Playwright Reflects on Creative Process, Premiere at Island City Stage

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Playwright James L. Beller is tight-lipped about his world premiere drama, “Son,” opening this weekend at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors.

A former government regulatory attorney who quit his day job a decade ago, Beller would only confirm the synopsis posted on the LGBTQ-centric theater company’s website: 

“On the morning of their wedding, the teenage son of a lesbian couple is confronted with a shocking accusation. ‘Son’ is a riveting new drama that explores the devastating impact of the past on the present as a relationship is tested and secrets revealed.”

The Washington, D.C. resident was willing to give up a few hints, however. It’s not a political play or courtroom drama.

Beller’s breakout hit was “Ethan Now,” which won top honors at the 2008 Capital Fringe Festival. After a few minutes, the writer did share some thoughts about his writing process and the new play.

“I haven’t written other plays about two women or lesbian moms. Most of my other plays emphasize gay men,” he explained. “It’s about family, an unusual family, not a typical family. There are plenty of two-mom families around. It’s family drama and they have to deal with a crisis that puts them to the test and really brings to the forefront what their relationships are and how they will survive.”

Beller did do his research, consulting with a number of lesbian friends who were raising children, but, he also relied on his imagination. A former actor, he wrote the play using a similar process to an actor tackling a new role.

“I write every character as if I’m that character. Even if I’m writing a play about five gay men, I can only be close to one of them. I have to imagine what it’s like to be that character,” he said.

Beller is excited to have his new work premiered by Island City Stage and directed by Carbonell-winner and Tony-nominee Michael Leeds. 

The production was a lucky circumstance. Knowing the company has a strong history of producing new works, one of Beller’s friends forwarded the play to Leeds and artistic director Andy Rogow last year.

“They were a little leery when my friend came to them with this play, but they were open enough to read it,” he said. “I won’t try to put words in their mouths, but after they read it, they asked him where he had found this play. I was equally as happy. It’s very, very hard for playwrights to get produced.

Beller traveled to South Florida for the initial readings and made some rewrites on the recommendations of Leeds and Rogow. He returned this week to sit in on the final week of rehearsals before the world premiere.

“Working on this has been one of the best experiences of my life. They are fantastic,” he said of the company, director and actors. “The play has been evolving in what I think a really great way.”

James L. Beller’s “Son” will be performed April 6 – May 7 by Island City Stage, 2304 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 at IslandCityStage.org.


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