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LA playwright’s new play ‘Still in the Game’ to debut in SF

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By Sarah von Sternberg

Teatro Paraguas and SageRight Productions will present a new play this month by Robert F. Benjamin, of Los Alamos, entitled “Still in The Game” for 10 performances.
The play will open Aug. 10 at Teatro Paraguas in Santa Fe.

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“Still in the Game” is the third piece in a trilogy about “aging with grace, courage and humor.” Two previous “aging” plays were produced at Teatro Paraguas, “Not Quite Right” and “Salt and Pepper.”

Directed by Sheryl Bailey, “Still In The Game” focuses on the journey of David (played by Jim McGiffin), a recently widowed retiree in his 70s, who is struggling with loneliness, moving forward and family acceptance.

His daughter Dawn (Juliet Salazar) encourages David to be more social but becomes concerned when she discovers her father has made female companions.

At an evening of speed dating, David meets Ruby (Marguerite Scott), where the attraction is palpable. Their subsequent mutual happiness is thrown off-balance by a major change in David’s health, which triggers a clash between the women in his life.

As David and those around him struggle to change, his quirky humor and uncanny wisdom shine through in this fun, yet serious family drama.

The cast also includes a young motorcycle cop, Paula (Alix Hudson), and Michelle (Roxanne Tapia), who works at a clothing boutique. If the latter name sounds familiar, it is because Tapia was part of the Los Alamos Little Theater for around 20 years before moving to Santa Fe.

Benjamin retired from his research position at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2004 and has been a full-time playwright ever since.

“Still in the Game,” Benjamin explained, is an exploration into how caregiving impacts family relationships. Benjamin understands that being a caregiver is an extremely challenging role and there are not many plays about caregivers out there, especially those portrayed as main characters.

Benjamin hopes this play will draw an audience of all ages that can relate to the complicated feelings that surround being a caretaker and the parent being taken care of.  The raw and genuine emotions between parent and child are evident in the fantastic dialogue written by Benjamin.

“I’ve tried to show, in this framework, about how people and families can transform themselves,” he said.

Benjamin explained that people attempt to transform themselves all the time, but it requires forming new and different relationships, which is really hard in a family context.

Benjamin looks forward to receiving feedback from audience members because, without revealing spoilers, he anticipates a certain character’s decision will be divisive. So far, there have been mixed responses from men and women who have witnessed that particular scene.
“As a playwright, I take that as a sign of success,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin explained that if he can put something in the play that splits the audience, that means they are thinking about it, which is always a good thing.

This play has been in the works for about four years, but the scenes were first written as free standing short plays that were performed at the senior center in Los Alamos. Eventually, Benjamin came to the realization that they were all a part of one play, so his job was to weave the pieces together.

While Los Alamos seniors might recognize some of the scenes, seeing them as part of a play will hopefully be a vastly different experience. Benjamin hopes the Los Alamos audience will enjoy seeing it all come together.

“It’s my contention that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

In addition, the actors portraying Benjamin’s characters will different from those the local audience has seen, creating perhaps a whole different feeling to the play. Benjamin is thrilled with the casting in Santa Fe and watching the actors bring his lines to life has been a pleasure for him because they bring a quality to it that is beyond Benjamin’s script.

“It’s going to be a really top-notch show,” Benjamin commented.

Performances run Aug. 10-20, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and matinee performances start at 2 p.m. for Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are $20 general admission and $12 limited income, and may be purchased online at still17brownpapertickets.com or reserved by calling 424-1601.

Teatro Paraguas is located at 3205 Calle Marie in the Siler-Rufina area, Santa Fe’s newest emerging arts district.

The production is made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Santa Fe Arts Commission, Santa Fe Community Foundation and the McCune Foundation.
This production is part of the Teatro Paraguas mission to produce plays by New Mexico playwrights.