Morality and Mononucleosis: “Clem and Paul Build a Fort” Goes Up in the ’92
Looking for a game-changer this weekend? Looking to contemplate moral absolutism? “Clem and Paul Build a Fort,” a new play written and directed by Ben Firke ’12, debuts in the ’92 Theater this Thursday through Saturday at 9 p.m.
Firke describes his latest creation as a “dramedy.” When Paul Carney, played by Matt Lynch ’15, is confronted with the news that his one-night stand with Clem (Sarah Wolfe ’12) has produced a child, he must reevaluate his life as a morally upright labor activist in order to do the right thing.
“[He’s] just very confused what the right thing is,” Firke explained. “Is it this abstracted group of people that you’re advocating for or these very specific people you truly love?”
Firke credits the movies “Juno” and “Knocked Up” as inspirations for the play. However, rather than throw another touching prenatal tale onto the pile, he focuses on the aftermath.
“Those movies end with the births,” he explained. “I wanted to see what happens if you start something with that and take it a little more seriously.”
As Second Stage’s marathon season of 25 plays continues, “Clem and Paul” is one of many productions that have been asked to cooperate and, in this case, collaborate with the needs of other shows. Sharing the ’92 stage this weekend is Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive,” directed by Shelby Arnold ’12. Both shows’ production teams have tackled the challenge of sharing a space, not to mention putting a show together with only one month of rehearsal.
In Firke’s opinion, the time constraints have proven useful with regards to certain aspects of production.
“It’s been clear from the beginning that we need to be efficient,” Firke said. “The members of the cast have been kept on their toes since day one and, as a result, approach each rehearsal with open-minded enthusiasm.”
The actors aren’t the only ones still making changes. Firke explained that it isn’t uncommon to edit his scripts up until the first performance and even after the show has ended its run. After writing plays for ten years, Firke is no stranger to the collaborative process of an original cast.
“This is my third-and-a-half play at Wesleyan,” he noted. “Every script is a work in progress. They’re never done.”
That means that the audience of “Clem and Paul” will be a key player in the ongoing process of creating an original work. Pretty cool, right?
Of course, every theatrical production undergoes a crisis or two before opening night. “Clem and Paul”’s disaster came in the form of mononucleosis. For the second time in Firke’s career, one of his actors contracted mono just a few days before the show. Fortunately for Ben, lead actor Matt Lynch agreed that the show must go on.
“Matt’s a champion,” Firke said.
A dynamic script, an all-star cast, and a dash of mono should add up to three very exciting performances of “Clem and Paul Build a Fort” this weekend. Despite this past month’s obstacles, the actors are itching to show us what they’ve put together. Actor Eli Timm ’13 added that the lightning round of production has taught them to approach the performances as though they were final rehearsals.
“That’s the most fun stuff to see as an audience and to do as an actor,” Timm said.
So if your weekend prospects are lacking in pathos, “Clem and Paul Build A Fort” at 9 p.m. in the ’92 will provide some energetic, original entertainment to help fill that void.