END SCENE: A week in Silverton with IRENE

I’ve only been home for a few (swirling, intense, holiday and firework-filled) days, and already my week in Silverton witnessing the creation of IRENE and working with budding screenwriters feels like a dream. A vivid dream, thankfully, not a fading one.

My last evening found actor Ben Mattson and me in the van of workshop-participant Jason Nelson who kindly offered us a ride through the drizzle and yellow mud-colored puddles to Silverton Town Hall. We stepped into this beautiful century-old building and found many of the folding chairs already filled with locals. Louis King had set up refreshments and mic stands. The screen was pulled down and the projector set up.

I was all nerves and pride as the scenes submitted by workshop participants were read before the crowd. Our youngest participant, Belen Roof (she’s, maybe, 11 or 12?) agreed to read the part of the young girl in theatre veteran/newbie screenwriter Deborah Runion’s piece about a sixty-something eccentric artist helping her granddaughter deal with the effects of her grandmother’s cancer. Belen, or Bear, as she is known, also volunteered Silverton teen Blaze to read the part of the young boy in her own piece, a spectacularly creative piece about a young girl raised by a tiny dog and the boy who discovers her. Cassandra Roof’s scene, which revolved around a teen girl dealing with her mentally disturbed aunt, achieved the perfect balance between raw pain and sensitivity. Jason Nelson’s scene, based on personal experience, about a young couple stifled by a mysterious illness, drew empathetic murmurs from the crowd. Judy Graham’s scene, two sisters hiking toward their vehicle after encountering a bear on a camping trip, coming to terms with the complex dysfunction only two sisters can have, was both tense and elegant. These scenes were created in two days, during just three days of two-hour sessions of screenwriting instruction. I was blown away by the willingness and bravery of all who took part. Many thanks, for the millionth time, to Ben Mattson and Rebecca Krebbs, who agreed to read and bring life to the words so that the authors could experience them from the outside in.

Creativity seems to spread as fast as wildfire in Silverton. IRENE, shot Wednesday between the hours of 8am and 3pm. Edited Thursday between the hours of 11am and whenever director (and editor) Sinjin Jones was finally able to get some shut-eye, and premiered Friday after the readings of the scenes, turned out beautifully. I would say “turned out beautifully for having been shot and edited in two days.” But I don’t have to. It just, simply, turned out to be the lovely, poetically shot, sensitively acted piece that it is. It screened to our Silverton audience, and cut to black in the wake of a round of applause.

There is a line, spoken by Irene, in the film, that resonated audibly with the viewers. When Irene describes the Matisse sketch, discovered abandoned in a stairwell, now hanging in her living room that, because it has no signature never was found to be of any importance, she says “…so here it stayed. Where it was loved just the same. Where it had value.”

If there is one thing palpable in Silverton, CO, beyond the majesty of its surroundings, the history of its buildings and the welcoming nature of its residents, it’s the appreciation for art and creativity, spirituality and community. This appreciation, this ability to see value in such things, is alive and well in A Theatre Group. I am so thankful to have, once again, been a small part of it.

So many thanks to A Theatre Group, the ATG board, particularly Louis King, Judy Graham and Steve Fearn, to the community of Silverton, to Steve Lowrence and the San Juan County Sherriff’s Office, to my workshop participants, to IRENE cast and crew Sinjin Jones, Rebecca Krebbs, Ben Mattson, James Richard Padilla and Tressa Smith.

Most of all, endless gratitude and love to my dear, my beloved, my beautiful and goofy, sharply intelligent and deeply emotional, endlessly professional and unwaveringly natural in her vision for art, lifelong friend Mollie Mook-Fiddler, who organized this project with Lou and who assembled this incredible team. The best compliment I received all week, and I’m proud to say I received it from several people several times throughout my stay, came from those who have known Mollie for nearly two decades: “You grew up with Mollie? I can tell. You remind me of her.”

On that note and others, I would call the week a success. 

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