Yet another original play opens this weekend when Jim Reyland's Article 4 receives a formal workshop staging under the direction of Barry Scott. Operating under an Actors' Equity special appearance contract, Reyland has gathered together a notable cast featuring Mark Cabus, Jamie Farmer, Evelyn Blythe, Chris Goodrich, Ted Welch and Greg Wilson.
"It's worth it to me to go a little extra to have great actors," Reyland says. "You can see the difference between really top-flight performers and those who simply aren't at that level. I wanted the best director and the best actors I could find."
Approximately nine years in gestation (including several previous open readings), Reyland's script-in-progress concerns arthritic 45-year-old piano teacher Jonathan Forty (Cabus), who has inherited his father's fortune and displays a penchant for liberally spending it. Then a surprising romantic interest enters his life. Reyland's underlying theme is family dysfunction and the bravery required to break that cycle.
"I love working on new plays," says Scott, "especially when the playwright's involved and good actors are present. We're discovering things together. Collaboration is very stimulating, and having Mark on board is a real boost to the legitimacy of the project."
Cabus, one of Nashville's most respected serious actors, embarks here on his largest role in almost a year, in a play that presents the special challenge of being revised throughout the rehearsal process.
"I like workshops," Cabus says. "There's a scruffier aspect to them. They generate more ideas. It's a play under construction, and we have to bring our hard hats to the task. I'm trying to figure out who Jonathan Forty is. I'm not sure he's a very likable guy, but he's justified in his own mind about what he does. He gets what he wants and what he deserves."
No egomaniacal playwright, Reyland thrives on the input of his collaborators. "No playwright can sit down, write it all out, hand it to actors on a stage and have it be perfect," he says. "There are too many moving parts. I don't mind fresh ideas, and I'm open to change."
Scott, a longtime supporter of Reyland's writing, cites the adventure of mounting an original. "I'm excited about the tone of the play and what that's going to become as a result of what we're doing," he says. "Jim's a good businessman. He knows that if the play's going to have a life, he's got to involve people who think about things that he doesn't. He has to trust."
Reyland's expectations are modest but realistic. "We've had grants from Tennessee and Metro arts commissions, and we've raised money privately," he says. "It's the general model. In this day and age, you have to put them all together to get the cast you want, and four out of six of our actors are union pros. We'll have post-show talk-backs to elicit feedback from our audiences. That usually helps. And hopefully we'll get some interest in the script at the other end."
Article 4 runs through Nov. 14 at Reyland's Writer's Stage venue on Charlotte, which, contrary to a previous announcement, will not be closing at the conclusion of the show's run. Reyland will continue to make his space available for other performing groups for an indeterminate time. For tickets and schedule info, visit writersstage.com.
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