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"Writer's Cramp" Opens at the Phoenix

Naugatuck man debuts in his hometown theatre.

Rick Dufresne of Naugatuck is disproving the notion about old dogs. He, with his six decades of life experience is learning a new trick. 

Dufresne is part of the cast of the 's latest offering, "Writer's Cramp (Or How William Shakespeare Got Into Show Biz)", a light-hearted fictional romp, running now through February 4. 

For Dufresne, the show marks his first time on the community theatre stage. Well, almost. 

"I appeared, as you know, on stage at the 's production of 'An Interview With God'...21 years ago," Dufresne laughed. He remarked about this knowing full well that this writer appeared on stage with him in that same production, which served as a three-performance church fundraiser back in 1991. Dufresne played the archangel Gabriel. 

But for Dufresne, doing community theatre in front of strangers, playing on stage with strangers (at least at the start of the rehearsals), this was something new. 

"A friend of mine volunteers at the Phoenix and she told me I should audition. This was really my first audition. I didn't know what to expect. They asked me about experience and who I studied with and what role was I interested in. I just said I wanted anything that called for an old bald guy," Dufresne said. 

(It should be noted that this writer, a fellow old bald guy, has known Dufresne since the late 1980's.) 

So Dufresne read for the role of Old Jack, who doubles as a member of a travelling actor's company in the time of William Shakespeare and as narrator for this play, written by Larry Glaister. The play is a humorous fictional account of the missing years of Shakespeare's life, just prior to becoming the world's most renowned playwright. 

So Dufresne auditioned and seeing that the room was filled with seasoned actors of all types and years, figured that was that and went home. When he got the telephone call a couple of days later, offering him the role of Old Jack, he just said, "Really?" 

And so the theatrical journey began not only for Dufresne, but the rest of the cast of "Writer's Cramp" culminating this past week with the final dress rehearsals, on a fully dressed set, in full costume, under the lights, and a smattering of invited guests serving as a guinea pig audience. 

"This first time we used the lights, it was very different," Dufresne said. "I was so used to delivering that opening speech to the house. Now with the lights, it's like I'm talking to a black wall. But it's been wonderful." 

Another concept that Dufresne had to get used to was the memorization of his lines. Dufresne, as part of his business, used to go to conventions and business meetings, always with a semi-prepared script that he would allude to, often ad-libbing his way around a meeting. 

"Now I have to get the words out in the right order. I have to keep myself a thought ahead," Dufresne said. 

As much of a challenge as this new trick has been to Dufresne, a definitive people person if ever there was one, he has relished his time at the Phoenix. 

"I've enjoyed this so much! It's been absolutely worth it!," he said. 

"Writer's Cramp (Or How Will Shakespeare Got Into Show Biz)" runs through February 4, 2012, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees on January 22 and 29. For tickets or more information, call the box office at (203) 632-8546 or visit www.phoenixstagecompany.org.

Laurie Phllips February 03, 2012 at 12:40 AM
The show has been very popular and has been extended - there will now be performances on 2/10, 211 and 2/12. Which is good because the February 4th show is sold out!

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