MORAINE is "Reader Recommended" by the Chicago Reader and reviewer Chloe Riley.
You can read her review on their site:
"If you're wondering, a moraine is a heap of earth and stones carried and deposited by a glacier. But there's ample deeper meaning within Ryan Patrick Dolan’s new play, which follows four friends dealing with a fifth friend’s cancer treatment. As comics like Julia Sweeney and Tig Notaro have shown, the devastating disease can still be funny, and Dolan’s got the smarts to avoid wallowing in sadness. In turn, director Mary Rose O'Connor has the smarts to involve a brilliant cast, several of whom are improvisers trained in the ancient art of actually listening and responding onstage. As Mark, a bro trying to keep things as they've always been, Caleb Fullen pushes hard to find depth and humor in a character who could be all too unlikable. The result is the opposite of glacial." - Chloe Riley, The Chicago Reader
MORAINE runs through April 18th.
Thurs - Sat at 8pm
Sunday at 2pm
1422 W. Irving Park Road
You can buy tickets here!
While a kernel of "Moraine" is inspired by a friend's passing, Moraine is a love story.
I'm a regular reader of the New York Times Wedding "Vows" section in their Sunday paper. Every week they tell a story about how a newly married couple's courtship developed. I'm always drawn into how people met and what clicked with them. It's the origin story of every family. Kids at one point ask their parents how they met, and will turn that story over and over again to find a clue into their own identity, and who their parents are as people, who they are as a couple, and what, if anything, has changed between the parents since that initial meeting or spark.
It is pretty common to read in the "Vows" section that people usually meet their future spouse when they are dating someone else. They might even be married. Just like anyone, we take notice of people we meet in our lives. As you get older, you learn destiny doesn't exist, but luck and persistence are the what push people together. There is always a downplaying of attraction when these couples mention they first met. It's politics. They don't want to come off as a bad person, and they don't want to hurt a previous boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other. Clearly though, there is a spark, consciously or unconsciously, and in some instances that might be the reason the relationship comes to an end.
It would be a fascinating piece of journalism to accompany the "Vows" article with the "ex" article about who the people were in the preceding relationship to the married couple. What kind of impact did they make on the newlyweds lives? Is there a friendship there? A connection that was strong, but couldn't quite overcome other obstacles?
On the occasional instance when I visit with a past ex-, they'll sometimes drop a piece of analysis on me that kind of shocks me. It's a clairvoyant and true, good or bad, and I realize how well this person got to know me while I spent time with them.
Moraine starts in the present with an estranged couple, Mark and Kelly, at their friends' hospital bedside. Within the context of a larger group of friends, it then bounces back and forth in time as it explores the life cycle of relationship between them Like all of our stories, it's extremely ordinary as well as unique.
Can the love and support of a former couple still stay strong after the relationship becomes inextricably broken? Should it be? Or are some things better left alone? And the memories and feelings you've built up just get mixed in with everything else only to emerge periodically in like little pieces of rocks and dust from the soil, relics of a previous period of time.
When marketing a play or yourself as a playwright, you're supposed to hone and craft your words meticulously. In a MFA program, you work on developing your voice, and learning how to sell yourself to people you want to read or review your work.
I'm not very good at that.
Perhaps, it's laziness. Perhaps, it's the desire to not limit myself or put myself in a box. It makes sense to do it well. People have been asking me what "Moraine" is about, and I stare at them in panic. Then I say--
"It's about this former couple who haven't seen each other for 18 months and have to meet up again in the hospital of a good friend who's passing away from cancer."
I guess that's what it's about. That's the plot. The logline or whatever.
It's also about Time.
In yoga or meditation, you're constantly reminded to be in the present. Pull yourself back to the present. Don't worry about the past or the future as that doesn't do you any good. You can only act and be active in the present.
I don't often live in the present. My mind is usually in the past or the future. I see images as clearly as I first did. I feel emotions as strongly. I talk out loud. I clench my fists. I smile. I laugh.
This play is inspired by Mike Enriquez. He was a former improv coach who passed away at 42. I have many friends, who were closer, but he coached the improv team that was responsible for forming some of my closest relationships. I gave a tribute about him for Christopher Piatt's Paper Machete that you can listen to. I just listened to it for the first time since I did it. It's not great, but gives you a sense of who he is.
Moraine was inspired by Mike's last night in a Lakeview hospital. The lobby was filled with some of his family members. It was also filled with a couple of dozen improv friends. They weren't just friends. It was like the lobby was filled with two dozen brothers and sisters. Some closer to Mike than others. Some got along, some didn't. But it was a family. I thought this is what dying is in a big city now. People that live in Chicago, or New York, or L.A. don't usually grow up there. But to survive in these cities, you have to form familial like tribes. People you spend some holidays with. People whose weddings you're in, and who throw you baby showers, and know you best as an adult. All adults have friends, but this felt different. Maybe it's the arts thing. Or maybe it was a theater or improv thing. Or maybe it's a Chicago arts thing. We need each other to survive. We need each other as friends and lovers. We need each other as family.
Moraine doesn't just take place in the hospital. It bounces back and forth and time to see how this group of five strangers befriended each other. It's so we can see how Mark and Kelly, the former couple, fell in and out of love. We see how friendship can transcend past fights and trauma.
Moraine is a completely work of fiction. 100%. It's heart is about about my ten plus years here in Chicago, and the people I call my family. It's heart is 100% true.
Approach a playwright before you've read anything they've written
Encourage writers to let you read their plays before they're finished
Even if your playwright is still in college
Only work with writers who are willing to make their work better.
Only work with writers who play against the fear.
Trust your gut.
Self-Produce, you're never going to get offers
Defend your work.
You'll never have as much time as you want/need to produce, so do it anyway
You don't need years of workshops
Hire the best actors you know.
If you lose your free performance space, keep going.
If you lose your free rehearsal space, keep going
Produce the show no matter what.
Rehearse in your living room.
Rehearse with your coat on if you have to.
Keep moving your rehearsal space if you have to.
Start rehearsals even if you don't have a stage manager. But find one as soon as you can. (And hire Sarah Borer. )
Keep giving your actors new pages until it's right.
Hire the smartest person you know to dramaturg
Invite the playwright into the rehearsal room.
Know when to kick them out.
Let the playwright give you notes.
You don't need money to tell a story.
Direct plays about love.
7 is a lucky number and if it shows up anywhere in your play, it's might a good sign.
Know how to get to the point
Only direct plays about people you love.
Always be color blind.
Always be open.
Find the thing we all have in common.
Don't try to please everyone.
Know your strengths.
Know your weaknesses.
Admit if you don't know the answer.
And talk about things that scare you.
Like death and failure.
Bring your own life and experience to every project you work on.
When you're out of ideas, walk around the room.
When you think you're done, imagine the smartest person you know is in the audience.
If something doesn't work, that doesn't mean it's a failure.
See through every character's eyes like they're the protagonist.
Take it seriously.
Take every risk.
Don't be lazy.
Exhaust your resources.
And then ask for more.
Wake up every day. Shower. Put on your big girl pants. And get to fucking work.
Know when to rest.
Fall in love with your actors.
Fall in love with your playwright.
Fall in love with your sound designer.
Fall in love with your stage manager.
Remember to thank everyone.
Don't watch after opening night.
Drink a martini and get dressed up on Opening.
Go see new works, you could be watching the next Pulitzer Prize Winner
Or the next Tony/Oscar winner
Or your own personal hero.
Embrace small, blue-collar venues. Give them money, and your presence.
Or just listen to your playwright. ;)
-Mary Rose O'Connor
Moraine opens Sunday, March 29th at 2pm.
Preview Saturday, March 28th at 8pm.
Don't ask to read something that's not finished.
Don't give someone a play to read that's not finished.
Don't listen to anyone.
Don't tune anyone out.
Don't approach a playwright to do his new play.
Don't try to produce a playwright with no credits.
Don't trust a director with a new play when you've barely seen their work.
Don't decide to self-produce 2.5 months before you want to open.
Don't produce a play without years of workshops.
Don't produce a play with non-equity actors.
Don't lose your free performance space.
Don't lose your free rehearsal space.
Don't decide to produce the show no matter what.
Don't rehearse in your living room.
Don't ask the cast to rehearse in your living room.
Don't rehearse in cold, dank basement.
Don't ask your cast to rehearse in a cold, dank basement.
Don't keep moving your rehearsal space.
Don't start rehearsals without a stage manager.
Don't keep giving your actors new pages until it's right.
Don't trust a dramaturg you've never met in person.
Don't try to produce a play in the middle of your MFA program.
Don't get a MFA.
Don't not get a MFA.
Don't agree to do a show when you know you have a lot of rewrites to do for it to be any good.
Don't cast a show when you know you have a lot of rewrites to do.
Don't trust the director with your work.
Don't trust the playwright to be in the room.
Don't ask the director if they need some space.
Don't ask the playwright to give you notes.
Don't produce a play with no budget and no set.
Don't start a play until you know who it's about.
Don't start a play until you know what it's about.
Don't figure things out through your writing.
Don't write about baseball.
Don't write about football.
Don't write about gay night clubs.
Don't write about blow jobs at gay nightclubs after a football game.
Don't write a play with seven characters.
Don't write a play with 15 scenes.
Don't write a play that time jumps back and forth in time.
Don't write a play with seven actors, and 15 scenes, that jumps back and forth in time.
Don't write a play with a male protagonist.
Don't write a play about a white, male protagonist.
Don't try to write for people of color.
Don't try to write women.
Don't write for people like they're same.
Don't write for people like they're not the same.
Don't try to please everyone.
Don't write what you know.
Don't write what you don't know.
Don't write about cancer.
Don't write about someone dying of cancer.
Don't write about someone dying of cancer in a hospital.
Don't pull too much from your life.
Don't make everything up.
Don't write a character that just shows up for five minutes.
Don't ask an actor and teacher to take a part when their character is barely on stage.
Don't make it too crude.
Don't make it too funny.
Don't make it too serious.
Don't expose yourself.
Don't take a risk.
Don't risk embarrassing yourself.
Don't not apologize.
Don't ask for favors.
Don't ask for more favors.
Don't get out of bed.
Don't fall asleep.
Don't do theater.
Don't tell a story you're passionate about.
Don't get blown away by your director.
Don't get blown away by your actors.
Don't get blown away by your sound designer.
Don't get blown away by the support of your friends and family.
Don't watch a new play.
Don't watch a new play by a playwright you've never heard of.
Don't watch a new play with actors that aren't famous.
Don't watch a new play at a comedy theater.
Or just do what you want. Fuck it.
Moraine opens Sunday, March 29th at 2pm.
Preview Saturday, March 28th at 8pm.