by Lauren E. Nichols “For the one who was a slave when called to faith…
As I Promised in the Program…
Our current production of A Peculiar People by Rick Najera gives me an opportunity to recount again a curious story of the persistence of theater memory. Around the year 2010, our friend Michael Wilhelm (actor, playwright, teacher, artist) found a playbill in his filing cabinet. It was from a play he’d seen while living in southern California. The Actors’ Co-op, a professional Christian theatre company founded in 1987, had performed a new play at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. The year was 1990 or so. Two decades later, Michael still remembered it as both comedic and powerful, and he thought it would be a perfect fit for our theater company in Fort Wayne.
He was able to secure a digital copy of the manuscript (the play was still unpublished) and forwarded it to me. I read it and liked it very much. By then, our 2011-2012 season was set, but I thought we could open our 2012 season with it—at the time, we did one show with overtly spiritual themes to open the season, and ran it only one weekend. Since I felt there were some proofreading concerns—and some slight anachronisms—to address, I decided to call Mr. Najera and ask him if we could polish his script for potential publication in return for producing it royalty-free.
My heart was certainly in my mouth, but I was both surprised and pleased to find that Rick was a nice, down-to-earth gentleman who was happy to find someone who liked that obscure play of his. “My wife always wanted me to write something else like that,” he commented. He graciously allowed us to produce it, and we filmed it in high definition for him in return. End of story.
Except…I had always hoped the play would find a wider audience. After afO moved to the ArtsLab, I began to think about plays we’d done in years past which would work as well or better in the intimacy of the black box. A Peculiar People was near the top of the list. I contacted Mr. Najera again over a year ago. He was just as gracious.
We have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this script, and have found even more depth in it to discuss than when we produced it in September of 2012. I hope you have had a chance to see it—or will see it this weekend (April 28-30, 2023).
Ticket are available HERE or you can call the box office at (260) 422-4226.