Come see Pigeons by The Charles March 6-13 by clicking on this video.
Here is what people are saying.
Watched the 1st 3 seen so far.
Love it! Great job on choosing your cast. Especially the actors who play Julie and Blaine! While watching and listening I also had great visual going in my head. Brought back some fond memories of when I lived in Boston.
Later today I will pick up where I left off. Great job writing and pulling it all together Thanks for the invite!
My overall message to this blog post is never give up on a writing idea.
Theatre is an interesting business. I was fortunate enough to discover it at an early age. I came upon it, through my parents, both Equity actors and my Godfather, Francis G. Cleveland who ran The Barnstormers Summer theatre here in Tamworth New Hampshire. Theatre seemed like natural fit so I studied it in college.
My first college lesson in theatre, came from my friend Mark. Mark was consumed with the theatre and he is to this day a very talented actor, who gets work. I don’t remember Mark, taking a show off. Every play he tried out for he was cast. When he wasn’t acting and wanted to put together a show, he got a bunch of actors together and directed the play. I admire Mark for his passion. The lesson Mark taught me was simple, if you want to do theatre, just do it, even if you have to put it together yourself. This is the second play, I have thrown together a bunch of people to perform a production.
Pigeons by the Charles has been a long writing process. The idea came from the sitcom, “Mad About You.” Through the years the play has been through countless changes. This fall I presented Pigeons by the Charles to the Barnstormers summer theatre. My idea was to cast it within the Barnstormers company and Zoom it. Before I presented the idea, I told myself if it sin’t accepted just put the play on Zoom anyway. It was rejected by the play reading committee. I had a feeling it would be, but as someone once said to me once, “you never know until you ask.”
Plan B was in effect. I had an advantage going for me. I was already working on a fundraising campaign for my Dad, called, The Cope Murray Campaign. I started to raise money to name a dressing room in my Dad’s honor at the college he taught at for thirty years. I decided to use my play as the next fundraising event. I ignored the enormity of the idea and started putting it together.
When I put the idea together, I decided it was just going to be a reading with someone reading the stage directions. As I moved forward into this play, I realized this could be a larger production utilizing iMovie.. Ideas were flowing. Since it was a reading, I wasn’t concerned with the age of my actors, so if they did not fit the age of the characters it didn’t matter to me. Actors are actors, they can make characters believable not matter what age. This opened me up to a huge amount of possibilities and a broad range of talent to choose. My cast consists of two friends from Johnson State, one I directed for a theatre company I started with a bunch of friends, a radio guy, one local musician, a woman I performed with abroad in Great Britain and one Barnstormer actor. I am grateful to them all.
The finished product is coming March 6th. I am planning to air it that Saturday at twelve noon on my Youtube channel.
I want to meet my technical staff and cast, who have not only made this venture a whole lot of fun, but believed in me and stuck with me through this process.
The Technical Staff.
Linda is one of my Dad’s biggest supporters and has become a very close friend. She is gregarious and fun and is always there for us when we ask her to do something. She’s our painter and decorator for our house. Linda runs a company called Able Painting. I was beginning this interesting journey when Linda came by to paint our kitchen. As I was telling her the idea, she came up with the idea for the set or background. She suggested Traci Crowell should paint it.
I’ve known Traci for what seems like forever. I played Baseball with her two Uncles. I never knew Traci was such a talented artist. I know now. When I announced I was putting Pigeons by the Charles on, she sent me an email and said, “I want to help.” Help she did. She created the background for our show. It is phenomenal. I can’t say enough about it and I have used it for posters, and for advertising.
Kim is another Johnson State friend. She is a multifaceted woman. She writes plays, fiction, poetry, directs plays, acts and even does Standup Comedy. Kim is always involved with something. I keep telling her to slow down. She goes from one play to another. Kim runs this non profit that promotes local Vermont Playwrights, called the Vermont Playwrights Circle. Since, I lived in Vermont and this is going out over the internet I asked her to promote this for me in her newsletter.
Oliver Ann Hinson-Stage Directions.
Oliver came to me and wanted to be involved in this production. She said she would the Stage Directions. I don’t think of her as the Narrator. I met Oliver through New England College. Way back in the seventies my Dad and his colleague Rich Rice, had started up a British theatre tour for students on the English Campus. In 1986 I was honored to be a part of the tour that Oliver was on. Oliver’s background is Stage Management and her Stage Management skills have been an important part of the process.
Matt Forest Esenwine-Kurt Denmark.
Matt has a background in radio and is a whiz at creating some amazing commercials. He also writes children’s books and does voice over work. I met Matt at WLFE/WWSR in St. Albans. My theatre career had been dormant until Matt told me a friend of his was starting a theatre company and was looking for actors for a Production called “Love Sex and the IRS. I played the IRS part who is supplied with plenty of liquor.
Pat Lescarbeau-Chet Brewer.
When three friends and I decided to start a community theatre group in St. Albans, I was asked to direct. I chose A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room.” I was in a production of the play when I was performing in England. I loved the play, because it was an ensemble piece. Pat was a huge part of this production. One scene is a birthday party. I had him play the little boy Brewster and had the audience roaring. Throughout the show, Pat showed his versatility.
Elle Russell=Julie Alexander.
I know Elle, by her maiden name Ellen Rodolfy. I met Ellen at Johnson. She tried out for a little one act I directed, ironically about college called Buddies. I have worked with Ellen on stage in various shows. Ellen was the last piece I needed. I saw her playing Julie. . I wasn’t sure she was going to do the part, but I had to ask her. Ellen has been there since day one. She pointed out inaccuracies in the script and while she was playing a scene, she would change something that worked. She has given me everything I thought she could for Julie. There’s a line in one of my favorite rock movies, “This is Spinal Tap.” It goes to eleven. That;’s the level Ellen kicked this show up to.
Christine Couture-Phyllis Crum.
Christine is another Johnson contact. Christine was our costumer for all the big productions and my Stage Manager for Buddies. Through our theatre experiences together, she has had to put up with rubber chickens named Matilida, When I had a myriad of costume changes during, “Play It Again Sam,” she had everything ready to go. Now she is in front of the audience and wow, she has had me rolling with laughter behind this computer screen.
Doug Shapiro-Blaine Morgan
Doug is a Barnstormer and professional actor in New York. He loves parrots. Doug was the first one who jumped on board on this project. He has become a good friend to the Murray boys. He kept after me about my craft until I finally get off my duff and did something. I am honored to work with a guy I have admired on stage for years. Doug has a wealth of experience in musical theatre. You’ll see that when you see the production.
Beverly Woods-Charlotte Van Nordstrom.
If you live in Sandwich New Hampshire then you may have seen our local guitar player around giving musical performances. Beverly also is a music teacher. Beverly came across one of my posts on the Tamworth and Sandwich exchanges and wanted to be involved. She has been a very valuable member of the cast and she helped improve the script.
Pigeons by The Charles is almost here. March 6th. I will be broadcasting this play on Youtube. You can simply follow this link to my Youtube Channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJfWhAIXxw9D9laAt–g63g. Once again if you plan to donate, this is what you need to do. If donating online. Go to this linkhttps://www.alumni.nec.edu/s/1712/bp18/interior.aspx?sid=1712&gid=2&pgid=838&content_id=761&fbclid=IwAR3knRxSV2uvl9urWYmC2Du2M0Pn1w6k53f7tcx-ABSNUa1axHMH_jziRKk Look for the link to the Putnam Center and fill out your gift donation. In the comments box type Cope Murray Campaign. You will get a receipt an email back from New England College thanking you, that is your receipt. If you want to write by check here is the address.The Office of AdvancementC/O New England College.98 Bridge Street, Henniker NH 03242.Remember to put in the memo Cope Murray. You will receive a letter back from New England College. These are equivalent to a receipt and you may keep them for tax purposes. Thanks everyone and I hope you come check out the play.Peter C. Murray
As I take a break from Letters From England, due to a staged reading I am working on, I wanted to share a movie I have been working on for years, about the beautiful game. Originally the movie was titled Derby Double, but because the lead character is so colorful and full of life, I have changed it to Seamus O’Brien. I will not go into great detail about this movie, except to say it has been one of my most passionate works I have undertaken and Seamus is probably one of my best characters I have written. Follow the link and you will be able to read this Sports action adventure movie that celebrates a sport I grew up with while living in England.
When you have a sliver of a story and some pieces are missing, what do you do? You create your own story. I never met Free Wheeling Frank. My mom did. Now I don’t know if he arrived on campus as some sort of nomad or with a girlfriend. However, I think it was speculated he was the boyfriend of some NEC student. I used that idea for my story and created the girl too. I built a whole backstory for these two, with how they met and how they came to England. I don’t know if my mom knew Frank’s name. So we don’t know what Frank’s real name was. This is why Frank remains a legend in our household to this day. My Dad and have talked about this character many times. It reminds us of mom and makes us chuckle at how she talked about this guy.
When my mother passed she took the secrets with her to the grave. I didn’t want to know what his name was. I didn’t care. He was a mystical legend to me. He mysteriously arrived on campus one day and then mysteriously left without much fan fare. I don’t even know if this guy was a Hell’s Angel. He could have been some motorcycle enthusiast who was a hippie. The whole story was incredibly wild as was that first year that NEC Arundel.
Without Free Wheeling Frank’s name, or complete story, I was given the freedom to play with the facts and create an interesting story. There has always been some confusion between the two books, Free Wheeling Frank and Zen, the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Two fictional accounts of two completely different stories about the same theme. Motorcycle riding. Every time I would mentioned Free Wheeling Frank, someone would add the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in the title. I wanted to say, no I don’t think that’s it. For so many years, I wasn’t sure whether the book Free Wheeling Frank actually existed. Once I did my research, and found the book at long last, I decided to use this confusion as part of the story. It almost fits. Here’s a guy looking for a book named Free Wheeling Frank, after he lost it and no one has heard of it, or they think it is another book entirely. I don’t know if my mother tried to obtain the book for Frank. However, it would have been within my mom’s obsessive compulsive nature, to do just that. My mother was like a pitfall with a bone. She would not let go when she had an idea in her head.
This episode shines my mom in a bright light. My mom is the star in this episode. I think I have brought out a lot of her enthusiasm. Every student that walked into that bookstore, would tell you that Pris Murray was one of the friendliest, kindest people they ever met. If you knew my mom, and came into her bookstore, I hope this is how you remember her.
There are elements of my mom’s mental illness. Part of it is shown here. In this episode we first hear about my mom’s nervous breakdown in a conversation between my Dad’s character and my sisters. We also have a sense of it through this episode. We see her highs when she figures something out and her lows when she is hit with a roadblock. get In this episode Eileen is obsessed with finding this book for this student. She will stop at nothing. I decided to start this episode with sort of an odd Ray Chandler dream sequence. My mother becomes the detective in these dream sequences. I play around with corny gags and music within the dream sequence. I even spoof the fact, that my Mom and Dad, looked like Betty Davis and Clark Gable. When my Dad tells my mother, because you have Betty Davis eyes, I couldn’t resist but play the intro to the song of the same name. I went with the gag and took it further where they had no idea where the music came from. I then did it again later, with the George Thorogood song, “I Drink Alone.” I had a blast writing these scenes, because I loved all those 1940’s PI movies. They are so easy to make fun of. I also loved the fact, that my mother comes off as a strong independent woman in these dream sequence scenes.
Without further adieu, I give you The Legend of Free Wheeling Frank. Enjoy.
As always if you have not read an episode or if you haven’t read any of my series I will put links here for those previous episodes for you to read.
At the time my mother and her friend Bea Gay had never heard of it. For the next few weeks, this mysterious man would enter the bookstore and ask for the book “Free Wheeling Frank” and my mother had to tell him they didn’t have it. My mother would ask the many NEC students about the book. Many of them had heard of it, and referred to the book as “Free Wheeling Frank” and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My mother found the book in print and waited for this mysterious biker chap to come into the store again. When he did, she was so proud. She presented the book to this biker chap and for a moment his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. It was indeed his holy grail and then after starting down at the book, sudden despair. No it was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” He reassure my mom, that it was okay. My mother ever eager to please asked, “Who’s it by?” The biker thought for a moment and he came up blank.
When mid semester break came, the biker had mysteriously vanished, never to return on the NEC Arundel campus, leaving my mother with an interesting story to tell. From that day forward my mother would tell this story over and over again. The story was told at Barnstormer parties in Tamworth New Hampshire or any time she ran into someone from Arundel or Henniker. My mother was the type of person that would be fascinated by someone this interesting and she truly was. If my mom, took a liking to some rogue person, that person became a project to my mother. When I say project, I mean that she wanted to know all about them and see what made them tick. If she really liked you as in the case of a college buddy of mine, she wanted to guide you and help you improve yourself. In other words a project. I sensed this biker guy was one of those projects.
Free Wheeling Frank was a Robert Stack Unsolved Mystery. She never found out this fellow’s name. So when she told the story he was known as Frank or Free Wheeling Frank.
Upon my mom’s death I took up the mantle of this strange story, which is really just one part of my mom’s life and one part of a day in her life. For years people mistook this book as Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. One person knew the book, but did not know the title. He gave me a brief synopsis of a wild Hell’s Angel and his story about being a member of the California gang. Whenever I would go into a bookstore, I found myself looking for this book. I always came up with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I began to wonder if the actual book, “Free Wheeling Frank”, actually existed, or if my mom made up the story. I knew my mother well enough that she would never make up a story such as this. This year, I did a google search and low and behold there was a book called “Free Wheeling Frank.” I ordered it ands started reading a few chapters. The book was ghost written and I found it hard to follow because the lead character sort of seemed to be speaking in a code I couldn’t understand.
As my mother learned how to run the NEC bookstore she became a total wizard when ordering books. If it was out of print, this was a challenge and she was more than up to the task. You see there was always a bit of a detective in my mom. She liked a good mystery as much as the next person. After all this was a woman who consumed Ruth Rendell mysteries like they were candy. She never did find that book, but continued to tell the NEC Arundel story. The Legend of Free Wheeling Frank.
Throughout my own life I have often wondered what happened to this mysterious biker named Free Wheeling Frank. I often wanted to create a character around this enigmatic fellow. Letters From England allowed me the chance. This is why I went in search of the book called “Free Wheeling Frank.” Like I did in Episode six with my sister Nancy, I wanted to give my mother the spotlight here. Another story is in the wings. We’ll talk about that at a later time. This was a story that truly starred my mom and this is the first episode that directly revolves around her.
When I came up with the idea for “Free Wheeling Frank,” I wasn’t really sure how I was going to write this small chapter. I felt like I should honor this guy. So I blew the encounter my mom had and created my own story. The best way was to create the history of Free Wheeling Frank. I don’t know if the story I conjured does Mr. Frank justice, here is what I came up with.
Free Wheeling Frank is as a member of a Hells Angel gang. Late one night in some bar, in a small college town in Juniper New Hampshire he meets a cultured wealthy college Senior named Mary. Frank is a quiet type, not your typical Hells Angel and he is an intellectual. He reads Kerouac and other beatnik writers of the day.
Mary and Frank fall in love. When she takes Frank to meet her well to do, snobby parents they have horrible visions of her future. They forbid their daughter ever to see Frank again. The wealthy daughter is devastated until she hits upon an idea where she and Frank can be together. When Hopkins College opens up a branch in England, Mary decides to spend a semester abroad, where she will take a complete course of independent studies, on Art, History and languages. The two will spend one month on Campus. Mary takes classes before going off on her wild ride through Europe with Frank. While on campus, Frank will be in constant search of his elusive holy grail, the book Free Wheeling Frank.
My first idea was to create a spaghetti western movie, with the Harley being the horse. Frank and Mary(Who Frank nicknames Chilli) ride off into the sunset on this Harley all over England, and the rest of Europe. The idea changed about four days ago. I thought, hey wait a minute let’s try a film noir style. I am a huge film noir fan. My mother is the gumshoe and My Dad would be the client coming in to find out the legend of Free Wheeling Frank.
I started this episode two nights ago. I started the teaser and I have written three pages. The teaser opens on a cold drizzly night, while Eileen Livingston (My Mom) is working late at her Private Investigations office. A strange tall man named Blake (My Dad) enters the office just as she is about to leave. He has a case for her. The case is the legend of Free Wheeling Frank. He will pay her handsomely to find out the story of this legendary Hells Angel Biker. The film noir is the Walter Mitty Fantasy world inside Eileen’s head, while she does go in search of this strange character. Kitty Grainger will be her detective partner.
Free Wheeling Frank is coming in film noir. If you check out my blog I hope you will read the Legend of Free Wheeling Frank.
Ned is not the only one we deal with. Eileen has a particularly bad day, when two Cash registers break down and she has to deal with the entire campus of students buying textbooks, to make matters worse, she is confronted with an absent minded Economics Professor and here is where we finally meet, Free Wheeling Frank. It’s a tease leading into the Free Wheeling Frank Episode. In the next Episode I want to have Eileen narrate the episode as if she were narrating a film noire movie.
Blake also has an interesting moment teaching his first class called the History of British Theatre. Here, he is confronted by and antsy student named Clarice Jennings, She is antsy for one particular reason, which ends up becoming quite the accident.
Darcy also is confronted by her first day jitters. She attends a school in Westerly. As I described it through Ned’s eyes, she chose the school where all the juvenile delinquents attended. I was never sure why my sister chose that school. She eventually ended up transferring out of there to Littlehampton. Her day starts off with struggling with her locker, when Lucy Swan shows up and offers to help, she is reluctant. After all this is Noah’s ex girlfriend and a woman who blames Darcy for their breakup.
The other aspect of Ned’ day that is based on a real moment is the English teacher, my first form year. As I had said in my previous blog Gareth Langmere is a combination of two characters, one from Eastergate(The Soccer talent.), the other from Chichester high. This story concerns the Chichester guy. The English teacher we had that year came into a classroom full of wild animals. My first form gained a quick reputation as being the most rambunctious class of all. She had heard about it. The first day Mrs Hedges as I named her, came into our class to lay down the law as she saw it and her rules. This didn’t sit too well with my friend(Who at the time I didn’t know all that well. This was really my first introduction into his personality.) This guy, a son of a military man, had a certain cocky swagger about him. As I said in the previous post, he wasn’t afraid of anybody or any situation. When Hedges left the room for one moment, my friend immediately paced the room and jumped upon the desk and immediately starting giving a soliloquy that would have reminded you of William Wallace at the battle of Falkirk. He was not best pleased. I think my buddy had felt he didn’t do anything to deserve Mrs. Hedges scorn. If he couldn’t accept it, none of the rest of the class should either. I think the idea was to lead some sort of coo in this class. The most memorable part of my friend’s speech was a classic and it was almost cliche, because I had seen and heard it on English Television and movies many times. Yes, the who does she think she is, the bloody queen of England speech. I call this scene the bloody queen of England speech. Even though he got caught by Mrs. Hedges mid speech and was sent down to the head of first, it was the defining moment in the speech and among his peers this chap gained a whole lot of respect. Nobody ever picked on him or challenged him. Not that anyone ever would, you see this fellow was one mean hombre for a short guy(Although he had quite a bit of muscle.). He was never to be trifled with. This is all part of Ned’s day. By merging the soccer guy and the Chichester guy together I was able to create this one interesting character that Ned comes to admire and respect throughout his time in England. One aspect that did pop in with this character that I hadn’t suspected, is his mind is always active and he has interesting ideas in his head.
So here is the completed draft of First Day Jitters, Episode 8. Once again, I will link all the other episodes and you can read those to catch up.