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Arts + Entertainment

Blog Less Traveled: Lovejoy’s Darryl Schneider brings down the house…again

Clean Break is onstage at Road Less Traveled Theater through Sunday, April 1.

blog by Scott Behrend  • 

This week, we speak to local playwright Darryl Schneider, whose current world-premiere play, Clean Break, opened at the Road Less Traveled Theater (639 Main St., Buffalo) on Friday, March 9.

Schneider is an RLTP resident playwright and Clean Break is his fourth play produced by the company. All of his previous plays have been nominated for Artie Awards for Outstanding New Play (War Room won the honor in 2006). I am very proud of the relationship we have with Darryl (editor’s note—author Scott Behrend is artistic director of Road Less Traveled Productions) and his evolution as a playwright over the past nine years. Clean Break just received a glowing 3.5 star (of four) review from Ted Hadley of The Buffalo News and runs through Sunday, April 1.

Attention reader: If you are reading this on Thursday, March 22, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for a chance to win two free tickets to Clean Break on Friday, March 23, Saturday, March 24 or Sunday, March 25. We will randomly select one winner from all entrants at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 22.

Please include your full name and telephone number in the email entry. Winners must pick up the voucher from The Buffalo News building (1 News Plaza, Buffalo) before 7 p.m. on Friday, March 23. No substitutions. Good luck!

Darryl Schneider

Blog Less Traveled: Darryl, this play has come a long way since 2005. What was it about this material that kept you revisiting it, revising it again and improving it over the course of two RLTP new play workshops, three distinct versions and at least seven years of development?

Daryl Schneider: I’m a relentless, obsessed man. I probably need therapy but then I wouldn’t have a desire to write plays. This story and these characters are in my blood. They circulate in my messed-up body and mind. I know so many people like Bruce and Lisa—the two characters in the play—that I had no other choice but to tell their story.

And I love these people. I know, I’m sentimental.  I couldn’t let them die.

Clean Break at RLTP Theater.

BLT: You’ve gone on the record as saying Clean Break is your “...return to your roots in Lovejoy.” So how has your approach to thinking and writing about that area of the city of Buffalo changed with this play?

DS: I have become more aware that I have a responsibility to get their stories right. I will tell their stories with humor, love and honesty. Sometimes that honesty can hurt. I have to take that chance. Fortunately, the people from Lovejoy are cool about it.

BLT: Clean Break is a two-hander (two actors in the cast) that focuses on a father and daughter and their troubled relationship. I recall that the original incarnation of Clean Break—or, as I remember it from back in the day, Hands—featured a third onstage character, the son-slash-brother named Rich. Talk about why Rich was in the play back then, and why he hasn’t made it into the current world premiere version.

DS: Rich was the son who owned the hardware store where his father worked and stole money from the cash register. Rich is the one who showed his sister, Lisa, the video of their father with his hands in the cookie jar.  He is the one who wanted to press charges and Lisa is the one who wanted to give dad another break.

I didn’t know what to do with Rich. So I did what seemed convenient and stupid: I had Rich commit suicide. After a reading, the actor portraying Rich told me his character was unnecessary. I took his advice and started writing another version without Rich and concentrated on the relationship between the father and daughter. And here we are. 

Clean Break at RLTP Theater.

BLT: Your new play is terrific on paper, but the world premiere production is blessed moreover with the talents of two of Western New York’s most gifted theater practitioners: director Derek Campbell and actor John Fredo. How has your collaboration with them affected your development of the play?

DS: Derek—the master director—broke the play down into distinct beats which gave the production a clear line of action. As rehearsal went on, anything that didn’t follow that line of action was cut.  By the way, there wasn’t much cutting. But you’d be surprised how much more taut a play can become by cutting a few lines here and there.

Anyway, Derek wanted to keep this play moving forward and he did a great job. He always consulted me on what should be cut or changed. I have total trust in him. The same with John Fredo. Total trust. Sometimes, John would question why his character would say and do certain things. I would provide my point of view. John would take what I said and always had a way to make it work.

When a playwright is able to have that trust in the director and actors, the play can, at least in my case, become more fully realized and true. I gradually faded into the background and let them take ownership of the play.

Clean Break at RLTP Theater.

BLT: After the tremendous success of War Room in 2006, you made somewhat of a departure from your trademark domestic realism and tried your hand at whimsical romantic comedy with Twice Around. You return to realism (and family disfunction melodrama) in Clean Break, but your next two projects—Son of Lovejoy (or, Iron Island) and The Bulgarian Bubble Girl—seem to attempt new twists, again, on your proven formula: the former in terms of style and the latter in terms of content. How conscious are you, as a local playwright, of wanting to keep your work fresh and relevant—and how do you go about addressing that concern?

DS: I try to absorb everything around me. If I’m lucky, I’m able to wring out a story that’s about the now. The Bulgarian Bubble Girl, for example, came from an NPR story about a girl, yes, from Bulgaria, who works outside a souvenir shop in Atlantic City. Her job is to entice customers to enter the shop. She does this by blowing bubbles and performing some type of laser show. I took that bit and combined it with the ever-growing and depressing stories of human trafficking, especially that of women forced into the sex trade. So I’m pissed and f***ing angry. So what to do? Kill the sick f***s who exploit these women?  For now, I’ll write a play.

Son Of Lovejoy deals with the need for forgiveness. The backdrop is my old neighborhood of Lovejoy which is going through a major change. What used to be a mainly white Catholic neighborhood is becoming more diverse. Buddhists recently purchased what used to be St. Agnes Church. People of diverse race are moving in. Change is difficult. As a playwright, I’m concerned with change and conflict. By going back to Lovejoy every week to have dinner with my momma and visit my friends, I’m able to see that change first hand—the transformation of my old neighborhood. And then a story starts to develop.

For ticket information for Clean Break, please visit RoadLessTraveledProductions.org.

TAGGED: blog less traveled, john fredo, road less traveled productions

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