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 Playwright and producer BECK LEE

Playwright and producer BECK LEE

 
 

ABOUT THE COUPLE

A few years ago I fell in love with a woman from Minneapolis.  The relationship quickly escalated and I found myself commuting between New York and Linden Hills, where Andrea lived.  The first months of our courtship -- those heady days of joy and wonder -- were in the spring and summer of 2008.  You might remember that as the summer before the financial meltdown, the Great Recession… Ah, what bliss!

My girlfriend Andrea and I were having the time of our lives… with me regularly air-dropping into town; we were quite the couple.  Our Linden Hills neighbors -- a most upstanding group of smart, attractive, high-achieving young couples (many starting families) -- always smiled indulgently when we told them about our unlikely long-distance relationship.  Sometimes we even elicited oohs and aahs of delight, drizzled with the slightest amount of envy at the crazy-romantic drama of it all.

With the recession’s full impact still a distant glimmer, we got married in the summer of 2009.  Like many of our neighbors, we felt the subprime mortgage crisis was never going to hit us in Linden Hills… we were too stable a place for this kind of nonsense to play out.  Still a few For Sale signs started cropping up on the lawns near our house.  Totally normal we thought.  People just like to move around in Linden Hills.

ABOUT THE PLAY

While all this was playing out in our cozy little world, Andrea and I would often have a little fun at our neighbors’ expense.  We’d entertain ourselves with a little play-acting… pretending that we were our neighbors talking about us!

It was a great cultural immersion for me getting to pretend to be that guy down the street (call him Kurt) who was from Stillwater and had a great career as a restaurant supply salesman.  And whenever I used a wrong turn of phrase, Andrea, with her razor sharp ear for social-cultural nuances, would correct me. “Kurt would never say that!” she’d chastise me.

One day it dawned on me that the little stories we were cooking up, about our neighbors obsessing about us, would make a pretty funny play.  I hadn’t been writing in years, but I started to put it all on paper.  Suddenly I had a draft of something about two couples -- the best of friends -- who thought they knew each other inside and out, but who really didn’t have a clue about who they were.  They decide to go on a bargain vacation to New York together, a vacation none of them can actually afford, and well, things don’t quite work out the way they expected!

So we went ahead and cast the early version of the play with local actors who came to our house for the auditions.  We did two readings -- one at The Jungle and one at The Hennepin Theatre Trust.  Things were really looking up!  Our son was born… then… mysteriously the play and real life seemed to merge.  Our happy little world was about to collapse.

Radio silence.

ABOUT THE COMEBACK

Several years later, I’m in New York more than I’m in Minneapolis -- by a long shot, though I do visit as often as I can to see my son.  My old friends in Linden Hills are warm and welcoming when they see me, but it’s really not the same.  So much has happened in these hard years of putting things back on track.

The good news is that things actually did get better.  And, interestingly, the development of the play “Subprime” continued in New York where several industry readings with some of New York’s best comic actors encouraged me to stick with the play.  A small workshop production in Jersey City at the Jersey City Theatre Center in June 2017 was a glowing success and my friends asked me, what’s next?

A few months ago I went to my original director Peter Moore, and told him I wanted the play to have its premiere in Minneapolis.  “It’s a Minneapolis play,” he said to me, "this is where it was born.”  Peter, who’s a veteran of the theatre here, suggested I speak with Jack Reuler at Mixed Blood, who listened to my idea of doing a totally home-grown, first-class production here.

I want people to know this play, and even I, am from here, I explained.  Jack told me about the slot in May.

The best part is that by this time, Andrea and I are friends again, and Andrea, who is my co-conceiver of “Subprime,” goes so far as to tell me -- when she comes out to see the workshop production in June -- how proud she is I never gave up working on the play.  She smiles at me and says she feels it rings true.

“Would Kurt ever say things like that,” I ask her.  She looks at me and smiles.  “Yes, he actually did!”