Good morning and welcome to Extra Gravy, a Harrison Bergeron Production coming to you from the glass-enclosed studios high atop Biscuit City Towers, located in beautiful downtown Biscuit City, a happy place where everyone’s dreams come true, all the residents are intelligent and beautiful and have a ton of money! Our guest today is Wanda Lane, writer, former Fairfax County teacher and principal, resident of Bluffton, SC, playwright and columnist.
Dan: Wanda, welcome to Extra Gravy, probably the world’s only virtual radio show that exists solely in the mind of its readers. I know you live near my friend Mary Kay Montgomery, who worked in the library when I taught at Robinson High School in Fairfax County. I found out that you also worked in Fairfax County in a different school. Mary Kay told me about you and your play and your novel, so here we are! Were you a teacher?
Wanda: Thank you, Dan, for inviting me to participate on Extra Gravy. This is going to be fun. I was both a teacher and an administrator with FCPS. Unfortunately, I did not have the privilege of meeting Mary Kay until I moved to Sun City. I wish I had known her earlier. Most of my teaching experience and all of my administrative experience was at the middle school level. I survived! That’s the important thing.
Dan: I have the greatest admiration for those brave souls who teach or administer at middle schools. So, how did you end up in Bluffton? I know Mary Kay and Bob retired there and I assume you and your husband did as well.
Wanda: Yes, my husband and I retired to Sun City several years after we retired from our D.C. area jobs. “Retire” is probably not the best word to describe our life style since moving to Sun City. We have both pursued with gusto long held-in-abeyance interests. We love the opportunities Sun City has provided.
Dan: I know a few other people who live in Sun City and they are invariably interesting people who are involved in a number of meaningful activities. Now, to the matter at hand: please tell me about your play, Aprons Gone Awry. I know Mary Kay directed it, and I wanted to interview her with you but she wanted this interview to be about you! What’s the play about and how did you come to write it?
Wanda: Aprons Gone Awry is about a woman, Laney, who realizes after her mother’s death that the aprons her mother made for her are tangible symbols of intangible feelings of love and caring. She becomes fascinated with aprons and decides to pass on these feelings of love and caring embodied by aprons to her friends. Laney makes aprons for her friends for their birthdays. When Laney’s friends see how much aprons mean to Laney, they give her aprons for every occasion. The play opens with this dilemma. Too many aprons. How Laney solves this problem is the subject of the play.
Dan: What an interesting premise! And identifiable as well! I wrote a piece about Mr. Potato Head that I read to my classes years ago about my enthusiasm as a child for the toy and as a result have received potato heads as presents from a number of people over the years. These gifts haven’t overwhelmed me, but I do have more potato heads than the average member of my demographic.
Your play was put on this past month. Where did it play and how was it received?
Wanda: The play was staged in a small, intimate restaurant, Couture Boutique and Café. We planned to present it on Monday and Tuesday evening, but the demand was so great that we added Wednesday night and eventually extended to Thursday. We played to sold out audiences each night and received high accolades. Everyone said they enjoyed the play and the venue. Mary Kay and I feel as if we invented a new theatre art form – cocktail theatre. Before and after the play, our guests enjoyed wine and scrumptious hors d’oeuvres.
Dan: Now there’s a real success story! To use a different venue and double the number of performances is amazing! You and Mary Kay and your company are to be congratulated! I would gladly go to any production at a cocktail theater (I bet there was shrimp!). We have been to several dinner theaters (I suppose there are still some of those around) and I always felt that the buffet was a distraction from the play, although we did see some well done shows over the years.
It must be an exciting and yet intimidating experience at once to have a play put on that you wrote and to see the reaction of the audience. Tell me about that.
Wanda: To see my play move from the page to the “stage” was absolutely exhilarating. I know of no other word to express my feelings. There were intimidating moments however. I held my breath waiting for the audience to laugh at the parts that I thought were funny, but when they not only laughed at these but at other places where I had not anticipated such a reaction, I knew it was going to be successful.
Dan: Yes, I’ve done some reading to groups of pieces I’ve written and am always surprised and pleased when people laugh at things I didn’t intend to be funny. (Of course, sometimes they don’t laugh at bits that I think are hilarious and that’s awkward.)
I’m getting ahead of myself in talking with you about being a playwright. Please tell us about how you got started writing the play and how it all worked out.
Wanda: The play is based on a short story of the same title and plot that I had written earlier without any thought of making it a play. In fact at the time I wrote the short story, I would have doubted if I could write a play. Then I signed up for a playwriting course, and under the guidance of Jan Dow, an award winning playwright herself, I created the play.
Dan: Novelists “only” have to find a publisher (that's a major challenge, to be sure!) and short story writers somewhere to place their stories, but a playwright has to think about having a venue and actors and publicity and a director and all that. How did you go about arranging for finding all the rest after you had written the drama? (I think this is what’s known as a multi-part question!)
Wanda: I believed in the play. I thought it had appeal to many age groups. My first step was to ask the owner of Couture Boutique and Café if she would consider letting us stage it. She loved the idea. Next I thought of Mary Kay and her desire to direct a play. It was my stroke of genius to ask Mary Kay, and it was her genius that selected the cast, designed the set, developed the actors and worked within the limitations of our venue. She was fantastic.
Dan: So, like a good administrator (and I knew many when I worked in Fairfax County), you delegated the staging of the play. That only makes sense because staging a play is a worlds apart from writing one. You and I will have to prevail on Mary Kay to overcome her natural modesty and be the subject of an Extra Gravy interview.
Mary Kay tells me that you also have written a book, Wrinkles in Paradise. How did that come to be written?
Wanda: I write a monthly life-style column for the local newspaper, the Island Packet, under the name Wrinkles in Paradise. My book is a compilation of these articles plus other short vignettes about life based on my experiences. My stories are a combination of humorous and reflective moments and reflect the attitude of a whew-I-made-it-to-old-age senior.
Dan: What a great way to repurpose a column! You’ve given me an idea since I have about a hundred columns lying around being useless. Listeners who would like to read some of Wanda’s columns can go to http://www.islandpacket.com/search_results?q=state+of+the+union&aff=1100 and search for Wanda Lane. The columns are delightful!
Now, how has your book been received? Do you do book signings and book clubs and all the rest?
Wanda: My book has been well received. It is for sale in five retail establishments in Bluffton and Hilton Head. I receive telephone calls, emails and notes from readers who have identified with the topic and want me to know their similar experience or how much my article meant to them.
Dan: How can our listeners pick up some copies of your book and play?
Wanda: My book is available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com and from me. It can be ordered at your local Barnes and Noble. My play is not available. Fans will just have to wait until it plays at the Kennedy Center.
Dan: That’s the spirit!
How did you get started as a writer, Wanda? What’s your writing history, as they say in C.F.A. classes in creative writing?
Wanda: I have taken some creative writing classes. One of the best writing classes I have ever taken was one in Fairfax County’s Adult Education classes on writing the short short. But mostly, I write what is in my heart based on my own experiences, reflections and observations.
Dan: What other professional or personal writing have you done?
Wanda: When I was still working, I wrote articles about my teaching experiences and effective teaching strategies I had developed for professional educational journals.
Dan: Oh my gosh, I have a pile of those as well. I suppose they were a writing experience of another sort.
You spoke of exploring different activities in retirement. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
Wanda: I’m an avid reader and a member of two book clubs. I am a novice tap and ballet dancer and am currently in a liturgical dance group. While I enjoy these activities, they are secondary to the fun I have with my husband, children, grandchildren and friends.
Dan: What’s in the future for your writing? What plans do you have?
Wanda: I’m currently engaged in writing another play and developing a gift book about aprons.
Dan: How do your family and friends regard your writing? Sometimes families and friends are very supportive; other times, not so much. What has been your experience?
Wanda: My family has been very supportive and, in ways, disbelieving of my writing success. My long suffering husband has found himself the subject of many of my reflective and humorous essays. My BFF in Virginia, Laurie Coffee, has been a constant support in reading my material and giving me pertinent and thoughtful guidance. It was she who assured me that I could handle a monthly column and the rest has sprung from there.
Dan: Wanda, we wish you well with your writing and with staging your plays. You’ve been a delightful guest.
I want to thank you for sharing with us today, and thank you for being with us on Extra Gravy from the Biscuit City studios.
We’d love to have you back sometime.
I do have one final question for you. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? I would be a Brazilian rosewood tree because they are beautiful and their wood is used in high-end guitars.
Wanda: When we moved to South Carolina, I became entranced with the Live Oak Trees. I would be a Live Oak Tree for their longevity and the majesty of their perpendicular-to-the-ground branches.
Dan: They are indeed inspiring. I understand that you and your husband are headed off on a trip to the Amazon. Have a great and safe trip, take care, and keep writing!
We’ve been talking with Wanda Lane, writer, playwright, columnist and resident of Bluffton, SC, where I’m sure it’s warmer right now than it is here.
This has been the Local Writer of the Week (Global Village Edition) feature, brought to you on the Extra Gravy show on the Biscuit City Network. The Local Writer of the Week is a Harrison Bergeron Production and is brought to you by Biscuit City Brand Shrimp and Seafood. When you have a crowd in with a big appetite, have the jumbo shrimp that keep on giving long after the last one is gone. That’s right, serve Biscuit City Brand Shrimp and Seafood to your guests and watch them come back for more. Now we know that “jumbo shrimp” is an oxymoron, but we’re a bunch of English majors here at MB & HB productions so we understand all that! We also understand that once you serve Biscuit City Brand Shrimp and Seafood products to your guests you’ll never think of putting out those little tiny things for your guests that take a hundred to make a mouthful. Nosirree Bob! For your next cocktail theater event, insist on the best, Biscuit City Brand Shrimp and Seafood products. You’ll forget all about Bubba Gump and his seafood products when you sink your teeth into a Biscuit City Brand Seafood jumbo shrimp!
Our seafood products are raised on state of the art aquaculture farms, fed on a diet of rose petals and sunflower seeds and tended by hand by English majors who wonder why no one wants to publish their novel, much less read it or hear about it. It’s a sad thing, so cheer up these morose young men and woman and make them happy by picking up a jumbo pack of Biscuit City Brand Jumbo Shrimp at a fine emporium today. You’ll need a fork lift to take it out to your SUV that‘s eating your budget alive with its demands for high octane fuel, but you won’t care about that when you serve the best to all the rest! That’s Biscuit City Brand Seafood products!
Biscuit City Brand Seafood products are part of the line of the Molly Bolt family of fine foods and hardware products. Molly says to eat some shrimp! She has some three meals a day and just look at how she turned out!
This is Dan Verner, bidding you a fond adieu from the glass-enclosed brain center of the Biscuit City Studios of the Biscuit City Network until next time when we’ll talk to another artist who is making a difference. TTFN!