“Jeez’m Crow” and “Wake Up”
Browncoat Pub and Theatre
111 Grace Street • 6/21-24
8 p.m.; Sun. matinees, 5 p.m.
Some folks like their plays with depth, maybe a little substance. Browncoat Pub and Theatre will deliver twofold this week with originally scripted plays, “Jeez’m Crow” and “Wake Up,” written by UNCW students Jacob Keohane and Ross Helton, respectively.
Though Helton technically graduated in May, Keohane will don the cap and gown this winter. Both theater performance majors met last year through shared classes. Keohane had considered trying his hand as a playwright for quite a while. When he and Helton started discussing the subject, Helton began entertaining the idea as well. Both wrote scripts earlier in the year, and at the onset wanted to intertwine the two entities.
“We decided to connect the universes of the two plays,” Helton explains. “For example, the character of the preacher jumps across the two worlds. He helps to set up different plotlines for each of the stories.”
“They have their own specific plots but they’re definitely intersecting,” Keohane agrees.
As far as the story goes, both plays delve into the dark side of human nature. Keohane’s play, “Jeez’m Crow,” focuses on the story of two estranged brothers. One is a wandering laborer while the other is a pseudo-sociopathic con artist who passes himself off as a reverend. “Basically, the story shows that there’s no getting out of the world that you create for yourself,” Keohane shares.
Helton’s play, “Wake Up,” similarly focuses on two people—a man who lost his fiancée in a car accident and the boy who caused the tragedy. The heartbroken man seeks out the boy, searching for a way to get even. It’s simple. “This is a story about revenge,” Helton states.
The plays also have the same setting: 1980s Boone, North Carolina. The town was an easy choice, as Helton lived there his whole life before moving to Wilmington to attend UNCW. “I drew upon the nuances of life in Boone,” Helton shares, “even down to the way the characters speak.”
Though not originally from Boone, Keohane has traveled there a lot. “And Boone kept drawing me back,” he admits. “I really loved the people—the good ones and the bad ones. They’re mountain people. They have a real zest for life. I like to think of these plays as a tribute to them—the last generation of tough people.”
In fact, both playwrights based many of the characters and events on real-life people and situations they witnessed in the western part of the state. After finishing the works, they entered UNCW’s Department of Theater contest to have the shows produced. Submitting their two plays as a single entry turned to their benefit, as they won and were staged at end of March 2012 at the campus Cultural Arts Building. The cast was made up completely of students, as well as entirely produced by them. Faculty members oversaw the production to offer any help the students needed along the way.
After the exhilarating rush of public feedback, the logical next step came in branching out into the community. Adrian Workman, one of the students who ran technical design for the UNCW production, had worked with Browncoat Pub and Theatre; he suggested it as a possible venue. Workman is now the stage manager for the run. Producing in a community theater has been a different beast altogether.
“We don’t have any outside help this time,” Helton describes. “We can’t ask the faculty advisors if we’re having an issue. We’re out doing it on our own now. That’s been quite a learning experience.”
“We can critique ourselves and each other now,” Keohane says.
They’ve also had a chance to change the cast, pooling from outside of the university as well. They kept some of their original members but brought in new ones. Also, they have rewritten the shows.
“They have a different focus and a different ending,” Keohane shares. “It’s not going to be the same show at all!”
Both Helton and Keohane plan to continue penning plays in the future. They hope to come up with a sequel to both “Jeez’m Crow” and “Wake Up.”
“It would act as a stand-alone play,” Helton assures. “We’d like it to give a brief synopsis [of the previous plays] at the beginning so everyone will know what’s going on.”
“Jeez’m Crow” and “Wake Up” opened last week and will continue to run this weekend, June 21st through 24th. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Friday, with a 5 p.m. matinee on Sunday at Browncoat Pub and Theatre, located on 111 Grace Street. Ticket prices vary from $8 to $15, and drinks will be available at the cash bar. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (910) 341-0001 or visit them online at www.browncoattheatre.com.