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BWW Interviews: Columbus Playwright, Bill Cook on His Latest Production, THE PROMISED LAND


A&B Theatricals will present, "The Promised Land", an original play written by local playwright, Bill Cook, opening this Friday, March 22nd at the Columbus Performing Arts Center (549 Franklin Avenue). Cook is known locally as an Associate Professor in the Humanities Department at Columbus State Community College, as well as for his original scripts that deal with the struggles of everyday life in middle-class America. While living in New York, he had quite a few of his plays produced there, but most recently, he worked with current director, Joe Bishara on last year's well-received production of his work entitled, "Love in an Age of Clamor".

The theme and characters of the two shows contain quite a few similarities- both dealing with middle-class struggles, both starring local actor, Nick Baldasare as the lead character, and both featuring a dream sequence, where the elements of the story take unexpected, dramatic turns.

"The Promised Land" is a comedy that deals with the trials and tribulations of Simon, a 55 year-old financial analyst who faces unemployment. He struggles to find his identity, having lost not only his financial well-being, but his pride and social stature, as his wife also comes to deal with the many aspects of their changing life. Mr. Cook took a few moments to chat with me about this new production, and share his excitement in its opening.

Tell me a little bit about the show:

"Well, it's a show about unemployment. It is a comedy, although it ends rather poignantly, I think. In comedy, there's a certain amount of pain, right? That's where that comes from. In the end, it is kind of poignant. Nick (Baldasare) plays Simon. I originally wrote him as a younger character, but as it worked out in terms of the casting, Nick was the man! So, Simon went from 40's to 50's. It is always interesting when you do a play, because you have an idea, but it never works out exactly like what your idea is, and that's often better."

It evolves into something more... What is that process like, of creating this "baby", your original work, and then turning it over to be brought to life in someone else's hands?

"Actually, I like that about live theater. If I was more determined on not collaborating, and set on having my own vision, I would have written novels, or short stories! I think that process is part of the excitement and the pleasure of it. I'm sure that they (the actors) enjoy that, too. Other people do things different ways, and it's different every night anyway, it evolves as it goes."

You've written plays in New York, but this is your second local collaboration with CPAC and Joe Bishara as director. It has obviously been a great partnership...

"I had a sort of revelation that what I really should do is work local, so that's where my energy is, to build a following and an audience for my work here, and not worry too much about other places. Joe's been great to work with. He has a wonderful sense of things."

Your themes tend to revolve around the everyday struggles of people. Why choose to write about ordinary middle-class issues?

"At least in the past 10-12 years, I've been writing about middle-class people. I'm middle-class, my characters are middle-class, so it's really become about their kind of nightmares and their fears, and those ideas that revolve around regular, "real" people. It's pitched in kind of an extreme way. They meet with real disasters, but they're middle-class disasters."

But it's really relatable- no matter who you are, and where you are at in life, you can find something that's relevant and meaningful...

"I hope- yes. Desperation is really relatable!" (Laughs)

What do you enjoy about working with this cast?

"They are very responsive. They try things. I think that's the delight in working with any cast. They are hard-working actors, and they come in and try different things, things that I would've never had in mind. They are very committed. It's a pleasure to work with them. I sit on rehearsals occasionally, and I make comments, but it's really in Joe's (Bishara) hands."

So, there will still be some surprises for you on opening night?

"I hope not too many! (chuckles) However, if I didn't like that process, I wouldn't do this!"

"The Promised Land" runs March 22-23 at 8pm, March 24 at 3pm, and March 28-30 at 8pm at The Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Avenue, Columbus, OH43215. Tickets are available through:

PHOTO CREDIT: Columbus State Community College

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Lisa grew up participating in community theater groups such as Cincinnati Young People's Theater (CYPT) in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, both in front of and behind (read more...)