BLUE HILL, Maine — Rick Doyle had heard his plays read and even had one published, but he had never seen them performed until he became the resident playwright at the New Surry Theatre more than a year ago.
Watching actors bring his characters to life, move around a stage and give him feedback has given Doyle new insight into his characters and helped him develop his latest work in ways he wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
This weekend, the Bucksport playwright will be able to hear how an audience reacts to “Too Good to Be True” when it is staged at the Blue Hill Town Hall Theatre.
The play takes place in a fictitious mill town, director Bill Raiten said. The paper mill, where the male character has worked for 25 years, is about to shut down. How that affects the man, his wife and family is the focus of the two-scene, one-act play.
Raiten, the artistic director of the New Surry Theatre, met Doyle several years ago when the playwright took an acting class from him. When Doyle told Raiten he enrolled to improve his writing skills, Raiten was intrigued by the possibilities.
“I’d been thinking about having a resident playwright for a small group of actors to work with,” Raiten said. “He gave me a play to read and the dialogue was wonderful.”
With a grant from the Maine Community Foundation, Doyle and Raiten were able to work with the actors on in-depth characterization for Doyle’s latest play, the director said. The long process allowed the performers to ask questions about their characters’ back stories and motivations that they can’t ask William Shakespeare or Arthur Miller.
“I felt like we were on Broadway,” Raiten said. “He’d throw new pages at us every two or three weeks. It was a challenge for the actors to continually learn new lines, but we all worked together to make the characters come off the page. We could see the lines come to life and the characters become real people.”
Watching the director and the actors work helped Doyle better understand the characters he had created.
“Seeing the actors on a set helped make it all the more vivid,” he said. “I also was able to see what the director and the actors were emphasizing compared to what I had thought was important. Sometimes, just seeing the actors moving and interacting would become a jumping-off point for new dialogue or changes.”
Doyle is the staff attorney for the Next Step Domestic Violence Project in Ellsworth. He said that his experience as a domestic violence advocate for many years and living in a mill town helped him in developing the characters in “Too Good to Be True,” and in explaining to the actors why those characters act and react the way they do.
“My hope is that people relate to the characters,” Doyle said. “They really are people you might see in everyday life in Maine.”
The two performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday of Doyle’s play will culminate a week of presentations at the Blue Hill Town Hall Theatre. Students who have been taking New Surry classes this fall will perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday during what Raiten has dubbed “Theater Arts Week in Blue Hill.” For more information, visit www.newsurrytheatre.org or call 374-5057.