Springfield Contemporary Theatre opens 2017 with the Olivier-winning drama Blackbird by David Harrower. Directing the production, and making his SCT debut, is Albert Pertalion, who retired to the Nixa area two years ago after running a performing arts center at Georgia Southern University Albert had already directed West Side Story at Springfield Little Theatre, and wanted to work with SCT. Asked by Lou Schaffer and Rick Dines what he might want to direct, Albert immediately said "Blackbird! They said they had wanted to do it for two or three years but could not find a director who felt capable of it. Unceremoniously, I said, 'I am he!'"
Pertalion readily admits it's not an easy show to direct, but feels lucky to have been able to cast Adie Williams and Jeff Carney in the lead roles of Una and Ray. Albert saw a New York production of Blackbird and said to himself, "I can do better! Forgive me, but I believed that--and I have done better!"
Adie Williams's character Una was 12 years old when she had what Adie calls "an illegal relationship" with a 40-year-old man, Ray, who is then sent to prison on a statutory rape conviction. 12-year-old Una believed she was in love with Ray. And even though she understood how wrong the event was, it continued to affect Una in profound ways. Says Adie Williams, "Una was let down by everybody as a child in the aftermath of everything. Every adult in her life--nobody did the right thing by her--her parents, her friends. She had to live with it in her town."
By the time the actions of the play take place, 15 years have passed. Ray has changed his identity (he now goes by "Peter"), and he's built a successful career and life for himself. Una happens on a picture of Ray/Peter in a magazine, and discovers that he's as close as a six-hour drive from her. So she races to confront him--unannounced--15 years after their inappropriate and illegal sexual relationship. She's looking for "answers, not vengeance," but as Adie says, "She's not there to ruin his life, but there are a lot of holes in the story for her. There's definitely some going back and reliving things throughout the play."
Ray, for his part, is a "complicated" character according to Jeff Carney. "He wants nothing more than to put all that behind him. He has a new relationship--there are a lot of things at stake when she walks through the door and introduces herself to him again. There's nothing he can do but talk to her and hash it out."
To avoid giving away further plot points, Adie Williams simply states that "there are unexpected twists and turns." Jeff Carney is convinced "it will be a talked-about evening!" Adie adds, "I couldn't imagine watching this show and not having strong emotions."
Director Albert Pertalion certainly can't avoid being emotionally affected by Blackbird. In fact, he tears up while telling us about Una's long, seven-page monolog describing her "trials and tribulations. And it's so moving... and (Adie) does it extremely well."
Blackbird opens tonight (Friday January 6) and runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm through January 22nd at SCT Center Stage, corner of Robberson and Pershing on the first floor of Wilhoit Plaza. For more information call 831-8001 or visit www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org.