Newnan Community Theatre presents 'Evie's Waltz'

Newnan Community Theatre presents 'Evie's Waltz'

The Matthews’ teenage son has been suspended from school. His parents are going ahead with their patio barbeque anyway. When their son’s girlfriend Evie arrives they are dragged into the realization that all the elements of a horror scene have converged -- now. Can this frightened 17 year old avert tragedy? Or will she drive the bus over the cliff? Find out for yourself at the Georgia Premiere of Carter W. Lewis’s “Evie’s Waltz,” opening this week in the Black Box at the Newnan Community Theatre Company. NCTC’s Artistic Director Paul Conroy is directing, and the leading players are Ellen Dorrell, Bert Lyons, and Kristi Rapson.

Carter W. Lewis, currently the Playwright in Residence at Washington University, is a prolific playwright who has over a 100 productions to his credit. Two new plays will premiere this year: “Hit-Story” and “The Cha Cha of a Camel Spider”; with two more premieres slated for 2012: “The Americans across the Street,” and an untitled piece for Washington University in St. Louis. “Evie’s Waltz” was first produced as a commissioned work at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in 2008. Since then it has played in seven other theatres across the USA, most recently at Simpatico Theatre this year. (To read an in-depth interview with Lewis, go to the Simpatico Theatre website.)

Evie’s journey to Georgia started on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, in 2008, when Paul Conroy was working with The Cape Cod Theatre Project. Lewis was selected as one of four playwrights that year to have their shows work-shopped for a staged reading. “I knew that I was seeing a thrilling new American play being crafted in front of my eyes,” said Conroy. “I vowed that I would bring it to the stage as soon as possible. For me, this production has been three years in the making. I couldn’t be more overjoyed that it’s finally happening, and with such a solid cast. It’s electric to think that local audiences will get to see the state premiere of this powerful show. It should be something they will remember for years to come.”

Lewis shared his thoughts regarding Evie’s Waltz with the NCTC staff in the following interview:

Did any of your personal experiences provide material for Evie’s Waltz?

I always start with a blank page and people talking. I set up dolls at a tea party and I have one of them say “something.” Usually whatever is on my mind is put on the table – after all, they’re my dolls. So I guess it starts with language and politics – my dolls are quite articulate and usually angry.
The media buzz surrounding teenage tragedies leaves me perplexed – the blame game of “whys?” Multiple talking heads proffering answers and forming conclusions that seem short sighted. I get frustrated with their small-minded reasoning. Before writing “Evie’s Waltz” I was completely aware that I had no answers of my own – on the contrary – anytime I tried to understand “why” these things happened I felt equally shortsighted and completely ineffectual – and that gave me a headache. So I decided to push the different ideas and confusions around on paper for a while, and eventually I pushed further toward a play. 

Could this kind of story have occurred in any country other than the USA?

It could. But our country has the right sort of “convergence of unfortunate ingredients,” i.e., a total lack of gun control, a trickle-down lack of ethics in corporations and government, a much abused middle class that creates multi-tasking parents and desperation/survival mode, and a society that is nurtured on fear and getting more and more angry each day, etc. The prototype of school shootings is white middle or upper middle class males. What does that tell us?

Could the events in this play have occurred a generation or two ago when communities were closer and schools smaller?

Generations ago? Probably not. But I don’t put that totally on the size of schools or communities being closer. Our society was woven of a totally different fabric then. We weren’t corporate governed then, and ethics and a sense of morality were part of the day-to-day social fabric, and not force fed to us by religion filtered through divisive politics.

What has happened in our environment (however you want to interpret that word) that may be contributing to the increasing rates of violence among teenagers?

We are now a very bottom-line oriented culture when it comes to legislation and cultural definitions. When people are ruled by profit-based decisions, ethics disappear. Back in the 1800s when corporations were given the rights of an individual, the slippery slope was greased, and when privatization recently became the way of our world we became a corporate-ruled society. When that happens, there are no moral examples. They don’t exist in government, they don’t exist in the professional world, and they certainly don’t exist in our religious institutions. So we mimic the behavior of our social leaders, and their behavior is profit based, and totally self-preservation oriented. Kids pick up on that pretty quick. And they are totally confused by it.
Is there any way the parents in “Evie’s Waltz” could have prevented the crisis that is already in progress as the play opens?

Unfortunately, “it takes a village.” And no matter how well the parents parent, the child will be impacted by the village. If the village has wise people in it, this “village participation in parenting” is actually a good thing. But our villages are being depleted and they are slowly becoming less desirable neighborhoods for their “co-parenting responsibility.”

If there were some kind of scale with Romeo and Juliet at one end and Bonnie and Clyde at the other, where on that scale would you place the teenagers in this play?

They are totally Romeo and Juliet. Even Romeo got trapped into gang violence; he kills Tybalt. He doesn’t want to, but is bullied into it. This is why West Side Story uses the model. These are two young kids being abused at school who form their own alliance. Their alliance is an “us against the world” attitude of survival – and gosh, where did they learn that? They make a few short sighted decisions. Our society teaches us that if you have a problem you should fight, and if you fight, you might need a gun. Evie doesn’t intend to use it. Evie even tries to get rid of it. They make mistakes, and the mistakes compound. I think you could take any two students in any school and put them in these aberrant situations and have nasty results.

Why is the play named Evie’s Waltz? Or is that one of the questions audience members should be left scratching their heads about?

Well, Evie does a waltz. And Danny’s listening to Strauss. And on a more metaphorical level, Evie also dances through the evening with Clay and Gloria, prodding, probing, challenging, and looking for answers, and hoping for a way out.

NCTC presents “Evie’s Waltz” at 8 p.m. April 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, and 23, with a special performance at 2:30 p.m. Saturday April 23. On Sunday April 17 and Saturday April 23, the director and cast will be part of a post-performance discussion with the audience following the matinee shows. For ticket reservations or more information:

Phone 770-683-6282 or visit www.newnantheatre.org for more information

This article was submitted by Joan Doggrell - jdoggrell@bellsouth.net