As long as we’re talking about the anniversaries of plays (see last week’s blog), I’d like to take a minute to tell you about a play that premiered a year ago today. It was written by a friend of mine named Dan Singer (best known as one of the creators of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged). The play is called A Perfect Likeness and it depicts a fictional meeting between Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll—two men who certainly knew about each other (Carroll was a big fan of Dickens) but who apparently never met.
Dan first wrote to me about his idea for this play back in January of 2012. He had written a draft of the first act and wanted to know if I’d be willing to take a look at it. Over the next few months I had the pleasure of reading and reacting to several drafts. At the same time, I was planning a meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America in my town of Winston-Salem, so I asked Dan if he would like to do a reading of the play for the meeting.
As he continued to hone the script, I went to another friend who runs a small theatre company and asked if she might be willing to recruit a couple of actors for a reading. She took a look at the script and made a counter proposal—what about a fully staged production? Dan was up for it, and I was willing to help bring him and the theatre company together and raise some money, so suddenly I was what I think they call an “impresario.”
During the last week of rehearsals, Dan traveled from California to Winston-Salem, stayed with us, and worked on refining the script. The play was performed in the fabulous black box theatre at Summit School and premiered a couple of days before the Lewis Carroll Society arrived. Winston-Salem was soon buzzing with the word that this was a must see production. The reviewer for the local paper wrote that the play was “so lovely and entertaining that you want it to be true.” The play was a great way to kick off our Society meeting, and gave everyone a lot to talk about. Not only did Dan’s thoughtful and funny script delve into interesting areas of both men’s psyches, but the astonishing acting of Ben Baker and Michael Kamtman brought the authors to life in a way we had not, as a society, often seen.
Dan also did a wonderful job of making the play interesting to people who knew a lot about Carroll and Dickens yet also fully accessible to those who did not. As Amy da Luz, the producer of Paper Lantern Theatre, said to me during rehearsal one night, “He does a great job of burying the exposition.”
Dan’s play has since been performed in two Los Angeles productions and has been published by Playscripts, Inc. He kindly sent me a copy of the script inscribed to me with the note “My eternal gratitude for helping launch this project.” I will treasure that and hope this won’t be the last time I have the joy of seeing someone else’s writing through that sometimes rocky but always rewarding road from first draft to world premiere.