Are 1,000 words enough to unlock the mystery of love?
Richard Hanks’ editor seems to think so. But Richard, well, he hasn’t given it much thought.
“He doesn’t want to write a love story,” Alys Murray says. “But his editor knows Richard is in love but is having trouble proposing to the girl, so he could use a little help in this area.”
But there’s more to this love story. Richard’s editor has handed him a photograph of a couple, two men, taken in the 1930s.
This may not have been that big of a deal in the 1990s, the setting for the original musical, “One Thousand Words,” but things were different in the early 20th century.
The play opened on Thursday and continues with performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Theatre Baton Rouge’s Studio Theatre. Murray is directing the show, which has been in rehearsals since early December.
“We just had two days off for Christmas, then we were back in here,” she says.
“One Thousand Words” was created by LSU alumni Michael Braud, book and lyrics; and Curran Latas, music. Murray attended a staged reading of the play at LSU and liked what she saw.
She talked to Braud and Latas about directing, but she had to overcome a few obstacles along the way. Murray lives in New Orleans but is majoring in directing in New York University’s Playwright Horizons Theater School, and she knew she couldn’t be in Baton Rouge for the auditions.
“So, I did the auditions through Skype,” she says. “We reached out to actors through grassroots efforts, Facebook and an LSU Listserv. Then I created a Pinterest page with photos and profiles for each of the characters’ photos.”
The profiles are diverse yet controversial for a flashback to the 1930s and ’40s. That’s when the two men in the photograph meet. Their names are Warren and Daniel. Warren is still alive in the 1990s when Richard is working on his story. Daniel died decades earlier.
Which is all that can be said for Daniel’s fate. Anything more would be a plot spoiler.
“This is a complex story that doesn’t just involve the relationship between Daniel and Warren but an African-American soldier who returns home from World War II,” Murray says. “He and a woman are in love, but the woman is white and from Virginia. And being from the South, she’s having difficulty with the relationship.”
Then there’s the stifled housewife.
“She’s trying to overcome misogyny,” Murray says.
Heavy stuff for the first weeks after the holidays? Maybe, but this story is woven by rock, jazz and ballads performed by a four-piece band. And the song performed by Warren and his World War II buddies, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” is nothing less than fun with each singing about the girl they left behind.
Well, except for Warren, whose words disguise the true object of his love. Yes, Warren goes to war, leaving Daniel behind to marry a girl named Elizabeth.
“Warren and Daniel were living together in New York before the war, but Daniel becomes afraid of their lifestyle when he returns home,” Murray says. “So, he pursues a straight life.”
So, what happens when Warren returns home? Only a trip to Theatre Baton Rouge will reveal the answer to this story, that Richard must wrap up in 1,000 words.
Which isn’t a lot, considering it’s also the story of a life — Warren’s life.
“This is the first time that Warren tells this story,” Murray says.
And he tells it in the premiere of “One Thousand Words” in Baton Rouge.
- CAST: Trey Tycer, Warren; Brady Lewis, Daniel; Rachel Lorando, Elizabeth; Glenn Carman, Luke; Enrico Cannella, Richard; Evan Bergeron, Old Warren; Allyson Guay, Kristy; Alaina Richard, Virginia; Prentiss Mouton, Thomas; Robert Burton, Jacob; Drew Melebeck, Frankie; Ben Ross, George; Carlos Posas, Erin Sheets, Maddie Alello, Ensemble.
- BAND: Rachel Klaassen, conductor; Tara Hymel, piano; Daniel Harris, drums; Andrew Mullet, synthesizer; Ben Ross, guitar.
- CREW: Alys Murray, director and set designer; Rachel Klaassen, musical director; Michael Braud, book and lyrics; Curran Latas, music; Jess Bryan, lighting designer; Megan Payne, sound designer; Paige Bethea, light and sound board operator.