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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Voices of BTM XVI: Stefan Lanfer

Stefan Lanfer
Last year, we bought a family membership to Boston’s Museum of Science. We’ve taken our kids there a dozen times since. It is such a playground of the mind. There is so much to see and do. Yet, without fail, whenever we go, my seven year old, James, drags one of us, or all of us back to the lightning show, to that massive, whirring Van de Graff Machine and its display of awesome electric power. He has seen it so many times, he could give the presentation himself.

There is just something irresistible about lightning.

Jon Jory, long-time producing director at the Actors Theatre of Louisville has likened the 10-minute play to a “theatrical bolt of lightning.” This Sunday, at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston’s South End, there is lightning in the forecast - 10 hours of lightning strikes in the 16th annual (and my first) Boston Theater Marathon. “It doesn’t last long,” Jory continued, “but its power can stand your hair on end.”

Jory was talking about the audience experience of watching a masterfully-crafted 10-minute play. But the truth is, Sunday marks the culminating storm of a long string of lightning strikes for fifty writers, fifty producing theatres, and hundreds of creative artists over weeks, or months, or years.

We are storm chasers all.

The first lightning strike is the first flash of an idea that compels a writer to write, and to try to catch lightning on the page. Mine came when, in the summer of 2012, I saw that curious New York Times cover photo, of a lecture hall full of dozens of grey-haired, balding, bespectacled somebodies, raising arms in giddy triumph. And I tried to make sense of the accompanying article about theoretical physics, and collisions of sub-atomic particles in a multi-billion dollar underground tunnel, and something called the Higgs Boson, dark matter, anti-matter, and the “God Particle.”
Blyskawica by Ziemor at pl.wikipedia

The next lightning strike is a first reading. I had two last year at the Boston Playwrights’ Platform. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Four… the flash was faint and the rumble distant. But thanks to my fellow Platform member playwrights, and their ideas for bringing it closer, my 10 pages took shape, and my play’s Van de Graff started whirring louder and louder.

Then came the flash of a letter from Kate Snodgrass and the Boston Playwrights' Theatre. The creative life is so full of thin envelopes, form emails, and long droughts of discouragement, when a letter opens with “Congratulations!” Ba-BOOM! An artist’s hair stands on end.

Then comes the gathering storm clouds of the first read through, of the crackling synergy of producing theatre, director, and actors gathering for the first time around a table with freshly-printed scripts, yellow highlighters, and pencils to probe its mysteries and hypothesize ways to unleash its power.

First read through, Stefan Lanfer
Charlestown Working Theater assembled my brave crew of storm chasers, who are now, in rehearsals, racing into the heart of the weather system, of hot and cold fronts on a collision course for Sunday, May 11th from noon to 10 p.m. in Boston South End, for a lightning show you won’t want to miss.

Stefan Lanfer’s BTM16 play is Hadron Collision Therapy, a meeting of marriage therapy with particle physics and the Large Hadron Collider. Follow Stefan on twitter at: @stefanlanfer

Don't miss Boston Theater Marathon XVI on May 11! Tickets

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