Franklin Park playwright brings fifth production to the stage
For Peter Adams, the term “acting lessons” has a very special meaning.
It is through dramas written by members of his Narrow Path Productions group that practical Scripture lessons are illustrated.
As lead writer of a creative quartet, Adams, 56, of Franklin Park isn't certain where his play-writing skills came from, but they're a nice balance to his 9-to-5 mechanical-engineering career.
Fifteen years ago, his cast and crew — all volunteers — had performed their first drama, “Bug Bites,” at North Way Christian Community in Pine, where most of the performers worshipped. Next month, “Sunset Manor,” the company's fifth production, will take the stage at three area churches.
“People kept coming up and saying, ‘I wish our church did something like that,'” Adams said.
So the group continued and, finally, incorporated in July 2010. Members from other area churches now have joined the players.
“This is something we all felt strongly about and wanted to do,” Adams said.
The name Narrow Path comes from Matthew 7:12-13: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
In addition to keeping the company's performance juices flowing, each venue gets to set a purpose for whatever admission is charged.
“We're nonprofit,” Adams, one of the managing directors, said. “We do this for the love of presenting.”
Churches have used the performances as fundraisers for a mission trip to Africa, a youth group's visit to Alabama and a water project in Haiti.
“The fundraising is going around the world,” Adams said. “It's a ripple effect.”
But each ripple begins with an idea. The writing team members sit down and brainstorm until they develop a real-life situation around the thought.
“Bug Bites” explores broken relationships and reconciliation as sorority sisters engage in a camping reunion.
“Sunset Manor” seeks to honor the elderly through the words of Psalm 92:14: “They shall still bear fruit in old age. They shall be fresh and flourishing.”
After topic research and writing, the team gathers to edit, and when the script is perfected, Adams brings an outside group together to hear a reading and discuss whether the words and characters' actions make sense.
It can take a few months from idea to script. Then, it takes a while longer to select the cast, find venues and begin rehearsals.
“I've been very lucky with our cast,” he said, remembering a young man who had never acted but who starred in “Rocky Road,” the group's third production about abortion, but from a young male student's perspective.
“He had 300 lines but later entered Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School (in Midland),” Adams said.
Narrow Path runs the gamut from that talented neophyte to the experienced Mia Tepper, who had entertained audiences with the New York Opera for four years. She also worked in regional theater. Now, as a professional singer, voice teacher and choral director at First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown in Richland, she is joining Adams' group for the first time.
“I performed wherever and whenever I could,” Tepper, 44, of Butler County said, remembering how she began dance lessons at age 3 and singing at 12.
“I love being on stage.”
In this production, Tepper will add nearly 30-plus years to her age and attitude and become the 78-year-old Edith Breckenridge, who she said is a “sharp-tongued character with a Rue McClanahan-edge to her. She's put together on the outside but dying on the inside of a horrible loneliness.”
Mitch, Tepper's husband, will play Henry James, an “upbeat and positive” character.
“Live theater is more intimate and a place where anything can happen,” Mia Tepper said.
She stressed that the people, energy and chemistry between the characters can change.
“You can see (a production) twice and take something different from it,” she said. “It's richer.”
Adams said he hopes to keep expanding, perhaps finally to write a musical or two and dinner-theater dramas.
“There are so many stories that need to be told, to be created from scratch,” Adams said.
But in the meantime, he wants his audiences to be entertained.
“I want them to laugh, cry and think,” he said, “in that order.”
For more information about the company, visit narrowpathproductions.com.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.