A Ford-Herzberg Production

A Ford-Herzberg Production

OPWCBy Robert Laurence

In 1989, Amy Herzberg came to Fayetteville thinking she wouldn’t unpack her bags; her stay would be so short. Today, she’s the Head of Performance, and Director of the MFA Program in Acting at the UA. Ten years later, in 1998, Robert Ford arrived, and is now Director of the MFA Program in Playwriting at the University. Todd Taylor, after careers as a sports writer and professional card player, showed up in 2010 as an MFA candidate in playwriting. Herzberg, Ford and Taylor will be the Featured Readers at the Feb. 26 meeting of the Ozarks Poets and Writers Collective, 7 p.m. at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street. They will be reading Ford’s one-act play “Survivor Orange.”

Ford initially wrote “Survivor Orange” as a self-imposed exercise, trying to write a play modeled on David Mamet’s “Oleanna,” a work he admires. The result was a success in its own right, and it has been performed in Ithaca and Austin, where it was the Producers’ Pick at the Hyde Park Frontera Fest. Ford will read the part of “Weiss.” Herzberg, who was a Kennedy Center National Acting Teacher Fellow in 2003, is now in pre-production as the director of Yorkey and Kitt’s musical “Next to Normal,” the final play in TheaterSquared’s 2012-13 season. She will read the part of “Fedi.” Taylor, whose play “Calculations” has seen two workshop productions in Fayetteville, will read the part of “Joe.”

“Survivor Orange” is set in New York City in the early 1990s. Weiss is a Jewish art director in his fifties and Fedi is a young photographer recently arrived from Leipzig, in the former East Germany. Joe is Fedi’s older boy friend and a taxi driver. The play alternates swiftly back and forth between Weiss’ office and Joe’s apartment. The dialogue is quick and sharp as Fedi tries, with Joe’s insistent urging, to place her photos — one is a stack of oranges at a Leipzig market — with Weiss. In the end . . . well, you’ll have to come to the reading for the end.

In addition to the OPWC event, the three readers stay busy. Ford is at work on his second novel, his first, The Student Conductor (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), having been named an NPR “Hidden Gem.” As well, he is polishing his play “The Spiritualist,” which will be produced as part of the New Harmony Project in the fall. Herzberg, in addition to teaching her classes and directing “Next to Normal,” is recruiting and auditioning next year’s class of MFA actors. Taylor is at work on a play about gamblers squatting in foreclosed-upon homes in Las Vegas during the height of the Nevada housing crisis.

Please join the OPWC Feb. 26, 7 p.m., at Nightbird Books for the debut local reading of “Survivor Orange.” Before and after, there will be an open microphone where writers are invited to share four minutes of prose or poetry with the audience. New readers and new listeners are especially encouraged to attend, with the reminder that OPWC does not censor, the themes are often adult and the language, on occasion, rough.

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