Spotlight on Lawrence Paone

 

October 7, 2018, playwright Lawrence Paone’s “I Forgot to Worry” won the Donna Award for best play at the Pittsburgh New Works Festival Gala. The play also reaped Donna Awards for Best Director, Joe Eberle, and Best Actor, Dave Joseph.

Paone describes “I Forgot to Worry” with a quick, elevator pitch (or logline). He said, “The play is about a hostage who desperately tries to determine if his surroundings are real, or if it’s all just a bad dream because he ate extra greasy bacon right before bed.”

While the story is a comedy, there is a deep psychological undertone and its ends with a dramatic twist. Paone mocks several preconceived notions along the way. He has a lot of fun with the concept, but manages to gut punch the audience at the very end.

He said, “A major moment in the play is when the Hostage comes to terms with his memory of a personal tragedy. I don’t want to include spoilers of my own play, but his memory is very much based on something that happened in real life.”

Director Joe Eberle recalls reading the script for the first time. He said, “The script was wonderfully strange and mysterious, and had a lot of facets to it.”

Dave Joseph said, “This play seemed a little… different. It was special from the start. From the moment Joe [Eberle] contacted everyone - from our first read-through, to opening night, to the run of the show and all the way up to the Gala – everyone involved seemed energized, engrossed and inspired.”

Paone described how he began writing “I Forgot to Worry.” He said, “I was about three-quarters of the way through a multi-year process of writing a full-length farce, ‘Certifiably Yours.’ I was on something like my tenth draft and started burning out. I really needed to write something else - - really anything else, even if it wouldn’t wind up being a play. In fact, when I started writing ‘I Forgot to Worry,’ I even called it ‘a writing experiment.’ I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with it.”

Paone grew up a TV Junkie. The playwright said, “It was difficult for anyone to pry me away from the television set. I have a firm memory of being six years old and thinking to myself, ‘If you’re going to write for TV, you better have at least 20 good ideas.’ Why a first grader would even be thinking such a thing is beyond me.”

Paone studied playwriting while attending Drew University. He said, “The Theatre Department had a playwriting program. Each student playwright was tasked with writing a one-act play. I wrote two one-acts in college and after I graduated, I spent time bouncing back and forth between auditioning as an actor and writing plays.”

He said, “I’ve been influenced a great deal by two authors on very different ends of the spectrum – Neil Simon and David Mamet.”

He added, “One of my biggest influences was Moss Hart (American playwright, actor and director) I’ve read his autobiography ‘Act One’ countless times. On repeated readings, I always find something new that inspires me.”

Paone was thrilled to have a production of “I Forgot to Worry” as part of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival.

Joseph said, “Our excitement and enthusiasm for working on ‘I Forgot to Worry’ was rivaled only by Lawrence’s own enthusiasm. He attended opening night bearing gifts. And he did not miss a single performance. I don’t believe I’ve ever known a playwright from out of town who attended every single performance of their show before. It was a testament to his excitement.”

Paone said, “When I walked into the theater at Carnegie Stage for the first performance and I saw the set for ‘I Forgot to Worry’ I was blown away! It had been a while since a play of mine had been produced, so just seeing the set was thrilling.”

He added, “During the course of the first performance, my attention was kind of divided: I was reacting to seeing the actors for the first time and simultaneously, I was keeping an ear out for how the audience was reacting to my script. I could not have been more pleased with what director Joe Eberle had done with the play! The cast was phenomenal! And while watching the subsequent four performances, I was able to detach a bit more. I heard some lines of dialogue that definitely needed to be cut. Once the run was over, I made a few tweaks to the script and I feel the play is much tighter now.”

Eberle said, “During rehearsal, the cast and I had a lot of questions, and Lawrence was very eager to answer them all. He gave us a lot of insight into his thought process for the story. He was very receptive to my vision and was excited by the ideas the cast and I were generating in rehearsal. He and I were pretty much in sync with our interpretations of the script and it gave us [cast and crew] a lot of confidence throughout the process.”

Eberle added, “It was a pleasure meeting him. He is a very jovial, fun-loving guy full of energy and enthusiasm.”

Currently, Paone is working on three different plays, each one in an early gestation period. He said, “I like to walk away from them for a time and then return to see what leaps out at me. I know that one of the three will eventually say, ‘Write me, write me!’ And that’s the one I’ll go with.”

He added, “I am continuing to submit my play ‘Certifiably Yours’ to different theater companies and contests.” He added, “If there’s anyone out there looking for a super funny farce, let me know!”

Paone said, “Having ‘I Forgot to Worry’ in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival will remain in my memory as a truly wonderful experience. I cannot thank the staff of the festival and the director, cast and crew enough!”

 Playwright Lawrence Paone with stage manager Rachael Ellis and director Joe Eberle

Playwright Lawrence Paone with stage manager Rachael Ellis and director Joe Eberle

 The Cast of “I Forgot to Worry” with playwright Lawrence Paone: Mark Yochum, Kaitlin Cliber, Jake Berlin, Joe Eberle, Dave Joseph, Mary Kay Riley, Mark Connor, and Lawrence Paone.

The Cast of “I Forgot to Worry” with playwright Lawrence Paone: Mark Yochum, Kaitlin Cliber, Jake Berlin, Joe Eberle, Dave Joseph, Mary Kay Riley, Mark Connor, and Lawrence Paone.

Mike Buzzelli