As previously noted my ten minute play “Freedom Training” was included in the 14th Annual Short Play Marathon for November 12 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. As I planned to attend I wanted to stay overnight because the event did not finish until 10:30 in the evening and it is a long drive back to NYC. I asked the sponsors of the event for a recommendation and they told me of a Bed and Breakfast run by one of the actors in their production and I booked a room.
Captain Haskell’s Octagon House dated from the early 1800’s and has been lovingly restored. It is a charming place that I thought would be suitable for an overnight stay before returning to the city. Our host, Chuck Smiler was very gracious and was performing in a couple of other works for the marathon, but not my script. We checked in between sessions and proceeded to the theater.
The reading went well and at the end of the evening Chuck approached Pamela and I saying ” You didn’t tell me that your play was about Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964.”
I wrote the script a couple of years ago linking the 50th anniversary of that summer with a couple of other influences that focused on the classrooms in Ohio as they prepared for that adventure in Mississippi. After initial workshops and readings many people had commented that it seems to be the first scene of a longer work instead of just a ten minute play. While I like to inhabit my plays with vivid characters with a full backstory and a true moment in time hoping to avoid the sketch that is so easy to fall back on while writing short works, I didn’t see “Freedom Training” as a longer work, just the ten minute play I wrote. And that was that.
Chuck continued, “I know someone who was there for Freedom Summer and has continued her work since then. Would you like to meet her?” Wow, fantastic, and Gloria Xifaras Clark joined us for breakfast the next morning. She not only was a part of Freedom Summer but returned in the years since, cultivated friendships that have lasted fifty years and even donated her records of the event to University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Wow. As she spoke about her experiences my brain started popping with what indeed would follow my short play. Already at the breakfast table I was assembling in my head the outline for a full length work. I have just started to explore her archives and I have a lot of work to do, but I do indeed want to write a longer version.
Oh, and as for Captain Haskell’s Octagon House Bed and Breakfast? I highly recommend it to you if you ever visit New Bedford for the lovely atmosphere, the warm welcome from the host, the delicious breakfast and most of all, the potential inspiration you will find there!