Meeting Jeffrey Stingerstein

Playwright Nicholas Wardigo and actor Michelle Pauls.
Playwright Nicholas Wardigo and actor Michelle Pauls.

The first month of 2016 is nearly shot to hell, but not without hitting Philly upside the noggin with eighteen inches of snow.  I spent three hours on Sunday, tunneling out my driveway with my neighbor (Thanks, Nate!), fueled by Aurora’s rum-laced hot chocolate.  And on Monday, I yanked on my boots once again and trudged to the train station so I could get to the first installment of the Philly Plays at the Drake.

Really glad I did.  As I mentioned, I didn’t know the playwright at all, but Jeffrey Stingerstein is a guy with a lot to say and very little of it pleasant.  Without going into too much detail, Forgive Us Our Trespasses is about a woman who was brutally raped and summoned the courage to identify and testify against her attacker.  Twelve years later, DNA evidence vindicates the man she thought had raped her, and she has to deal with the fallout of punishing an innocent man.  Meanwhile, her actual rapist has been out there all this time.

I don’t want to say anything else, because I REALLY hope this gets picked up by someone.  Not saying it’s a perfect play; it still has some rough edges and, frankly, I hate the title, but that’s what readings are for.  Also, got a chance to meet the playwright.  Serendipitously, he sat behind me without me realizing it.  Five minutes before curtain, I turned around to talk to him…

Me: “Excuse me, do you happen to know the playwright?”

Jeffrey: “Yeah.  That would be me.”

Me: “Really?”

Jeffrey: “Yeah.”

Me: “Are you shitting me?”

Jeffrey: “No.” (shaking my hand)  “I’m Jeffrey.”

Me: “I’m Nick.  I’m a playwright, too.”

Jeffrey: “Don’t you do those videos on YouTube?”

Me: “Yep.  Want some bourbon?”

Jeffrey: “Yes, I do.”

And I passed him my flask, because that’s what playwrights should do before a reading…give a drink to the one having the reading.  That’s just basic etiquette.  Readings are awful.  I mean, not for the audience; readings are sources of unending intrigue for the audience.  But for the playwright, they’re murder, exceeded only by the indignities of an opening night.

And, I should add, I was feeling slightly depressed because I attended two other readings in the last week, and neither of the playwrights (Jacqui Goldfinger and John O’Hara) took me up on my offer to share a drink beforehand.  I’m sure they had their reasons, but it felt…untoward.  Like watching a duck wearing pants.  Unnerving in a way you can’t quite put your finger on.

I should say something about the brand new Drake Theater, seeing as it was my first time there.  It was beautiful with two, separate theater spaces, and after watching the reading in the larger space, Seth Rozin was kind enough to give me and a few other playwrights a brief tour of the other space and the dressing rooms between them.  If I was a more astute man, I would have taken photos for this blog, but I didn’t.  Similarly, I didn’t get a pic of Jeff-the-playwright, but that was more because I thought it would be weird.  So, I got a pic with actor Michelle Pauls, who played the lead and whom I’ve known and watched perform for many years.

Anyway, I’ll be returning to the Drake next week to see The It Girl with Amanda Schoonover, who performed in two of my plays and was the interviewee in the very first episode of Martinis with Nick.  Maybe I’ll take pics (if I feel like it), but really you should be going to Mandy’s show and seeing the theater space for yourself.  Lazy bastards.


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