Stuart Meltzer is used to being in control. The Carbonell Award-winner directs eight to nine shows each year at Miami’s Zoetic Stage and the New World School of the Arts. Ultimately, he is responsible for every nuance of every production from the actors’ performances to set, lighting and sound design.
This weekend, however, he’s not the director. Instead, he’s the playwright of “The Goldberg Variations” and has ceded control to Island City Stage’s artistic director Andy Rogow. Meltzer may have created the characters and shaped the plot, but Rogow, would be making the crucial decisions.
Meltzer, 46, has always been challenged to carve out time in his busy schedule for writing.
“As a playwright, I never get the chance to wear that hat,” he admitted. “In my life, it’s something I want to pursue more and need to pursue more.”
Meltzer said working with Rogow has been an “educational journey, a big learning experience” because every director approaches their projects differently.
“I try to do my best to keep my mouth shut,” he said with a chuckle. “I want the play to be the best play possible. I don’t want to jeopardize that because my ego gets in the way.
This is not technically the first time Meltzer’s play has been seen by audiences. Last year, it was given a staged reading by Jan McArt’s New Play Reading Series at Lynn University in Boca Raton. Many of the plays selected for that series go on to full scale productions at regional theater companies after a bit of workshopping.
But Meltzer was busy with Zoetic’s production of “Passion” at the Arsht Center and couldn’t attend many of those rehearsals. His fiancé, Carbonell-winning playwright Michael McKeever, served as his sounding board until director Margaret Ledford put together that reading.
“There were some changes and adjustments—not a tremendous amount—just changes in the sense of character, character through lines, technical moments, clarity in the relationships,” Meltzer recalled. “It’s been great working (this time) with the actors who are all smart and savvy.”
For Meltzer, the story is personal, an examination of his own experiences as a gay man battling with the ghost of his father, who passed away when Meltzer was in his early twenties.
“I was always infatuated with the title, ‘The Goldberg Variations,’ as a piece of music by Bach. I thought it was funny and intriguing,” said Meltzer, “and I was looking for a way to theatrically explore this relationship. That’s the crux of what the play’s about.”
He paused before adding, “In a way, this could be absurd. It was in my life, but I wanted to tell it in a way that was funny and enlightening, the nature of relationships and how we accept and don’t accept our family.”
For now, Meltzer has accepted this role and looks forward to sitting back on opening night, a spectator as his creation comes to life.
Island City Stage presents the world premiere production of Stuart Meltzer’s “The Goldberg Variations,” June 15 – July 16, at the Abyss Theatre, 2304 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 at IslandCityStage.org.