On June 6th I revisited a sacred place, Pennyroyal farm in Verona, Va. An old friend Paul Hildebrand, was in town and I joined a party in his honor. Pennyroyal had been the home base for Shenanarts Theater Company and Shenandoah International Playwrights Retreat. Bob Small, Kathleen Tosco and Paul were partners in the company, lived at the farm, and beginning in 1992 they became friends to Lee and me.
Bob directed the first comedy show Lee and I wrote and performed, Ted and Lee Live: The Armadillo Tour in ’92, and Shenanarts hosted us for a dozen performances over the years. I was also a writer and performer at the Playwrights Retreat numerous times. We called it summer camp for actors. Week one the writers, directors, and dramaturges met to discuss the new plays being workshopped. Some were close to being done, others just being built. Week 2 the actors came in—from all over the country—some of the best actors I’ve ever been around. Week three the plays went up, as readings. A number of the actors were cast in 6 plays that week.
It was exhausting, exhilarating, and some of the most fun I’ve ever had. The plays workshopped there have won awards, been performed on Broadway and all over the country and world. For most of the actors it was a pure sense of simply serving the work in progress, without (too much) ego involved. Participating in the magic of creating art is a holy experience. Over the years an actor may hear a line delivered in an improv session, now on a Broadway stage. Alas, the retreat is now longer held in at Pennyroyal, and friends have scattered. Paul is now on staff at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind. and Bob and Kathleen are in Kalamazoo, Mich. That is where I know go to write and commune with great friends.
I had not been at the farm since Bob and Kathleen moved 5 years ago, and the current renters, Erin and Gregg had worked hard to restore the farm to what I had remembered. It was wonderfully emotional to walk the paths where I was given credibility has a writer and actor. The deck, the loft, the barn, the playhouse, eating outside—I even walked to the edge of the property and used the vast men’s room overlooking the hills, as a memorial to 20 years of no indoor plumbing. All of those spaces, with the exception of the “men’s room”, were acting spaces. It was a truly magical place those three weeks in the summer.
At the end of the evening Christopher, Erin and Gregg’s 6 year old—a huge Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Lego fan gave me a lego plane with Indy riding on top. So in honor of the location and continuing friendships–I will be taking Stars Wars Indy with me, taking a photo in that location and writing about the time…hope you enjoy where you find Indy.