Thursday, July 17, 2014

Meet the cast and crew of Seminar: Jeff Berryman

Jeff Berryman makes his Theatre 9/12 debut as Leonard, the acerbic workshop leader upon whose approval the other writers’ futures are hinged. Even though their personalities could not be more different, Jeff and his character do share some similarities. Namely, both are published novelists.

Jeff was asked the same questions as the rest of the cast and his answers might surprise you.

Have you ever written anything that you had published/presented? What was it? How was that experience for you?

In 2001, I managed to have a novel published called Leaving Ruin.   It's the story of a small town Texas pastor and his very human struggle to navigate a time of crisis and transition.  Having the experience of receiving letters and notes from people who've read the novel and been moved by it is one of the great joys of my life.   I also toured a one-man show based on Leaving Ruin for almost a decade, and am currently in the process of remounting that show for run in Calgary this fall.  I have also had several plays produced, including The Carrolls of Queen Anne, Arthur: The Begetting, and Arthur: The Hunt, though none have been published at this time.    One other note related to this play:  I have a completed draft of a second novel that is unpublished.  I've been working on it for over ten years.   (See the'll see why it’s relevant.)

Have you ever taken a workshop/seminar/master class and had it turn into a nightmare? What did you learn?

Fortunately, no.  All my experiences with workshops and seminars have been good. 

Who were/are your favorite writers? Why?

Richard Ford (The Sportswriter, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land), Anne Patchett (Bel Canto, Run and The Patron Saint of Liars), John Updike (Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit At Rest, and Rabbit Remembered), Barbara Brown Taylor (The Preaching Life, Mixed Blessings, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, and Speaking of Sin: The Lost Language of Salvation), Annie Dillard (Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Holy the Firm), Frederick Buechner (A Long Day's Dying, The Book of Bebb, Brendan, and Telling Secrets), Czeslaw Milosz (The Captive Mind and The World).  I tend to like literary fiction that mingles the toughness and grit of the everyday with the mysterious force we think of as spiritual life.  I am drawn to non-fiction that does the same.   I love language, the pursuit of God, and all the questions surrounding the reality of what it means to be human.   Writers who muck around in all of this attract me, especially the ones who are grounded in a faith in the possibilities for goodness and hope. Milosz is my poet of choice.  

If you could have any career, what would it be?

Next time around, I think I might want to be an orchestra conductor.   To stand in the middle of that kind of dynamic beautiful sound YOUR WHOLE LIFE would be really amazing.  

Dream project?

To direct a well-funded theatrical mounting of Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner."   Why?   I couldn't tell you.  I just think it would be haunting and amazing.

Why might people know who you are? If you are recognized on the street, what is it usually for?

There would be no reason for me to be recognized.  Occasionally, in the Greenwood area, a Taproot subscriber might say hi.   I've been in lots of plays there in the past 18 years. 

Tell me one thing about you that people would find surprising.

I have been serving in Christian ministry one way or another virtually all my life.   The dance between faith and art-making has always wooed me.  Doing this play is a step in that dance, albeit a quirky, offbeat one. 

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