Joseph Zettelmaier dropped this off for us…
Hi, there. Joe Zettelmaier here, playwright of "And The Creek Don’t Rise". I’m going to ask your indulgence, as I basically never write blogs. But when Tony asked me to do this, I figured "What the hell? I’ll give it a shot."
"Creek" began it’s life many years ago. I went to college in Rome, Georgia. As a life-long Yankee, I figured "How different can the South really be?" The answer is…very different. It took me about a year to adjust to the multitude of small cultural rules that were completely alien to me. As time went on, I realized that the biggest problem was my own…or rather, the many misconceptions I had about Southerners. This was still many years before I decided to try my hand at playwrighting, but this was when the seed was planted.
Two years ago, Tony Caselli approached me with a question. "Do you have any small cast comedies that Williamston could do?" We’d recently finished working together on "It Came From Mars", and had a blast doing it. At the time, "Creek" simply existed as 12 pages of dialogue and an outline. I gave it to him, and that led to two meetings, discussing my idea of the show and where it might go. Let me say this right now: "And The Creek Don’t Rise" would never have been produced had Tony not taken a huge leap of faith. There was almost no script, just a string of ideas. But he saw something in it and decided to pick it up. Well, now the pressure was on. I refused to let down Tony’s trust. I had to crank out a script that I felt confident would serve Williamston, both the theatre and the community. Two months later, I had draft 1. A few weeks after that, "Creek" had it’s first staged reading at the Renegade Theatre Festival.
I’d like to digress for a moment to send a HUGE thank you to Tony, Tobin Hissong and Alysia Kolascz. They performed the reading for us and blew everyone away.
OK, back on track. The next step was to bring in a director. Joey Albright and I have been good friends for many years. He’d directed a production of mine at the Boarshead a few years earlier, and starred in "It Came From Mars" as well. When Tony asked if I was cool w/ Joey as a director, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Auditions were then held. We had a director. We had a cast. And we had a loooooooooong wait. Since "Creek" was picked up to be the last show of the season, that meant we were many months away from rehearsals. By the time we finally got there, I was chomping at the bit. That’s a lot of anticipation! After the very first read-through, I was left w/ two thoughts. 1) I still had plenty of rewrites to do. 2) We had the exact right people working on this. Designers, actors, stage management team…everyone brought their best to the table. Three weeks can be a tough rehearsal process for a new play, especially when you’re a rewriting fanatic like myself. But everyone involved was up to the challenge. Will Myers, our amazing sound designer, added a chainsaw at the last minute. Holly, our amazing costumer, put the finishing touches on Doc’s Confederate uniform on opening night! And on the last rehearsal during previews, I wrote a completely new monologue for John Lepard and gave it to him that day. We rehearsed it a couple times, he felt good about it, and he put it into the show that very night!
"Creek" will hold a special place in my heart. I almost never draw from my personal history for a play, but I’m glad I did for this one. Perhaps the best compliment we got was when a friend of mine from Georgia flew up to see the show. He was curious to see in what light I’d paint the South. After watching it, he said "That’s it. That’s it exactly." He was particularly blown away by Tom Mahard, who fully embodied what it meant to be a "Southern Gent."
But I guess at the end of the day, I’m just really happy you got a chance to see it. Tony tells me we’re poised to break box office records for Williamston, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. For me, theatre is a communal experience. It shouldn’t push people away; it should instead bring them together. When I’m in an audience, and I laugh at something that others are laughing at…for a second, I feel closer to these strangers around me. And that’s one of my personal rules as a writer- I want my audience to walk out of my show feeling less alone than they did when they walked in. At a time in which the bulk of communication can happen through faceless, voiceless electronics, it’s easy to remove yourself from your fellows without even realizing it. I go to the theatre to experience a connection that can all-too-easily slip away. I’d like to think that’s what live theatre can give us that few other things can.
So thank you to everyone involved in making this show happen. Tony, Emily, Christine, Joey, John, Katie, Tom, Nan, Alex, Dan, Reid, Holly, Will…we couldn’t have done it w/out you. And a HUGE thanks to every last one of you who came out to this lovely town to see this show. We couldn’t do this w/out you either.
Thanks again, and see you again soon