Tri-State Theater

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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

An Interview with "Catch and Release" Playwright Jeremy Richter

 We love to see local artists doing great work, and recently we got to talk to Marshall Graduate Jeremy Richter, a terrific performer who's also a playwright and a composer and director.

   His play Catch and Release is being presented next week at the Alban Theatre in St. Albans, and he brings us up to date in this e-interview: 

Q: Tell us the basic story behind Catch and Release.

Jeremy: Catch and Release is one of those "coming of age" plays, focused on choice and consequences. The play follows four friends from age 11 to the dreaded threshold of 30. The four characters evolve in front of the audience from kids to adults and learn to love and lose in the face of crushes, divorce, parenthood, public speaking... and a bright orange balloon.   
Q: You're the playwright for the show - where did the concept of the show come from? 

Jeremy: I'd lost my childhood best friend to suicide in 2006; we hadn't been close since our junior high days, you know how friends can grow apart, but anytime we'd run into each other, things picked up where they'd left off. Still, our friendship always seemed rooted in the nostalgia of baseball cards, GI Joes and Police Academy movies. At his memorial service, I heard countless stories of his later struggles with addiction and I began to wonder which moments, which stories held more weight in considering a person's legacy. He had a beautiful wife and two spittin' image sons, after all... what lives had he lived in 28 years? And which would carry for 28-plus more? In the following year, I'd separate (and eventually divorce) from my first wife, and begin coping with the reality that I'd be living apart from my kids. Writing... dramatizing those two years would become a hugely beneficial cathartic moment. The play, originally just 40 minutes in length, went on to win a couple of awards from the West Virginia Theatre Conference and then the Southeastern Theatre Conference... and was incredibly personal. Too much so, actually. So I proudly let the piece sit for a few years, until I felt I was far enough away from it to better revise it. In the revision process, I was fortunate to have it read with groups in Pittsburgh and Boston, and it came out better... more grounded, more universal. More fair.
Q: What's your background in theatre?

Jeremy: I started out as a performer, and burned out during my first post-college (Marshall! Go Herd!), professional gig. I took a short break, and fell into a couple of directing gigs and started writing more. By 2007, I had a musical and Catch and Release finished. I co-founded my own company, the Independent Theatre Collective, so that I could do more to collaborate on and develop new plays at home. Since 2008, I've been a writer/composer, first, an occasional director/producer, and a recovering actor.  

Q: Is it exciting to see a West Virginia theatre company tackle this show?

Jeremy: I'm excited to have my stuff produced anywhere! But here at home? Yeah, man. This is great. I'm very proud of my state, of the artists that hail from here, and all those that still call WV home. I'm a WV artist. I live here. I create here. And I absolutely love to collaborate here.
Q: Have you had any input into the Alban's production? 

Jeremy: I have! Tara has been incredibly open and communicative. While I've not been available to be in the room with them, the team has sent pictures and videos of their rehearsals, and we've discussed revisions throughout. We had a good back and forth in regard to the set design, and my intentions as the playwright were asked for and taken to heart. Collaboration is key.
Q: What other projects do you have in the works? 

Jeremy: I'm currently co-writing a lot. One is a community-driven docu-play about a neighborhood known as East Wheeling with my high school pal, Ron Scott, Jr., another is a one-man, multi-character musical with NYMF-darling (and Glen Dale, W.Va. native), Dale Sampson. Also in the works is a new, full-length musical about two of my passions: family and craft beer.
Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers? 

Jeremy: Firstly, to see the work of these wonderful artists at the Alban. What little I've seen of the rehearsal process is touching, impressive and inspiring. And very funny! This play, I hope, relates to everyone in that "slice of real life" kind of way... we've all loved and lost. We're all continuing to "come of age," constant works in progress, and I think that these performances will resonate in a very effective way.

   Thanks, Jeremy - and congratulations!

   Catch and Release, a play by Jeremy Richter, will be presented at the Alban Arts Center on April 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. and April 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. The Alban Arts Center is located at 65 Olde Main Street in St. Albans, W.Va. Tickets are $15 for Adults and $10 for Seniors and Students with valid ID.

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