I connected with Tim Page, Powell’s biographer and champion; I can only think she would have hand-picked him if she’d had any say in the matter, his writing is graceful, witty, and incisive. He’s also wonderfully kind and thanks to him, I was able to speak with one of Powell’s surviving nieces, Carol, who lives not that far away in Ohio. Every time she said, “Aunt Dawn” I felt a chill. “I always loved that play, Jig Saw,” she said. “We are so delighted that you’re doing it!”
It was evident that Carol is crazy about and proud of her aunt, and I’m hoping to meet her before the run is out. When I have pix, I’ll post.
At the read-through last night, we laughed a lot; there are many funny lines. But on the way home, I remembered the famous line (attributed to a bunch of actors on their deathbeds, but I heard it was David Burbage, who only theater geeks will recognize), “Dying is easy. Comedy’s hard.” Powell’s brilliant writing can’t be the whole show. The audience has to care about the characters, they’ll have to fight for things, and we’ll need to be in suspense as to who will win the little battles that happen in every scene.
But thank you, Internet. I stumbled upon this excellent Gerald Howard piece, “How Dawn Powell Can Save Your Life,” which opens with this Powell quote:
“The human comedy is always tragic, but since its ingredients are always the same — dupe, fox, straight, like burlesque skits — the repetition through the ages is comedy. The basis of tragedy is man’s helplessness against disease, war and death; the basis of comedy is man’s helplessness against vanity (the vanity of love, greed, lust, power).”
Given that, not sure whether I should with you a vanity-free or vanity-full weekend, but I trust we all get what we deserve.