By Robert A. Easton
Producer / Dramaturg
Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I am Robert A. Easton (many people call me Bob), and I am one of the producers for the upcoming Utah Repertory Theater/Around the Globe Theatre Company co-production of the play “Grace” by award-winning playwright, Craig Wright. I have also volunteered to serve as dramaturg for the production.
This week’s blog is about the “Grace” playwright, a man who has written an ever-growing list of plays, television shows and at least one Hollywood screenplay. While the name of Craig Wright may not be familiar to you, his credits, especially for TV, probably are. Wright’s TV writing career began in 2001 with work on the HBO series “Six Feet Under,” for which he received an Emmy nomination for the episode titled “Twilight.”
Soon other opportunities came Wright’s way including being able to work as a writer on the hit ABC series “Lost.” Next he wrote for shows like “Brothers and Sisters,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “The United States of Tara.”
But it was for live theater where Wright got his start in writing. At age of 22 he won a prestigious drama prize for his playwriting work. Other than “Grace,” his plays include “Mistakes Were Made,” “Molly’s Delicious,” “Main Street,” “The Pavilion,” “Orange Flower Water” and “Recent Tragic Events.”
Wright also wrote the screenplay for the recent animated family film “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” inspired by the cartoon that appeared as part of the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” that first hit the American airwaves in 1959. The lighthearted, family-friendly comedy is a bit of a departure from Wright’s usually darker-themed works.
“Grace” is a show about a young Christian married couple from Minnesota who move to Florida looking to open a chain of gospel-themed hotels, only to find the cruelness of the business world too much for them. Their once-strong marriage begins to break down as the wife, Sarah, grows more distant from the husband, Steve, and closer to their neighbor, Sam, who has recently suffered terrible injuries that, among other things, left one half of his face grossly and permanently disfigured.
Utah Rep founder and “Grace” executive producer Johnny Hebda, saw the play on Broadway with the cast of Paul Rudd (Steve), Kate Arrington (Sarah), Wright’s friend Michael Shannon (Sam) and acting legend Ed Asner as the 84-year-old German exterminator, Karl. Hebda not only loved the show but very much wanted to produce it and play the role of Steve, whom he in some part found he could relate to.
After reviewing Around the Globe’s 2012 production of a play I wrote called “Bob Juan Casanova,” Hebda believe that show’s director, JC Carter, would be the perfect choice to direct “Grace.” Now less than two years later, his goal is finally coming together nicely. Our cast also includes Emile Eileen Starr as Sarah, JayC Stoddard as Sam, and Jeffrey Owen as Karl, but we’ll have more about them in a future blog. For now, let’s return to the man who wrote the show and who this particular blog in actually about.
The director of the Broadway production of “Grace,” Dexter Bullard, is on record as saying that Craig Wright is one of today’s most important playwrights, and that his plays are about humanity in the deepest sense. Bullard has also said that for all the serious themes Wright’s scripts display, they all share a “drumbeat of humor.” I think this is a true statement. His plays make you think, make you feel and challenge you on a deep level, but they also manage to make you laugh, even when you least expect to.
At age 30, Wright enrolled at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minnesota, with thoughts of joining the ministry. This is likely where the earliest seeds of inspiration for a play like “Grace” planted themselves in Wright’s vivid imagination, and why he is so deftly able to write honest and thought-provoking discussions on theology in the play.
Wright once said, “…God, if there is one, is the one in all of us who… keeps on living and hoping, saying, ‘Maybe it works out. Hold on, hold on, maybe it works out.’ ”
“Grace” opens April 25 and closes May 10. It will be performed at the Sugar Space in Salt Lake City and is a Utah premiere. Tickets for the show are now on sale. We hope to see you there and hope you enjoy the show. Join us Tuesday for our next blog.