'Confluence' took decade to go from dream to stage

| Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In the decade since she began working on "A Confluence of Dreaming," playwright Tammy Ryan has seen her play become more and more timely.

When former City Theatre artistic director Marc Masterson first commissioned the play in 2000, the World Trade Center buildings were still standing. Internet chat rooms, instant messaging and e-mails were starting to take off as new forms of communication. Cyber sex sounded like something adult robots might engage in.

"Sometimes my plays tell the future in weird ways," says Ryan, who lives in Shadyside and has had plays produced at theaters across the country. "When I pitched the play to Marc, it was about the Internet and how it was going to affect us. ... Some of the things I was guessing about have come to pass."

Tonight after numerous developmental readings and workshops, as well as hours of rewrites and revisions, "A Confluence of Dreaming" will have its world premiere as the final production of the 2009-10 season of The Rep, Point Park University's professional theater company.

The play has always focused on Carol, a restless suburban housewife, frustrated by her marriage, under-appreciated by her husband and daughter. Concerns about dirty laundry and broken hot water heaters move into the background when she enters the online cyber sex world, engaging in virtual sex with a Manhattan resident she knows as TALL+DARK+HANDSOME.

Fantasy collides with reality when she takes his online dare to come visit him in New York City.

The play is now set in the weeks and days just before the attack on the World Trade Center reduced the two towers to rubble, a decision Ryan made based on her reactions to that event.

"Suddenly, the whole play didn't make any sense to me. As an artist I didn't think I could write any play that wasn't about 9/11," she says. "As I rewrote it, it became about this couple. ... A lot of the play was seen through the prism of Sept. 11."

Also, Ryan says, around the same time Internet usage was becoming more widespread and having a greater impact on people's lives. A lot of people were getting involved in cyber sex — attracted, Ryan believes, by the freedom of having anonymous interaction with people.

"This was my effort to understand that," says Ryan.

Over the next 10 years, Ryan would put "A Confluence of Dreaming" away while she worked on other plays. But she kept returning to work on it.

Despite its dark side, the play is funny, Ryan says.

"I wanted it to be a comedy and I think people are going to enjoy it," she says.

Additional Information:

'A Confluence of Dreaming'

Produced by: The Rep, Point Park University's professional theater company

When: Through June 12. Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $15 today only, $24 to $27 rest of run

Where: Studio Theater, Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland

Details: 412-456-6666 or online

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