In a telephone conversation earlier this week, Irish born playwright Bryan Delaney explained to WBFO Theater Talk co-host how he conceived of, nurtured, and ultimately crafted his latest "Irish" play, THE SEEDBED, which opens tonight at the Andrews Theatre on Main Street in Buffalo, the home of the Irish Classical Theatre Company.
Irish playwright Bryan Delaney has the soft, lilting tones of the Irish Classical Theatre's Vincent O'Neill when he speaks, and it turns out that he grew up less than two miles from and had the same teachers in Dublin as O'Neill. Known to Buffalo audiences for his 2005 play THE COBBLER (through which he first met O'Neill) Delaney was very pleased to have another opportunity to work with the company. And after coming to Buffalo for a week of table talks going over the script, Delaney was immensely impressed with cast and left confident in director Greg Natale. "He's a great director, but he's also an actor, so he knows how to give the actors notes, and when to give them notes."
THE SEEDBED has its WNY premiere this Friday, March 10, 2017 and runs through April 2, Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 3:00, and Sunday Matinees at 2:00. On their own website, the ICTC posts: "THE SEEDBED is a chilling family drama by the author of the hugely successful play The Cobbler. A middle aged couple welcomes their wayward 18-year-old daughter home to celebrate their seventeenth wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to her mother and stepfather, the daughter is accompanied by her new fiance, who seems like a shocking and disturbing choice for their daughter. The arrival of the couple becomes the catalyst for a succession of increasingly volatile confrontations that shake the family to its core and sends them hurtling towards the inevitable revelation of an unspeakable family secret." Ha! That sure sounds like ICTC material! Directed by ICTC Associate Director Greg Natale, the cast stars Chris Kelly as Thomas and Kristen Tripp Kelley as Hannah (the husband and wife), Arianne Davidow as their somewhat estranged daughter Maggie, and Eric Rawski as the (surprise) fiancé, Mick.
"It's a psychological family drama about truth versus truth versus truth," Delaney explained in a recent conversation. "It's a game of psychological Chinese whispers and so the spine of the story is how a thought grows in the mother's mind, is planted into the daughter's mind and grows in her mind and takes on a life of its own, and is transferred over to the father's mind and grows there, taking on a life of its own." And everything is "shot through with lashings of dark humor... Irish style."
By the way, in the U.S. we know "Chinese whispers" as the party game of "telephone." It's where one person whispers a message to another person, who whispers it to another, and by the time it goes around the circle, the message has been distorted several times, but of course, each person believes that he or she has the authentic, true version.
The words "planted" and "grows" help explain the origins of THE SEEDBED and its how the playwright creates, as well. It all started with an idea of a husband and wife having an argument. Then, Delaney had a vision of a house being overgrown by plants, so many plants that in this dream-scape it was hard for people to even walk about. And then, while he was living in a cottage connected to an old Jacobean castle in the Southeast of Ireland he saw the homeowner walk by in paint-spattered jeans and a "rough woolen jumper" (think Irish sweater). So he had the look of the husband, the idea of an argument, and the vision of plants growing and choking a home.
And just as plants start with seeds which need time to develop, that's how Delaney creates. His technique is definitely "old school." He writes using a pen and a blank notebook, starting with jotting down thoughts and notes. Lots and lots of thoughts and notes. Then he starts connecting thoughts, but slowly. "I try to think with my pen" he says. "I try not to hunt an image or explain it" and believes in giving his instincts and feelings and images time to grow. It's very time consuming and he doesn't use a computer because he says that seeing the script in neat, printed form gives it "an authority that it hasn't yet earned." So he initially ends up with "a messy spaghetti bowl of a first draft" and then begins to apply dramaturgy, asking who needs what, how will they get it, what are the dramatic arcs?
Delaney is a playwright, but he's also a screenwriter for both television and movies as well as a dramaturg. He currently resides in New York City. From 2010 - 2014 he ran the New Playwrights Programme at The Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national theatre. He has recently been appointed to teach advanced playwriting and screenwriting at University of Pennsylvania and playwriting at Harvard Summer School.
He will be in town for tonight's opening.