by Scott Dixon
It is a pleasure and privilege to have been part of the Commonweal Theatre since 2001, mostly as an actor in more than 40 productions, but also as a director and a playwright. Naturally, some of those plays stand out more than others (usually for some sentimental reason that doesn’t mean anything to anyone else but me). But there’s no doubt as to which show is the most special—the top-favorite. It’s A Midnight Dreary.
I have always loved storytelling. As I worked on building my acting career, I also wrote several short stories (of the horror and dark fantasy variety) published in various small press magazines, and while I never really thought about merging the two interests, I did have the seed of an idea for a play about Edgar Allan Poe under the heading of “If I Were Ever to Write a Play.” Finally, one day I decided that the time had come. I read and researched and wrote several drafts before showing the script to Commonweal’s Executive Director Hal Cropp. He thought it showed promise, and said if I was willing to put in even more work, the Commonweal would be interested in producing it. Of course I agreed, and A Midnight Dreary ended up being selected for the theatre’s 2009 season.
The first readthrough of a play’s rehearsal process is always exciting, and for me as the playwright, it was 100x so. I marveled at the designers presentations, their visions for the set and costumes, and how music would play a part. As director of the show, Hal talked about how it would all come together, and then the cast (including my wonderful wife, Stela Burdt, in a role I’d written specifically for her) read the play aloud. For me, the thrill came from watching all of these artists contribute their skills and talents to what I had set down on paper. It was as if I had blazed the beginnings of a trail, but then a team of amazingly creative people used that trail as a starting point from which to explore a whole new world.
The result was a wonderful production that went beyond what I could have imagined on my own, which is – I believe – the hope of any playwright. A Midnight Dreary opened, fittingly enough, on Halloween night 2009. I was there for almost every performance, watching the audience gasp, laugh, and lean forward in their seats. To this day, I am extremely proud of the show and the work that everyone put into it, from Stela Burdt and Hal Cropp (my first cheerleaders), to the best design team I could imagine, ending with a magnificent cast. And proud as well that it is the 100th play in Commonweal’s history. To me, it was most fitting that a company which prides itself on investing in the creative growth of its artists would mark such a milestone with a new play written by one of its actors.
Of special note: On Wednesday, October 16th, the Commonweal Theatre will host a free, public staged-reading of Scott’s latest project – a new stage adaptation of DRACULA. The reading is part of our special 25th Season Staged Reading Series. The reading will begin at 7:30pm at the theatre.