Winchester native to debut as playwright

Published 12:32 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Playwright Bill McCann, who recently moved back to Winchester after a more than 30-year absence, is set to have an amazing March.

Two of his plays have premieres in different parts of Kentucky, and a third will be part of an afternoon of new play readings at the Clark County Public Library from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. March 17.

“Boats Against the Current” is the playwright’s first full-length play, with a runtime of about 90 minutes, to have a premiere.

The play’s main character is Harrisson who forgets names, misplaces stuff and behaves oddly.

“We’re just getting older,” his wife Eleanor, explains to their concerned son and his fiancee. “It’s nothing,” adds Harrisson.

But it’s not “nothing.”

Harrisson Morriss has Alzheimer’s disease, and “Boats Against the Current” shows how a modern family struggles to deal with this life-changing situation, with gentle humor, quiet fear and an optimistic yet realistic outlook.

The play takes place in the mind, memory and reality of Harrisson — if Harrisson doesn’t experience it, it isn’t seen — as the Morriss family offers loving support and encouragement through a wedding, a midnight game of flashlight tag, and the celebration of events both large and small, traditional and personal.

“Boats Against the Current” will have its premiere at Flashback Theatre in Somerset on Feb. 28.

The play will run February 28 to March 3 and March 7 to March 10.

Tickets are $18 in advance $20 at the door, or student tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

Sommer Schoch, the Flashback Theatre producing artistic director and co-founder, directed the play.

McCann said it seems miraculous the play is being produced.

“‘Boats’ is a play I’ve been working on for nearly seven years,” McCann said. “I sent the script to Flashback in the summer of 2016 because I’d seen a call for submissions. So off it went, via email. And then I waited. And I waited and waited some more. I didn’t hear anything until the winter of 2018.”

McCann said Schoch called him to ask if he’d let Flashback do a workshop production with the possibility the play would later be given a fully staged production.

“Of course, I said ‘yes,’” McCann said. “So in the summer of 2018 Jeanine Lister and I went to Somerset for five days so that I could help with the workshopping of the play.”

During the five days, McCann rewrote the play three times.

“Each day I’d see the actors and director work with my words,” McCann said. “I got to see what worked well, what didn’t. [Schoch] and I’d talk about the day’s successes and misses, then I’d go back to the resort we were staying at, and I’d get to work polishing, rewriting, inventing scenes, modifying or even taking out others.

“It was grueling and exhilarating all at the same time. And it really allowed me to greatly improve the script.”

At the end of March, McCann’s second play will be produced as part of The Spotlight Festival of Short Plays in Berea.

Chad Hembree producer of the show and executive director of Spotlight Theatre, said McCann’s 10-minute play, “There is No Wrigley Field,” is one in which a 20-year relationship falls apart in the length of time it takes the dinner rolls to bake.

“It’s really a unique play that is a reflection of the ways in which people ‘fight,’” Hembree said

For more information about the Festival and how to get tickets call 859 756-0011.

Finally, scheduled between the two premieres is a reading of McCann’s latest play, a 30-minute one act called “Southern Gothic,” a play in which an old man who has dementia helps solve a decades-old murder mystery.

John Maruskin, director of adult services at the Clark County Public Library, said McCann brought “Southern Gothic” to the library’s Friday writer’s group and over several weeks, the group read and discussed it.

“I think for most of us that we hadn’t given much thought to plays, maybe since we were in or went to see the musical or play done at our high schools,” Maruskin said. “That was pretty much my experience. Julie and I’ve seen some plays. But I certainly haven’t spent time writing them. Any way when Bill asked to have a reading of new plays here at the library I thought it was a great idea.”

Along with the play written by McCann, two more one-acts will be read March 17 — Barbourville native Catherine Rhoden-Goguen’s “Unstoppable by Design” and “Dinner at Zucks” by Lexington native Michael McCord.

Each of the three plays will be read aloud and then discussed. The event, which runs from 1:30 t0 4:30 p.m., is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.