eight short plays that are all very different. If you don’t like one, just hang around, in a few minutes there will be another one you might like. Some of them are comedy, some of them are drama. The show, overall, would probably be rated PG-13 for some adult themes and a few naughty words. All the plays are about regular people from small cities — cities like this one. Some of the characters are quirky and absurd and exaggerated. Others are so realistic that they’ll remind you of someone you know. You might even see yourself.

Also — the characters are all portrayed by volunteer actors from the community. Their directors are also your neighbors. I guarantee you that you will be surprised at the talent that exists right here in our own backyard. Broadway has nothing on Charles City, except for maybe producers with tens of millions of dollars to throw at a show.

Whatever the budget, stage theater is a collaborative art. Between the page and the stage, there are dozens of artistic stops — from set design, to lighting, to music — the artistry involved in these plays is truly beautiful, and it’s already a success, before the first line is delivered on stage.

So if you don’t care to support me, go to the show and support your friends and neighbors who have put in tons of hard work just to try and entertain you for a couple hours.

Also, The Charles is air-conditioned. And they’ll be selling their famous popcorn along with other snacks and drinks. So you can attend to support the good people at the theater, who work hard to bring you blockbuster movies at an affordable price all year long.

Or just attend to escape for a couple of hours. There are a lot of things going on in the world that are driving all of us crazy. It might be healthy to just forget about them for a little while, joined by a few dozen of our neighbors.

Let’s do that this weekend. Let’s save the arguments for another time.

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