Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tip of the hat from Charles Van Eman

Busy guy, Charles Van Eman. He's flying up Route 95, trying to make a rehearsal for the Firehouse production of Mark Twain's “The Diaries of Adam and Eve" at the Firehouse. It's not quite clear whether it was a last-minute thing or whether it just got lost in the shuffle of his schedule. Doesn't really matter. He got the call, he made the rehearsal and, en route, was able to check off a scheduled press interview during the ride from his home in Middleton. Besides, the actor, whose credits over the past three decades include everything from a recurring role in the "The Colbys," the Dynasty spinoff, to his current gig as writer-director of "High Rise," a Melrose Place-like internet drama, had already accomplished the major task of the day: Making revisions to "Jack's Hat," a new play, which will be getting its first spin around the theatrical block soon, very soon, at the North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative. There's still the second season of "High Rise" hanging over his head, of course. Lots of pressure there, too, seeing how the show has been upgraded from bite-size eight-minute episodes to a full half-hour, and has been picked up by Fox 5 in Atlanta, where the series is filmed. 

The new season will kick off with either Reese, Paul or Addison buying the farm, with his or her demise determined by viewers in a between-seasons poll. Van Eman has written the first episode. He knows, but isn't talking. Even though we know it couldn't possibly be Reese, right. That would change the whole dynamic of the show, right? And Paul? Nah. Gotta be Addison, right?

Nope. Nothing.

The new season opens in the spring. No hard date yet. A relatively long time off for a busy guy. So, for now, Van Eman is focusing on the immediate — Twain's "Diaries," a scripted reading that has him playing Adam  to Fontaine Dubus' Eve. "A funny piece," say Van Eman, who made his Port stage debut this year in "The Laramie Project." Twain has a keen understanding of the differences between the genders." But that production is more than two weeks off. The debut of his new play is less than a week away ... and he's still making revisions? Cutting it kind of close aren't you? "Not really," he says. "Just a couple  tweaks, tightened it up a little bit. I'm much happier with it now."

So, what's it all about? "Jack's Hat" is a one-man show with four human characters, but the real star of the show, as the name implies, is a hat. Yes, a hat. A fedora. An old fedora, to be specific. An old fedora with a bullet hole in it. How did the bullet hole get there? That would be telling. "Makes you a little curious, though, doesn't it?" asks Van Eman, "Makes you want to know more?" Um, yeah, it does. But, yeah, you guessed it, he's not going to get real specific. "It's the story of America and Americans." Or, as the press release says, a modern odyssey of four people in search of the American dream, finding love, experiencing loss and learning something about themselves.

He wrote the piece with himself in mind, but he'll be sitting in the back of the room, wearing his writer's hat, so to speak, seeing how the piece flies — what works, what doesn't. "That's the whole wonderful purpose of this kind of format," he says. "You get to hear the words." The reading will star Steve Faria, also a man of many hats — actor, comedian, musician, teacher and playwright, whose new play, "Boxed In," opens in November at the Firehouse. If Faria comes up with something especially good, something unexpected, some insight into the character, Van Eman says he won't hesitate to nick it.  "I'm sort of joking about that," he says.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: The North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative will present “Jack’s Hat,” a new play by Charles Van Eman, at 10 a.m. Sept. 11 at the Actors Studio, 50 Water St., the Tannery. The one-man show stars Steve Faria. A talkback session follows. Reservations are recommended. Suggested donation is $7. For more information, call 978.465.1229. Van Eman will play Adam to Fontaine Dubus' Eve in Mark Twain’s “The Diaries of Adam & Eve” Sept. 17 to 18 at the Firehouse. Tickets are $20. A reception follows the Sept. 18 performance. For more information, click here or call 978.462.7336. You can watch season one of "High Rise" here. Or you can download the free podcast from iTunes.

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