Smokers, Next Show from Monkeys With A Typewriter
by Mark Rivard
Smokers, the next show coming out from Monkeys With A Typewriter Theatre Company, has a special place in the heart of its author: Rob Tymec.
“It’s just a script that I’m particularly proud of.” Tymec explains, “Apparently, I was firing on all cylinders when I wrote it!”
The play has one of the simplest of premises: two characters of significant age difference strike up a conversation together while they’re in a smoking section. Despite all their differences, they end up becoming the best of friends.
“There is a sort of Odd Couple appeal to the whole story.” Tymec agrees, “These two people come from very different walks of life but find enough common ground between them to actually start caring for each other. There’s a very nice chemistry that develops between the two of them that propels the story in all kinds of different and interesting directions. It’s definitely a character study. There’s a plot there, too, of course. But its main conceit – if I dare use such pretentious terms – is learning the backgrounds of its two principal characters: Tom and Frankie.”
It would seem that Tom and Frankie are actually based on two real people. One of them being the playwright, himself. The other being a young actress Rob was working with at the time he wrote the script.
“The first time I ran this play,” Rob elaborates, “Frankie was played by an actress named Ann that I had done a few shows with while working for a youth theatre company. She was quite young, at the time, but I was really impressed by her talent and professionalism. When she reached the age of 18, I started offering her roles in my plays.”
“By that point, however,” he continues, “I’d gotten to know Ann pretty good. Had even been a bit of an informal life coach for her. I had become determined to help her overcome a shyness she had, at the time, for boys that she liked! I decided, just for fun, to work some elements from our friendship into the script. When I showed it to Ann, she was greatly amused by the references.”
This time round, Frankie is being played by someone different: a young actress named Celeste Jackson (Ann, apparently, is now too old to convicingly pass as a teenager). Where did Rob find this replacement?
“Once again, she was in a youth theatre I work for from time-to-time.” says Tymec, “Revolution Youth Theatre is its name. A very good company for kids to perform in if they want to get a good understanding of the profession of acting. This is why they call me in on a regular basis to do workshops for them. Shana Thibert, the President of the company, wants the membership to interact with people who work full-time in the field. This gives them a better idea of what it might be like should they choose to make a living as an actor.”
“Shana has gotten to know me pretty well and has allowed me to ‘head hunt’ a bit among her membership. If I see a youth who shows promise I will, sometimes, offer them work. Again, this helps give them a better understanding of the industry. I always pay the actors I work with – so they can see what it’s like to earn money for their acting skills.”
Since Tymec had enjoyed the first run of Smokers so much, he was determined to re-mount it. He just needed to find the right person to play Frankie.
“While there are many fine performers in Revolution Youth Theatre, Celeste really stood out for me. The girl is a powerhouse, really. Not just extremely talented but there’s a lot of focus and discipline there, too. You just want to bring your A-Game when you’re in a scene with Celeste. She inspires everyone around her to do their best when they act. Even an old war-horse like me feels challenged when we’re playing off each other!”
What is it about Smokers that he likes so much?
“The play is clearly labeled as a dramady.” Rob answers, “Which is, of course, a show that uses both comedy and drama to tell its tale. Smokers is even very obvious about the blending of these two elements. Act One is played up for laughs. Act Two gets deathly serious. I like dramadies because you can really make things realistic. Life is never just funny or serious – it’s both. You can really move an audience when you get them to feel like they’re watching something real. And, for whatever reason, I find Smokers resonates very strongly with people as they watch it. Somehow, I managed to find all the right words to put into these characters’ mouths. People really connect with it and I love seeing their reactions every time I put this show on. I really am genuinely proud of this piece. Which is rare for me to say about something I write. Like most artists, I’m my own worst crtic. But I’m, somehow, reasonably satisfied with this particular script.”
Tymec warns that the emotional connection an audience makes with the dramatic portion of the play can move them to tears. Few leave the theatre dry-eyed as the story concludes.
“It’s the ultimate form of flattery.” he enthuses, “The audience has suspended their belief so much that when the play becomes sad, they become sad with it. So much so, that they actually start crying. It’s always very surreal when that happens. You want to just stop the show, put an arm around them and say: ‘It’s okay. This isn’t actually real. We’re just pretending!’.”
Rob really does enjoy this particular show. It might just be his proudest work. He’s really hoping you’ll come check it out and be just as proud of him.
Smokers, starring Celeste Jackson and Rob Tymec takes place at The Shadowbox Theater with performance running June 7, 8, 14, 15 with showtime at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $15 Adults and $10 Student/Senior at the door.