TREMONT – Hancock County theatregoers recognize Patrick Harris of Blue Hill from roles he has played at the New Surry Theatre, The Grand, and elsewhere. This past winter he wrote his first play, “An Intervention.” It will be performed Aug. 25 at the Barn Arts Collective as part of the Local Residency Series.
The play follows a young woman named Molly, a singer and waitress, through an intervention about her alcohol use. Organized by her stepsister, the intervention also includes Molly’s ex-boyfriend, aunt, mother and stepfather.
There’s a powerful twist near the end and the audience is left pondering their own complicity in destructive behavior in themselves and others. The play ends with Molly singing “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen),” Tom Waits’ takeoff on “Waltzing Matilda,” and there won’t be many dry eyes.
“It’s become weirdly topical,” Harris said, as he has noticed a spike in people under 30 struggling with addiction to alcohol and other substances. “People are just self-medicating a lot because the world is kind of difficult to cope with.”
The play began life as a single scene. Harris worked with Bill Raiten, former director of New Surry, in a 1-1 playwriting tutorial.
“His whole thing was, ‘I’m not a writer,’” Harris said. “But he has a good sense of whether a piece of writing will work as drama.”
Early drafts, he said, read more like a long-form magazine article—not enough interaction. It started as one long scene, then it began subdividing itself like cells do, as he worked to give the audience a sense of who these people are outside of this particular situation.
Harris sent an early draft to his friends Jay Eddy and Sam Plattus, with whom he had performed in “Spamalot” at the Grand in 2014. The pair are co-artistic directors of The Harpers Theater in New Haven, Conn.
“Jay sent back a bunch of really helpful notes right away,” he said. “She also said the story had been sticking in her head, and she thought it was worth developing.”
Eddy suggested applying for a week’s residency at the Barn this summer to workshop the play with an eye toward producing it in New Haven this fall. “An Intervention.” fits with The Harpers social mission, which includes destigmatizing mental illness and disabilities.
The Harpers hosted an initial reading in May and plan a full production as part of their fall season. Plattus will direct both the Barn workshop production and the later one and Eddy will play Molly.
For the workshop, Cherie Magnello and David Lane play Molly’s parents, Eve and Phil. Jeremy Funke of The Harpers plays Connor, the ex-boyfriend. Kate Hall plays stepsister Justine, who leads the charge for the intervention.