Playmakers’ season opener debuts with play written by newcomer to Louisiana | News from the community of St. Tammany

When Mandeville resident Joe Starzyk woke up one morning with a unique character idea, it ended the long hiatus he had taken from drama writing. For over 27 years, he hadn’t put a pen on the paper or his fingers on his keyboard.

This character – an unusual uncle – became a part of Starzyk’s award-winning full-length play “Marriage Secrets.” It will debut on the North Shore – and Louisiana – when it opens Oct. 15 at the Playmakers Theater in Covington, kicking off the 2021-2022 season of the 66-year-old community theater.

“I woke up with an idea based on one of the characters, where that character would always appear as someone different every time he met someone else in the room,” Starzyk said, adding that he had based the character on the accents he sometimes had. puts on make-up to brighten up grocery shopping.

“I’m going to find myself speaking with accents for no apparent reason other than (than) just for fun,” he said.

“Marriage Secrets,” which Starzyk has described as a classic farce, follows a young couple who marry after a whirlwind romance, unbeknownst to their families.

At a dinner intended to celebrate their engagement – where the families will meet for the first time – the couple discover that various family members also have secrets: being in debt, being separated and being an anguished teenage girl struggling with it. his parents, for example.

“Once everyone gets together, a lot of problems start to appear. And there’s the groom’s uncle who lives in the basement of his sister’s house, and every time he appears to one of the bride’s family members, he’s a different character ” said Starzyk, who first wrote plays while attending Shimer College in Illinois and studied playwriting at the University of Oxford in England during a degree program at abroad.

Originally from Massachusetts, Starzyk’s interest in dramatic writing began when he got involved in theater and performed in high school shows. Most of the plays he wrote in college went on stage. “But you’re graduating from college, you’re starting to have to find a job, and life is going in its own direction,” he said of his hiatus from playwriting.

He wrote “Wedding Secrets” in 2007 as part of a project with his youngest daughter, who was 14 at the time and doing theater. “It was actually the first full-length play I wrote when I returned to drama writing,” he said. “I wrote a role for her and another for a friend of her. And a part for me.

“Once I started writing I got pretty prolific,” he said of the nearly 13 full plays and three dozen short plays – many of which are comedies – he has. written from “Wedding Secrets”. Many, including “Wedding Secrets,” have won awards in drama writing contests across the country and have been performed in several states.

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Getting a piece from the page to the stage is really all about elbow grease and marketing, Starzyk said.

“There are a lot of competitions and there are different websites where you can find out about the competitions. You walk into a group and hope to be chosen for some so that your work will be seen somewhere.

“Marriage Secrets” will introduce the North Shore Theater audience to Starzyk, who moved from Troy, New York, to Mandeville with his wife, Mary Daigneault, in 2019. The move brought them closer to several family members, including included their three adult daughters – Arin, Becky and Samantha – who had also moved to New Orleans and the North Shore.

“No one was originally from this area,” he said, but said his niece and sister now called this area their home.

Prior to the move, Starzyk had researched and contacted certain theaters in New Orleans and the North Coast to determine what was happening locally.

In the end, season tickets – given to the couple by their eldest daughter, a New Orleans policewoman – brought Starzyk and Daigneault to the Playmakers Theater. On the first show they attended, he struck up a conversation with the vice chairman of the board, Arden Dufilho.

He started working with Playmakers on a fundraiser “that I had done a number of times for nonprofits in New York City called ‘Play with Your Food.’ These have always been very successful. People love them because it’s fun and they go out at night, ”he said of the event, which includes performances of short plays between meals.

Scheduled for April 2020, “Play with Your Food” had to be postponed due to state-mandated COVID-19 closures.

Now, he’s leading the 13-member cast for Playmakers’ production of “Marriage Secrets,” something that helps make sure the play is performed as he intended.

“That way it came closest to my vision when I was writing it,” he said.

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