Undertaking the production of a play proves quite challenging. From ensuring captivating performances, grounded in layered writing, to maintaining seamless scene transitions, the process remains reserved for the few brazen artists willing to test their sanity. Multiply the frenzy of executing one production by five and “Pole Vaulting Over Skyscrapers” soars to the forefront of production. The show boasts a night of five, original 20-minute plays written by local playwright John Grudzien. The body of work will premiere tomorrow at Cape Fear Playhouse and run for the next two weekends.
With eight feature-length scripts, two TV pilots, and over 10 plays under his belt, Grudzien is driven by a passion for story-telling. Having previously debuted “Six by Twenty,” a series of six 20 minute plays, and “Two,” a double bill of feature-length plays, it’s clearly not Grudzien’s first venture. Being able to immerse audiences in as many perspectives as possible serves as a perpetuating force for his career. Consequently, putting on several plays proves advantageous.
“It’s like writing a three-minute song versus a symphony,” Grudzien explains. “A drawing as opposed to a painting. They can both have layers, a melody a connection with the audience. Simple and complicated, slow and fast at the same time.
The diversified plays will range in tone from comedy to drama, but each will tell a story of human interaction. On the bill will be “Waiter!”—a comedy blending the humor of Mel Brooks, Shakespeare and “The Sopranos.” Laughter will be followed by a more serious mien as “In the Rain” showcases two strangers in a chance meeting in a coffee shop and dealing with heartbreak. Alternating between genres to keep audiences on their toes, two comedies will follow. “The Gay Garden Club” tells the tale of, well … a gay garden club. Hilarity will follow as well in “Buy, Sell, Hold,” a play about finances, mistakes, and delayed flights. Rounding it out will be “Under London,” a drama that delves into the underground nightclubs that existed in London during the World War II blitz.
Though Grudzien often directs his own plays, this go ’round he has teamed up with Steve Vernon, artistic director for Big Dawg Productions. After seeing Grudzien’s 2012 original show, “Comedy and Music,” Vernon took a keen interest in the writer’s work. With mutual respect and admiration, the two fostered a connection.
“I had to remind myself to step back and let like-minded, talented directors and actors take the work to a new level,” Grudzien concedes. “But it is working really well and a joy to watch it come to life.”
The plays will feature the local talents of Suzanne Nystrom, Charles Auten, Terri Batson, Matt Warzel and Lynette O’Callaghan. The cast’s chemistry and intermediary connectivity already shows promise in rehearsals. Having to evoke laughter and generate moments of seriousness multiple times over the course of one evening challenges them.
“They work off each other and create moments of comedy or tension that is wonderful to see in plays that are brand new, and they are adding their own touch, too” Grudzien expresses.
Naturally, stellar performances will be lost if the execution of set design and technical aspects fall short. Audrey McCrummen takes on the task of bringing to life each show’s time and place, while Steve Coley will serve as stage manager and sound/light designer. Running the boards will be Nick Fenton.
Grudzien lives for any opportunity to showcase his talent in Wilmington. “The atmosphere is lively and open to the performing arts and live theatre, which is great for actors [and] writers,” he says.
Tickets for the event, which can be procured on the Big Dawgs Productions’ website, are $15 dollars for the general public and $10 for seniors and students.DETAILS:
Pole Vaulting Over Skyscrapers
A compilation of five short plays by John Grudzien
Jan. 16th – 19th & 24th – 26th
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
$15 adults, $10 seniors/students