Author Takes Charge

By Betsy Connelly

Special to the Journal

It was an exciting weekend for the company of ‘TNT’.

‘TNT’ is the acronym for the Concord Players Fall production. The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. The excitement was the appearance of the plays co-author. Jerome Lawrence. who dominated the weekend rehearsals.

Lawrence. who with Robert Lee also numbers "Mame" and ‘Inherit the Wind' among the plays authored by the writing team. began his visit by watching the cast go through a section of the play under Virginia Kirshners direction. She had. he found, brought the cast to an advanced point where they could react meaningfully to his ideas and feelings as the father of the characters.

Like a coach teaching strategy to his team. Lawrence held a 'skull session' with the cast. He projected an electric feeling in his exchanges with the actors, who must have wondered how a small chair could hold a man so active when he spoke.

The membership of the Concord Players is more than 200. and it was clear that they knew that Jerome Lawrence was in town. Throughout Sunday afternoon and evening many of them who were not connected with ‘TNT’ came to watch the master at work If they had imagined an intense man with bright, penetrating eves. they found just that. As the action began again, he stood at the front of the stage. It seemed that at any moment he would fling aside the role of director and leap into the action. surg ing across the stage in an effort to portray every shade of emotion as it sprang from the playwrights mind.

For the actors, there was a sense of amazement at what they could bring from theiselves into the life of their character. Say each line as though you just thought of it: Lawrence exhorted.

‘TNT’ is currently being produced by dozens of theater companies American Playwright’s Theater APT has granted production rights to many independent groups across the U.S.. instead of the more traditional route for a major new play -- to Broadway and then to the nation.

“TNT” AUTHOR Jerome Lawrence directing The Concord Players' Terry Beasor on a Sunday evening rehearsal.

Lawrence, who had come from the APT production in Washington. D.C. directly to Concord, was impressed by the comparison. The Washington group is the Arena Theater. a professional organization which is expected to have a large influence on the plays future on the New York stage.

At one point in the intensity of Sunday evening. Lawrence paused to ask. Am I working you too hard?

It was a little like asking Do you want to rest?” of a man fleeing from a charging rhinoceros: the actors were so intent on what they were doing that it didnt matter whether it was tiring to do it.

Lawrence is expected to return to Concord for one of the evening per- formances in the next three weeks. Performance dates are November 12. 13. 14. 19. 20. 21. 27 and 28. Tickets are available at Richardson’s Drug and Stop. Look & Listen. Concord.

The cast is headed by Terry Beasor. Derek Till. Patricia Butcher. Vinnie MacLeod. George Faison. and Jean Aldrich are also featured.

Others in the cast are Bill McDonald. Irving McDowell. Bob Peters,. Scott Connelly, Dick Freniere. lleddie Kent. Walter Mayfield. Laura Stone. Tim Reynolds, Dave Orr. Tom Gilpin. Chris Childs. and Mike Sweeney.