Playwright Warren Doody was bitten by the theater bug in the 1990s after graduating fromNorthernArizonaUniversitywith a master’s degree in English, emphasis on creative writing. He auditioned in 1992 at Theatrikos for the mystery play “Laura” and wound up in the role of a hard-boiled NYPD detective, because he looked the part, he remembers.
Since that fateful audition, he has never left the world of stage.
By 1996, a play he himself had written, “One True Marriage”, was performed at Theatrikos and was even directed by the theater’s founder, Doris Harper-White.
The legendary director, who died in 2009 inFlagstaffat age 82, played a pivotal role establishing community theater in northernArizonaand touched many lives as an actor and director, but most of all as a mentor.
“I got involved in Theatrikos,” says Doody, who now lives in Southern California where he teaches English and theater arts. “Doris was a huge help to me, giving the push I needed. I found the genre that was right for me—writing plays.”
Today, Doody has returned to town to help with the world premiere of his newest play “Development,” an original play that explores and dramatizes the illness of schizophrenia, a difficult but fascinating topic.
The play, which opens Thursday, is part of the Theatrikos Studio Series and will have four performances at the playhouse before moving on for four more shows at the Canyon Moon Theatre in theVillageofOak Creekin Sedona.
So far, the playwright has had 10 plays produced. Four full-length plays have been staged at Theatrikos including “Enlightenment,” which played to sold-out audiences in 2009, and “Life Without Parole” in 2004.
Doody has been rehearsing with the cast, mostly in the garage at the Flagstaff home of Tony and Linda Sutera.
Both longtime members of the company, Linda is co-directing the play with Virginia Brown, and Tony is acting in the lead role of Walter.
“It’s a project of love,” Tony Sutera explains. “There were no auditions.”
The actor has his job cut out as the middle-aged Walter, who was a successful businessman before vanishing 20 years ago after his wife Marianne died of cancer.
Now he has reappeared on his deathbed in a hospital inMecca, a quirky town on the Salton Sea inCalifornia’sMojave Desert.
His two sons also turn up–the younger Cliff and older Travis–who haven’t seen their father since he deserted them after their mother’s death.
Notified of their father’s condition they rush to his side–Cliff fromHollywoodwhere he is an aspiring movie development guy, and Travis from his vagabond life on the road.
The brothers haven’t seen each other for 20 years, either, so the reunion at the Mecca hospital is an emotional one.
The play moves back and forth in time, dramatizing the beginnings of Walter’s illness, the violent outcome, and the generational and genetic risk that it carries for the two sons.
“I love the play,” Tony Sutera says. “I think it’sWarren’s best work, and it’s the best role he’s written for me to play. It’s a wonderful, intense, well-paced departure from what he normally does. This all came out of his head, and where he got all this information about the human condition—schizophrenia—it’s just a wonder to me.”
Doody teaches at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., and two of his theater students have come to Flagstaff to act in “Development”—Ryan Miller, who plays Cliff, and Michael Dye, who plays the ominous character of Mr. Black, one of Walter’s hallucinations.
Also coming from California is Carolyn Hunter, who plays Evelyn Kincaid, a doctor who tries to help Walter. Hunter was also a good friend of Harper-White.
“I worked with the Theatrikos group for many years,” says Hunter. “I came back to be with my old friends.”
Some Theatrikos regulars in the show include Eric Schultz, Nick Rabe, Amber Stonebraker, Becky Daggett, Dennis Hattem, Rob Peters and Angela Keith.
“Development,” the play by Warren Doody, is a Studio Series production of Theatrikos Theatre Co.
The run of the show is tonight through Saturday, curtain at 8 p.m., with a matinee Sunday at 2 p.m., on the stage at the Doris Harper-White Community Playhouse, 11 W. Cherry.
All seats are $10, plus a $1 facilities fee. Tickets are available at Theatrikos Box office today and Friday from 1 to 6 p.m. and two hours prior to showtime.
Tickets also available by phone at 774-1662 and online at Theatrikos.com.
The play will also be staged at Canyon Moon Theatre, 6601 State Route 179, Suite A6, in Sedona.
Curtain times at Canyon Moon are Thu, Aug. 23, through Sat, Aug. 25, at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. For more information, call the theater at (928) 282-6212.
Additional photos for this story:
Playwright Warren Doody sits on a gurney on the set of his play, “Development,” which opens for a four-performance run at Theatrikos Thursday. This is the fourth of his full-length plays the company has staged. Photo by Betsey Bruner
Tony Sutera as Walter is being watched over by Carolyn Hunter playing Dr. Evelyn in the world premiere of “Development.” Michael Dye, right, is playing the ominous Mr. Black, a hallucination that is tormenting Walter, who has gone mad in the California desert. Photo by Betsey Bruner
Photo by Betsey Bruner