We Have Built It, Will You Come? What We Get to Keep by Roland Tec opens September 7th in Portland, Maine

We Have Built It, Will You Come? What We Get to Keep by Roland Tec opens September 7th in Portland, Maine

Suze Allen

We are currently hard at work on a Kickstarter campaign to fund our production of What We Get to Keep by Roland Tec at St. Lawrence Arts in Portland, Maine. I have the lucky job of interviewing our actors, Lisa Stathoplos, Lisa Barnes and Carl Palmer, talking to our co-producer, Deirdre Nice, Executive and Artistic Director at the St Lawrence and being in a perpetual conversation with the master himself, Roland Tec, to generate our video for the campaign. It is great way to get to talk about the play and get to know each other on a deeper level. Supporting a theatre habit takes diligence. The business of theatre means endless grant writing, fundraising and innovative marketing but it is well worth it when you get in the rehearsal room and get to work on your production. The immediacy and the collaborative nature of the art form is what hooked me. It’s like childbirth – fun to conceive, painful labor but then you are rewarded with a beautiful baby and whew baby, this Roland Tec brainchild, this play, is a bright, soulful, artistic project on every level. 

As a director, I have slogged through hours of auditions trying to cast plays that I was determined to mount and didn’t always find the magic ingredients. Unfortunately, at times, I have even had to cast actors that didn’t quite measure up to the role that they were charged with bringing to life. With What We Get to Keep, the actors came first. I have long been an obsessive fan of Lisa Stathoplos’ acting and have known the joy of directing her in my stage adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Jane Martin’s Talking With…to name a few. She finds the truth in each and every character she plays. Full disclosure she is also my best friend of 43 years. We mostly live on opposite coasts and even though I wend my way to Maine every summer, we hadn’t found the right vehicle to sink our teeth into or the time and space. Then a year ago I started directing Roland’s Hear Me Out Monologues’ Some1Speaking Series. It’s 5 monologues on Zoom on the first Monday of every month. You should see it. That is where I fell in love with Lisa Barnes’ and Carl Palmer’s acting. I became obsessed with finding a show for this powerful trio of actors. When I read What We Get to Keep, I was captivated by the richness of its depictions of grief, chosen family, lost children, friendship and estrangement and its complicated emotions bubbling under the surface and I knew I had found the perfect script. After our first cold reading together on zoom, there was a collective intake of breath then a slow harmonious exhale as we sat in a pause. I could feel the absolute rightness of it in our silence. It’s as if we all said in unison, “Wow, we really have something here” without saying anything at all. And so it all began in earnest.

I want to say a few more words here about the person at the center of this glorious theatrical kismet. When I met Roland Tec 10 years ago at The Dramatists Guild, I liked him right away. The mischievous twinkle in his eye, the irreverent sense of humor, his big brain and huge heart, his commitment to his art and the art of others, and his overall brilliance made me want to be his colleague and his friend. Lucky duck that I am, I get to be both. Working with him is like playing tennis with a much more gifted player – I play better with Roland. We built this ensemble together and now are producing the play in Maine alongside the incomparable Deirdre Nice.

I hope you’ll support us in our endeavor to bring What We Get to Keep by Roland Tec, directed by Suze Allen, co-produced by Deirdre Nice and starring Lisa Barnes, Carl Palmer and Lisa Stathoplos to St Lawrence Arts this September. We are delighted to have set designer Michael Crockett and lighting designer Iain Odlin on this journey as well.