I first heard a reading of Player's Joy in early 2002. My wife, Tanya, and I had recently relocated ART to Frederick, MD and were in the process of trying to decide what the first show in our new location should be. I was discussing this dilemma one afternoon with my friend and neighbor Allison Elias.
I had met Ralph and Allison Elias the previous summer when Ralph and I appeared in a production of Much Ado About Nothing where we shared a dressing room. Shortly thereafter they had moved across the street, and the four of us became good friends. In any event, Allison informed me Ralph had been working on a one-man show, and that we really ought to hear it. ART being a theatre known for its development of new works, I told her of course I wanted to hear it.
A few days later, Tanya and I found ourselves in Ralph and Allison's living room where, for the next 120 minutes, Ralph performed his work, holding us spellbound. The decision was made that night to open our new season with Player's Joy.
Among those who came to see the show that summer of 2002 was my brother, Ethan. It was Ethan who had taken over as Artistic Director of 2nd Story Theatre (ART's original name) when I decided to return to NYC to pursue more acting roles. At that time, he was in the process of putting together a new motion picture production and distribution company, Star Circle Pictures, along with another our our brothers, Richard, and talented young filmmaker Kimball Carr. Their concept was to utilize the rising medium of digital filmmaking to produce work for the independent film market.
As were most of the audience members who saw Player's Joy that summer, Ethan was impressed and moved by the work. But he also saw something more — he saw the possibilities of Player's Joy as a film. And he was salesman enough to convince Richard and Kimball (as well as Ralph, Tanya and myself) that Player's Joy, shot live in performance, would be as exciting on film as it was on stage.
Fast forward to December, 2002, the Naro Expanded Theatre on Colley Ave. in Norfolk, VA, a 60-second walk from ART/2nd Story Theatre's original location. The script, already worked and reworked by Ralph and myself for the stage production, has been reworked even further. Kimball Carr has put his directorial stamp on the production, changing costumes, and building us the set we'd originally envisioned, but not been able to afford for the stage production. From a house that seated a maximum 62, we were now in a house that seated more than 300. And for two glorious nights, as three cameras caught all the action, Ralph Elias gave his all performing this show based on his life.
For all of us, this was an amzing experience. The combining of theatre and film helped steer ART into a new direction — developing new works that could be performed on stage and then translated to film. But Player's Joy was our first and remains a very special production for all of us who were involved in its creation and evolution.