Behind the scene: Making the Book The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand into a stage play

I thought those of you who read my blogs might enjoy an inside look at the process of going from the book The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand, to a script, to a play. I am sending the correspondence between Don MacKay and me.

The play will be read before an audience at Pegasus Theater in Aspen, Colorado as part of the Aspen Fringe Festival. Don is an actor, a friend of mine and Sarah’s, co-artistic producer at Pegasus. Don has taken on the task of writing the stage version of the book. Sarah Barker is working with Don on the play.

From Don: Well, I was completely blown away by how well Part One read yesterday afternoon.  The running time was 52 minutes (not including music and getting some of the younger actors to slow down a bit) and it had an amazing build to it.  The cast was really thrilled with it.  I don’t think I need to revise anything in Part One, other than a couple of very minor tweaks.

I have an 11 year old (who is 5’10” and looks and sounds older) playing the Tom Spint track. I asked if he ever got restless or bored with Part One and he said very enthusiastically “No, I was hooked the entire time!”

I also have an older (late 60’s) equity actor who is known for being cantankerous and he LOVED it. He said, “This has such incredible contemporary resonance.” He named the recent Bundy situation in Nevada.  So I think we have something here!

There was also some great moments of humor.  This cast’s voices are really bringing it to life.  And we have a GREAT Earl Durand who looks and sounds the part!  The Sheriff is a really good actor, too.  The two women are great.  Ronnie is PERFECT.  And we have such a wide range of ages that it really helps bring it to life.

The two women reading Argento and Linabary is an accidental stroke of comic genius as they are hilarious and it’s the one aspect of Part One that can be a little over the top.

Since I don’t have to do hardly anything with Part One revisions I get to spend all day today and Tuesday concentrating on further revising Part Two.

Very happy here!!!

I wrote: I am thrilled by your observations about the play.

The next day Don wrote that he gets a daily poem as an e-mail. On the day the poem was read in the play, the daily poem was “Crossing the Bar”, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Don wrote, “The coincidence of the poem appearing today is a good sign, don’t you think?

I wrote back: “Don, there is a version of the poem set to music by folks who often appear on Prairie Home Companion, the Hopeful Gospel Quartet. It is thoroughly moving.

Don sent me this link and asked if it what I had in mind.

I wrote, “This is a lovely version. Yes. There are a few key words whose meaning is not apparent: Bar, moan, and Pilot. I listened again, and tears came. Did we decide to use it for the play? It is moving, especially when sung.”

Don replied, “Yes, the musicians will play it during the funeral as the sister starts to recite the poem.”

I wrote, “It might be extra strong to have her read the poem while the music is played and some of the actors sing it. It will be truly moving. It would not be bad to move the audience toward tears. The story is really tragic. No one wins. It is not exactly like Hamlet, with the stage strewn with bodies. But there is no one who benefits from what took place, no one made happy. That is part of what I love about the story, the book, and the play. And, there are no heroes, no villains. Just fate, winding her sorrowful threads.

Next day Don wrote, “Part Two read like a dream.  47 minutes in length.  Didn’t lag once.  The Ronnie Knopp as narrator taking us to the AFTERMATH first, before showing what finally happened at the bank played perfectly.  The cast was thrilled with it.

We started with Part One which read really well again.  And then took a 10 minute break before starting Part Two.

Couldn’t be happier!  And the music going to be FABULOUS.  We’re going to underscore from the moment the stage direction of FUNERAL with “Crossing The Bar” version that you suggested, Jerred.  Beautiful.  Resonant guitar+muted fiddle.  Gorgeous.

I know this is much longer than a blog usually is. I don’t give any advise. I would love to hear (see) from you about what you read here.


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