The Drawer Boy
SPRINGVILLE — The Springville Center for the Arts 2013 theater season kicks off with “The Drawer Boy” on Oct. 24, for Springville’s “curtain up,” a show that director Don Wesley said will be inspiring, ennobling and relatable for the local audience.
The play is based on the true story of Miles Potter, who was part of a Toronto-based theater ensemble that ventured out into the rural areas of Ontario to find stories for its “farm show” production. The play follows Miles who knocks on the door of Morgan and Angus, two rural farmers living together in post-World War II Canada. Angus, who has suffered memory loss from a war injury, reveals stories to Miles, who is tasked with finding out not only material for his play, but the real truth of the matter.
“The Drawer Boy,” written by Michael Healey, has been performed around the world, and debuted in New York City last year. It was directed by Potter in an award-winning production, which Wesley said is one of the ways the production of the show, as well as its content, follows the cyclical nature of human life and the life of its characters.
“We’ve been wanting to do this show for a long time,” said Seth Wochensky, executive director of the SCA. “It starts out very funny and then it kind of sneaks up on you and you go, ‘Whoa! What just happened?’ It’s a pretty broad play, with some serious content. If you’ve ever lived on a farm, stepped on a farm or seen a cow, you’ll probably enjoy it.”
Wesley, who has participated in 90 shows around the Southern Tier region, is making his debut at the SCA with “The Drawer Boy.” Wochensky asked Wesley to read the play in February, and from there, Wesley was hooked.
“I’m really taken with it,” Wesley said. “Everybody’s got a story, I suppose, and that’s what this show is really about. This young man from Toronto knocks on the door of this farm, looking for a story for this play, and he doesn’t really know the first thing about [farming]. He uncovers some difficult stories, and it gets a little bit dark for awhile.
“It’s a very sensitive, powerful play,” Wesley added. “I think the community will identify with it, will like it and will be enriched by it.”
The director drew from his own farm experiences, to create the play’s rural setting. His mother grew up on a farm with eight siblings, and Wesley spent many days there as well, both as a child and an adult.
“My grandfather was a dairy farmer and back then, if you had 20 head, you had a business. You had a career. It touches me, in terms of my memories, in terms of knowing firsthand what that’s like, how hard it is,” he said. “It’s funny to me to see how that would be, to have a city kid come to a farm and not know what kind of pants to wear, for example, to work in straw.”
Rick Manzone, who plays Morgan, said that he also drew from his own farm experience to create his character, a no-nonsense, plain-living man who lives for his work and works hard, all his life.
Manzone worked on a farm in Hinsdale in 1972, when he first moved from Buffalo, and said that he modeled his character after his former employer, right down to his costume.
“My character kind of runs things,” Manzone explained. “He’s got this kid show up who doesn’t know anything and he kind of takes advantage of his naivete. He pranks him a little bit and, when I worked on a farm, I got pranked a little, too. So I could relate to that.”
He said that the interplay between the characters was similar to that within the ensemble, which consists of Manzone, Richard Sweet and Springville-Griffith Institute High School student Mitchell Brownell. The director spotted Brownell in last summer’s SCA production of “In The Heights” and asked him to audition for the show.
“Mitch has a lot of talent,” Manzone said, of his teenage costar. “Old guys pranking him, that’s kind of what we do. And then us old guys wonder when the young guys are pranking us, on and offstage.”
Manzone, who has worked with Sweet on SCA plays in the past, said that the other adult in the cast “brings a lot to the table,” and that all three “work together very well.
“We play off each other. We’re an ensemble. It’s been a fun time. Everybody’s been working together, to make it work.”
Wesley said that he has “always admired the Springville players,” and had been looking for a chance to work with the company. “Everybody is so talented and so dedicated. It’s a wonderful group.”
The challenge in “The Drawer Boy,” according to both the director and cast, is bringing reality to the stage.
For Wesley, that meant creating a set that suggested a farm in rural Ontario, but could fit on the small stage at the SCA.
“I had to suggest both an interior and exterior environment,” he explained, of his set design. “The stars, for example, are very important to the play. I think this is an impression the audience will be very comfortable with.”
For Manzone, Sweet and Brownell, the rapid-fire dialogue that mimics the way real people actually talk posed the biggest challenge.
“There’s a lot of lines,” Manzone said, with a laugh. “People talk over each other. They don’t let each other finish sentences, they interrupt each other. That short, choppy dialogue is the toughest part.”
While Manzone toyed with the idea of using a Canadian accent, he said that ultimately, it wasn’t important enough to the story to risk interfering with realism.
“This story is going to feel real to residents, here,” he said. “Even though it takes place in Canada, as long as we’re true to the story, people are going to get it.”
Manzone said that there are three main reasons the audience will appreciate “The Drawer Boy.”
“It’s the first night of the theater season, for the SCA. You’ll be seeing the first show for the season, and be part of the beginning. It’s an award-winning play that has been done all over, a very well-written play. And finally, people can relate to it. There’s no reason not to love it.”
“The Drawer Boy” takes the stage at 8 p.m. on Oct. 24, with the SCA’s traditional “pay what you can with a can” admission, in which patrons can pay any amount, with the donation of a nonperishable food item for the local food pantry. The show will run Oct. 24-26 and Nov. 1-2 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. There will be a talk-back with the director and cast on opening night.
Tickets are available at the door, online at www.springvillearts.org
or by calling 592-9038.