Some of the most wonderful experiences in life happen by accident. This play was no different.
I’ve been acting since the age of six in theater, film and TV. I grew up working alongside incredible writers, but I never expected that I would even attempt to put my own thoughts to the page.
Perennial began two years ago, with a group of actors led by the amazingly talented and supportive actor/director Chris Messina. This collaborative project involved actors pairing up to create characters and relationships based on a particular theme, using improv. My subject was divorce. I’ve never been married, let alone divorced. However, the idea was to create a relationship, so my partner, Jimmy Wolk, and I quite literally started at the beginning.
Our “first date” was at the Getty and we recorded the whole thing on his phone. We took pictures on the beach in Santa Monica. Had our first fight in his living room. But we never got as far as divorce. What happened for me next was something quite magical, and it changed everything. I was sitting in LAX on my way to NY, when I sat down to transcribe all the material we had created. With my headphones on, pausing and rewinding over and over as I typed, something else took over. A monologue poured out of me.
I had no idea if it was any good or not, so I boarded my plane and didn’t really give it any more thought. When I returned from my trip Jimmy and I read this first scene for Chris and the other actors. There was silence at the end. Chris looked at me and said, “you need to keep writing this.” So that’s exactly what I did.
Over the next two years, I wrote, re-wrote and had informal readings at my house in Laurel Canyon with many different actors, many different voices. Life would invariably get in the way, and the play would lay dormant for a bit. Then another reading would pop up and actors such as Billy Aaron Brown (who plays Leo) and Wes Whitehead (who plays Tom) would come along. The moment they opened their mouths to speak the first few lines of dialogue, I knew that they had to be a part of this journey. After his first reading, Wes came to me and said “we need to do this play…now.” So with a Leo and a Tom in tow, I rededicated myself to the writing and finally gave it a name, Perennial.
I shared it with a few directors and writers I trust. Among them were Daniel Goldstein, Zachary Haynes and finally Alexa Coblentz. While Alexa had read many early drafts, something must have changed in the version she read late last summer. Her words were simple, “I see this play. I want to direct it.” This story, this play about love, friendship and the pain and the humor of it all finally had a family.
We wasted no time over the first few months of the year. Pre-production began in earnest and quite magically every person just showed up right on cue — Jonathan Sessler to produce, Kelly Frye and John Churchill to play May and Donald, and a marvelous design team equal to the task. Rehearsal began in late April, and I put away the writer “hat” to tackle the part of Rosemary. And, like waking up from a dream, I was suddenly standing on stage, surrounded by my insanely talented cast at curtain call.
I hope that when people see this play, whether they were instrumental in the creative process or completely new to the material, they can see a little part of themselves in it. I’ve been asked if this play is autobiographical, which it isn’t, but I will say this — I think I’ve been a version of all of these characters at one time or another. Because that’s the thing about love…we play all the parts…like it or not.
Perennial, Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 91505. Thu-Sat 8 pm. Through June 29. Tickets: $20 each in advance online/ $25 at the door. http://perennial.brownpapertickets.com/ or 800-838-3006.
**All Perennial production photos by John M. Heller.
Tammy Minoff originated the role of Mary Rogers in the Broadway musical, The Will Rogers Follies directed by Tommy Tune. She also originated the role of Lucy in the Neil Simon Broadway musical, The Goodbye Girl, where she starred opposite Bernadette Peters and Martin Short. Film and television credits include: New Year’s Eve, The Thompsons, Criminal Minds and Another World.