Here’s to celebrating everyday things.
Out of the blue in 1984 we received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation that we didn’t apply for, $2,500 for a playwright-in-residence and $1,000 toward production of their play. We put out the call for plays far and wide and selected SUBURBAN ROMANCE by Richard Caliban. Don Shirley in the LA Times said the Back Alley and the play were, “made for each other. The theatre is near the center of that archetypal suburb, the San Fernando Valley; the play examines a family that might well live there. Fortunately, Caliban neither flatters or lampoons his characters. Their real-life counterpoints should eat up SUBURBAN ROMANCE.” Most of the other reviewers thought it was just too plain ordinary, or as The Daily News said, “a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting in a dish.”
Because $2,500 doesn’t go all that far for six weeks in residence, Richard Caliban, a young New York actor turning playwright, stayed with us in our guest room. We must have worked on the play while he was here, but his letters reflect what he and we most remember: walking our dogs up into the foothills and playing tennis with Allan, who directed.
While we were creatively exploring what made everyday life so rich with a top-drawer cast —K Callan, John Carter, Rick Dean, Joe Ivy (who played a talking dog), Raphael Sbarge and Largo Woodruff– we were also enjoying it, together. We were all journeymen and women, in it for the long haul. In 2022, K Callan is still living and breathing acting; at 83 she starred in “Knives Out.” Raphael was born into a theatrical family, started working at the age of four and never stopped– you can see him in “The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” Mary Klinger, our stage manager, went on to become SM for the Broadway production of Angels in America, and then production SM for the Ojai Playwrights Conference. Don Llewellyn, who designed the set, spent a lifetime teaching at USC School of Dramatic Arts, and is now professor emeritus.
Richard Caliban became artistic director of his own theatre, and like so many of us, has found a way, one way or the other, to continue working creatively to this day. I still love SUBURBAN ROMANCE, which was never produced again, because for me it captured the wonderful and extraordinary rhythm of our daily lives with imagination and a sense of adventure. If we can’t find joy in the quotidian, we probably won’t find it anywhere. Which is what makes us keep keeping on.