What a way to write a play.
Dave Williams is an English major at Armstrong Atlantic State University. He’s also an emerging playwright with a decided bent for comedy.
“I wrote a play called Open Mic about an open mic night,” Williams says. “I got the bug for writing comedy.”
Williams’ latest play, The Couch, is being directed by Anthony Paderewski, who encouraged him to write. “Anthony kind of inspired me to come up with a couple of ideas,” Williams says. “One was about unmotivated young people. The Couch is a contrast of the younger generation and the older generation, as far as their ideals and values. ”
Paderewski is the play’s director. “I’m directing, producing and have taken a role, as well,” Paderewski says. “Who needs a mind when you’re an actor?”
The play tells the story of Chris, who’s living in a pothead’s paradise. After sleeping until noon, Chris spends his days playing video games and smoking and dealing pot.
He keeps these activities from his ultraconservative parents, who proudly believe that not only is Chris an All-American boy, he’s interning for the mayor. When his parents show up for a surprise visit, Chris must struggle to maintain a clean-cut image to his increasingly suspicious parents.
Along the way, Chris’ parents meet his decidedly eccentric friends. ‘One of his best friends is named Squirrel,” Paderewski says. “Squirrel is a typical pothead. He wears earth tones. He loves Phish, the Dead and he plays video games.”
Paderewski plays another friend named Rick. “He’s a hard-core head banger,” he says. “I even have a mohawk in the show.”
Chris also has a close friend named Emily. “She’s a smart ass and has been a smart ass all her life,” Paderewski says.
There’s a lot of slapstick in the play, especially after Chris’ parents show up. “The father’s the type of husband who stares at the floor and follows his wife around the grocery store,” Paderewski says.
And the mother? “She’s the Old South personified,” Paderewski says.
During the writing process, the play turned into a group project. “I turned in half a play to Anthony,” Williams says. “We really liked the characters and where it was going, so we sat down and talked about it and I took notes, then shopped it on different people and got different notes.”
In the end, the play was completed during a workshop with the actors. “We did a week of improv,” Williams says. “It helped me a lot to understand the characters. I had been writing them as I saw them in my head, then at the workshop I had physical characters to work with.”
“I’m really excited about this,” Paderewski says. “With the workshop, we saw what worked. The play’s really funny because we knew what worked when we did it because everyone laughed. I’m a big improv fanatic.”
After the workshop, rehearsals began. “We had a rehearsal period of just three weeks,” Paderewski says. “It’s insane. The play’s set in a black box scenario. It’s taking place in front of you and around you.”
It is produced by Stegosaurus Productions, which also produced the plays Open Mic and Closer. “Stegosaurus theater started out in Jacksonville, Fla.,” Paderewski says. “I signed on when they were here. It’s a local group that wants to do live theater.”
All the actors in the production are local, and most are graduates or current students at AASU. “Armstrong does more shows than anyone in the state of Georgia,” Paderewski says.
He himself is an Armstrong graduate, who has been working professionally at the Arts Center for Coastal Carolina in Hilton Head for three years.
“I didn’t start doing theater until college,” Paderewski says. “When you’re able to get a laugh or get an emotion from the audience, when you’re able to affect people or make them laugh, that’s such a powerful tool and I just love it. I don’t want to do anything else.”
Williams seems too highly motivated to write about characters who aren’t. “I’m not going to say I have nothing in common with the characters,” he says. “I spent a lot of years myself on the couch. It wasn’t until later that I found a reason to get off it.”
Stegosaurus Productions will present the comedy The Couch by Dave Williams June 9 and 10 at 8 p.m. at The Sentient Bean Coffee House, 13 E. Park Ave. The performance is for mature audiences only. Tickets are $7 and may be purchased at the door starting at 7:30 p.m.