Watch the Spring 2016 Winning Stage Play Reading.
BEYOND THE GLASS Stage Play Table Reading:
Beyond the Glass is a two-act dramatization of Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. It is a conceptual, philosophical work driven by one of the diner’s customers, Ray, who wrestles with an existence he abhors but cannot alter.
Get to know writer Francis DiClemente:
1. What is your stage play about?
The play is about a man—the lead character Ray—who rails against an existence he despises. Locked inside the diner, Ray strives to find an exit; but he fails and he must come to terms with his fate.
2. Why should this play be produced?
I think that’s a question someone else will need to decide, if the work is worthy of production. The story interests me because I think people can relate to Ray’s struggle. Who hasn’t felt stuck in a life situation before, e.g. a low-income job, a failing relationship, etc.?
3. How would you describe this play in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
It’s a Wonderful Life
5. How long have you been working on this play?
The kernel of the idea formed in the late 1990s. I started one version and then shelved it around 2006. I put the project on the back burner and picked it up again a couple of years ago. It took me about a year to write the updated draft (since I work full-time as a video producer and write in my off hours), and then a few more months to do multiple revisions.
6. How many stories have you written?
I’ve written many poems, essays, stories and a few screenplays and stage plays.
7. What motivated you to write this play?
Initially, Hopper’s image drew me in—the four figures suspended in the warm yellow light of an urban diner at night. I love the time period, the 1940s, and the painting seemed like it could have been a scene from a film noir movie. Many people also see the work as a metaphor for urban loneliness. The more I looked at the painting, though, I felt drawn to the figure seated next to the woman. This figure—the character Ray in the play—seemed filled with angst and I wondered what was going on with him. Much has been made about the fact that Hopper never painted a door to the diner. So I started exploring the idea, “What if they can never leave?” And the fixed, locked location and limited characters made the story seem well suited for the stage.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this play?
My first draft in the early 2000s did not work at all because I tried to make it so Ray could leave the diner. So I thought about what would happen to him in the outside world, where he would go, how he would survive, etc. He ended up coming out of the painting in the Art Institute of Chicago and then roaming the streets of the city. It seemed artificial and forced to me. When I picked up the play again a couple of years ago, I decided that he would never get out of the diner. That was my breakthrough because from that point on, Ray kept trying to get out but all of his attempts failed. I think it made the drama more simple and direct.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Sports, especially hockey (go Rangers), movies, music, art, news, etc.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I entered the festival because I had worked on the play for a long time and I wanted to get some feedback, to see if the story made sense to anyone else and what areas would need improvement. The feedback was helpful, and I worked to streamline the text. I still see the play as being in development and a work in progress.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
I don’t really feel qualified to give advice. But the only thing I would say is write the story you want to write—the project you feel most passionate about—even if other people tell you it won’t work. Also, when you’re in the first draft stage, resist the urge to self-edit. Let it all come out in the first draft and then make sense and order out of the piece when you revise it.
Francis DiClemente lives in Syracuse, New York, where he works as a video producer. He writes in his spare time and is the author of three poetry chapbooks. His blog can be found at francisdiclemente.wordpress.com and he’s on Twitter @FranDiClem.
Director/Producer – Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director – Sean Ballantyne
Editor – John Johnson