“An Evening with Alan and Lawrence,” premiering at SUNY Oswego on Dec. 5, is the latest in a long line of original productions penned by Mark Cole, professor and chair of theatre at SUNY Oswego.
The production’s curtain will rise at 8 p.m. in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.
Cole co-stars as Lawrence, an eccentric taleteller and friend of piano virtuoso Alan, played by Robert Auler of Oswego’s music faculty. Gerard Moses will direct the production.
Cole has written, as well as directed, many plays in his 29 years at Oswego. Perhaps best known is “Poe/Play,” a solo performance piece based on the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. Cole performed the play in Central New York, as well as Binghamton, Baltimore and New Jersey, and an adapted version appeared at the Etcetera Theatre in London.
One of Cole’s first writings, “Poe/Play” “grew out of a lifelong fascination with the life and works of Poe,” he explained. “I still recall sitting in a green lounge chair when I was about 11 years old reading ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ and being terrified, in an ‘I’ve got to stop, but I have to keep reading’ sort of way.”
A sabbatical trip to Japan in 1990 heavily influenced his writing. “I studied the Noh Theatre which is a blend of music, song and dramatic text — and the plays often center on the intersection of the real world with the invisible or supernatural world,” Cole said. “So ghosts, demons and restless spirits are a common occurrence in the Noh plays, all told with a sense of ritual and theatricality.”
As a result, the supernatural often shows up in plays by the 1973 SUNY Oswego graduate. “The Glass Coffin: A Ghost Story,” presented on campus last year, mixed an Oswego legend with a Grimm fairy tale. “On the Terrace of the Pontiac Hotel,” which features local hero Dr. Mary Walker as a character, includes a ghost, while “The Photographer’s Nightmare” was inspired by a Japanese folk story.
“‘An Evening with Alan and Lawrence’ definitely combines my interest in the world of music — specifically the Romantic era — and a sense of the uncanny,” Cole said. “I’ve always loved the entertainment duos that appeared in films of the ’30s and ’40s. Performers like Dan Dailey, Fred Astaire, Donald O’Connor, Gene Kelly and Danny Kaye were often a part of a vaudeville team.”
With those teams, “a professional break-up was always in the offing,” which creates the tension in his new play, Cole said.
“Instead of song and dance, we’ve got a brilliant pianist, Rob Auler, as Alan, and me as the sidekick who tells the stories and causes trouble,” he said of the play’s mix of music and dark comedy. “The present script developed through readings of two earlier drafts and conversations that Rob and I had about the characters and the world of the play. It is very much a collaborative effort.”
Tickets for the one-day-only show cost $5 for the general public, $3 for seniors, students and SUNY Oswego students. Proceeds will support theatre and music scholarships in Oswego’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts. Parking is free in campus lots on evenings and weekends.
The production is suggested for those 12 years of age or older.
For information or reservations, contact Tyler box office at 312-2141 or [email protected], or visit tickets.oswego.edu.