Peter Quince played Roger Sherman in "1776" last summer at the Camelot Theatre. He later played Charlie in David Ives' "Mere Mortals" at Ashland Contemporary Theatre. Now Quince is launching his own musical comedy, collaborating with composer David Gabriel, called "Divine Lunacy." Quince and I met at Noble Coffee.
EH: You're working on a new musical?
PQ: "Divine Lunacy" was done as a sketch comedy review in 2006 with two sold-out performances at the Black Swan Theatre. It was wildly and enthusiastically received. People thought it was both hilarious and thought-provoking. It deals with the whole notion of the line between divine inspiration and out-and-out lunacy. As any artist probably knows, you may cross that line over and over again. If you come back, it's OK. If you stay across that line, it could be a problem, and you have to be locked-up, or at least helped in some way.
Where is the line? How easy is it to cross? What's the role of the artist in society? Many prominent artists in the last decade have been praised and lionized. Artists are encouraged to let themselves go over that line. Suddenly they have gone over the line, and they're really troubled. "Divine Lunacy" talks about all of that in the context of a strong, heartwarming and funny show.
Mental illness has become extraordinarily prevalent. There are some estimates that one out of four people, at some point in their lives, are on psychiatric medication. It's a huge issue in our society, but it's not often dealt with openly, and certainly not with comedy and music, which is a gentler way to open people's hearts and minds, making them feel and think, by making them laugh and care. "Divine Lunacy" shows what it's like to be in the midst of crises or bouts of incredible creativity.
When is it, the divine spark? And when is it the infernal fire? It starts the same way, and it looks the same. We need that divine spark. We need to make it come to life, but it can consume as well as it can illuminate.
EH: Why are some of us so involved in theater?
PQ: It's where I find my own kind, that's all. "There's no people like show people." In the real world, my behavior is considered somewhat lunatic, but in the show world, it's just repartee. It's nice feeling normal. It's a trust, it's a fellowship, it's a recognition that's there's something in us that doesn't fit anywhere but in the theater. When you're with other cracked actors (and all of them pretty much are), we just tend to go a little further in whimsy and in playing things out. Live theater gives us a chance to bring what we have to offer back into our community, so that we can share it and invite them in. There's a connection that makes them part of what we're creating.
The show isn't up on the stage; the show is collaboration with the audience. The interaction between the actors and the audience is the show. There's nothing else that gives you that amazing communion with your community besides live theater. What an incredible, magical experience it is, when the actors and the audience have joined in a performance. You just want to go around and hug everybody, and in some ways, you already have.
A workshop performance of "Divine Lunacy," with music and song, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, at the Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland. If you would like to be involved (on the production level) in "Divine Lunacy," email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-973-5875.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.