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David Cale to Unwrap ‘Blue Cowboy’ Set in Wood River Valley and Stanley
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David Cale is collaborating with Tony Award-nominee Les Waters on “Blue Cowboy.” PHOTO: Ella Pennington
   
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Playwright David Cale came to Ketchum last fall to write a play that he’d conceived of at home in New York.

But while here, spending a month at the Ernest and Mary Hemingway House, he became intrigued with  local mountain resort towns with a hint of cowboy life at the fringes in which he found himself.

And, so, he pushed aside the play he’d planned to write and began writing a new play.

 
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Martyna Majok will be the 2022-23 resident. PHOTO: Josiah Bania
 

He’ll perform his work-in-progress in a free play reading at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at The Argyros. And he’ll do it under the directorship of Les (pronounced Lez) Waters, a multi-Obie Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated director who has directed twice on Broadway.

“David has always wanted to work with Les but has never had the opportunity. So, when he said, ‘My dream would be to work with Les,’ we reached out and made it happen. It’s so exciting that this is the first time these two artists are going to be in the rehearsal room together,” said John M. Baker, the artistic director of Sun Valley Playwriters Residency.

Cale is the inaugural recipient of the Playwriters Residency.

Started by Baker and Jon Kane of Sawtooth Productions, the residency pays a playwright a $10,000 commission and puts them up in the Hemingway House for a month, during which they can devote themselves to writing without the distractions they might face at home.

 
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David Cale, who unveiled his photographic study of squirrels in Central Park last year at The Community Library, focused his lens on magpies while staying in Ketchum.
 

The residency brings them back a year later for another month, during which they have a chance to present their work-in-progress to a Ketchum audience.

“The pandemic shuttered several major nonprofits that specialized in providing playwrights with resources to write new plays,” said Baker, who has been involved in supporting playwrights and helping them develop new plays for 15 years. “We saw a need to create a space for playwrights to write in America and in Idaho.

“Instead of spreading resources thin supporting five or 10 artists, we said ‘We’re going to give you $10,000 and a year’s worth of support. You tell us what you need. We give them two months in Idaho with no pressure to work on whatever they want.”

David Cale, who’s been described an “an enthralling writer-monologist” by The New York Times, offered a free play reading of his one-person play “Sandra” while in Ketchum in Fall 2021. That play starring Marjan Neshat will premiere off-Broadway in November 2022 at the Vineyard Theatre.

He then set about writing “Blue Cowboy,” a somewhat sexually explicit play about a gay writer from New York who travels to Ketchum to work on a film script set in Sun Valley. The writer’s plans—and life—take an unanticipated turn after a chance encounter with a local ranch hand at the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival.

One man is very open about his life; the other hides his story from everyone around him.

Admission to Saturday’s play reading is free but tickets are required and are available at https://theargyros.org.

“Once I was in Ketchum, for me, a kind of magic happened,” said Cale, whose long list of awards includes a 2020 Outer Critics Circle Award, a 2020 Drama Desk Award nomination and a 2020 Obie Award. “The idea I had intended to work on was quickly moved to one side so I could work on a new idea which was wholly inspired by, and sprung from, my being in Ketchum.”

Prior to the play reading, a free conversation with David Cale and Les Waters will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. at The Argyros. 

British-born Les Waters is a multi-Obie Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated director who has directed twice on Broadway. He was nominated for a Tony for directing a play called “Dana H.,” a true story about a chaplain of a psych ward who was held captive in Florida motels for five months by a charismatic ex-convict searching for redemption.

He has worked at a variety of venues, including University of California-San Diego, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Repertory, the Goodman in Chicago and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles.

This will be the first opportunity Cale has had to work with a director on the play and share it with an audience, said Baker. It’s part of his learning about the play and what it’s like to put it in front of the audience.

“We’re excited and over the moon about both David and Les being able to work together,” said Kane. “And it’s so exciting for David to have access to an audience—and not any audience but an audience of people who live in the place where this play is set. That’s not something he can get in New York.”

NEW PLAYWRIGHT ANNOUNCED

Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York City-based playwright Martyna Majok will be the second playwright-in residence. She will spend most of the month of October at the Hemingway House, coming to Idaho right after her play “Cost of Living” opens on Broadway.

Majok will read excerpts from that play, which won a Pulitzer Prize, at 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at The Community Library. The play examines perceptions of privilege and human connection through two pairs of mismatched individuals: a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his caregiver.

A reading of her 2016 Off-Broadway play “Ironbound” will be directed by MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Samuel D. Hunter at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at The Argyros. Hunter, whose “A Case for the Existence of God,” was staged in Ketchum by Sawtooth Productions a few years ago, will direct David Janeski, Nick Sacks and Aly Wepplo in the free play reading.

The play is a darkly, funny, heartbreaking portrait of a Polish immigrant cleaning woman. Over the course of 20 years and three relationships, she negotiates for her future with men who can offer her love or security, but never both. For her love is a luxury—and a liability—as she fights to survive in America.

“I'm very grateful to Sun Valley Playwright’s Residency, The Community Library and The Argyros for the time, space and support to get to work in such a beautiful and cultural significant place,” said Majok, who was born in Poland and raised in New Jersey and Chicago. “It’s an honor to be among the first writers of the program, along with the brilliant and lovely David Cale.”

Baker and Kane said their partnership with the Community Library, which provides the Hemingway home for a month, and The Argyros, which provides rehearsal and performance space, enables the residency to come together.

“This is really, really special and we’re really excited about that,” said Kane. “These incredible nonprofits have a deep interest in writers and a passion for the arts, and we’re excited to be combining resources of Ketchum and beyond to support playwrights and develop their new work.”

IF YOU GO….

Thursday, Sept. 22—David Cale and Les Waters will be in conversation at 5 p.m. at The Argyros. Free.

Saturday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.—A free reading of “Cowboy Blue” directed by Les Waters and performed by David Cale will take place at The Argyros. Reservations are required at https://theargyros.org.

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