Slouching Towards Bethlehem, PA
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, PA
Posted by Stephen Karam - September 22nd, 2011
This is my first time blogging. Ever. I'll do my best.
The first week of rehearsals has just ended and its been the usual rush of adrenaline, nerves, excitement, discovery, fear, joy. Sons of the Prophet had a production at the Huntington Theater Company this past spring, and I was able to take what I learned from that first run and do a series of big rewrites this summer at the MacDowell Colony (where I worked in a cottage whose previous inhabitants include James Baldwin and Spalding Gray and María Irene Fornés!)
So this first week has been about seeing what new stuff works, what stuff needs to be rewritten and what stuff needs to be thrown in the garbage. The play explores the particularly messy portions of our lives-the times where you find yourself coping with multiple life issues, and before any of them can be resolved-two more show up on your plate. We've all been there, I'd wager.
This play, like everything I write, is deeply personal, but not autobiographical. That said, I should fess up to being half-Lebanese and raised in the Maronite faith (think Roman Catholicism with more incense and Arabic chanting) and across the street from the Douaihy family (a fellow Lebanese-American family with two girls, both friends of mine, both fabulous lesbians). One was recently featured on the New York Times.
Douaihy is the name of the family featured in Sons of the Prophet. Douaihy, like Karam, is a very common last name in Lebanon (you see it everywhere), but one that no one in the U.S. knows how to pronounce.
The above pics are from a recent trip to Lebanon. I spent time in Beirut before traveling north to the town where my grandfather grew up, Zghorta, which is near Bsharri, hometown of Khalil Gibran, who is discussed throughout the play. The mountains in Northern Lebanon are breathtaking...
The rewrites are going well, but it's a stressful time for all involved, as we only have so many rehearsals before previews start. The cast is handling the changes brilliantly; they're all pros, as is our fearless director, Peter DuBois. It's special to be in the room with Broadway veterans and people making their NY debuts. It's a great ensemble. I like creating plays with lots of people (columbinus and Sons of the Prophet both have 8 people), but the reality is that plays with many roles are expensive to produce (I sometimes wonder if Chekhov were writing today-would he have been pressured to do away with The Post-Office Clerk from The Cherry Orchard? Would the Maid/Cook have been kicking around in The Seagull? Would he have dreamt as often about plays with 13, 14 people?) I feel incredibly lucky to have Roundabout's support and to get to work with Peter DuBois and the entire company onstage and the incredible staff working behind the scenes.
Before I sign off I should probably answer the number one question I get asked: "Is your play about gnomes?" It's not. But yes, this is the image associated with the show:
Nor does the play have anything to do with Travelocity. For my own peace of mind, I'm choosing to view the gnome as some sort of weird metaphor for Santino Fontana's character, who is having a very, very bad year. That works, right?