John May began his dramatic career as a playwright.
An exchange student from Glasgow, Scotland, May’s first play, “The Room,” won the 2008 Barclays Young Writers Award.
SEE THE SHOW
Time: 8 p.m. Thurs. to Sun., 2 p.m. Sun. and 5 p.m. Mon.
Location: Center for Dramatic Art, Room 102
Tonight, he will make his North American theatrical debut as director of LAB! Theatre’s next production, John Lahr’s “Diary of a Somebody.”
The show, which is the first LAB! production of the semester, is part of the group’s second stage LAB!oratory series.
The plays chosen for LAB!oratory are more experimental and are performed in smaller spaces — usually Center for Dramatic Art classrooms — rather than Kenan Theatre.
May said that he’d wanted to get involved in theater for years before he submitted his play to the contest.
“I had been toying with writing a play for years, but never managed to finish anything,” he said in an e-mail.
Following his first success, he was admitted to a two-year Arts Council England-funded writing course.
“I’ve learned how to dissect scripts, identifying strengths and weaknesses, tropes and stereotypes,” he said.
In 2009, he received a special commendation from “The Scotsman,” — a United Kingdom newspaper — for writing, directing and performing in two shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
But performing experience is not essential to successful directing, he said.
“I am a strong believer in being able to direct without acting skills,” he said.
“Ideally, I would like to be a playwright and a director, directing my own work as well classic and contemporary work.”
May’s LAB!oratory project, “Diary of a Somebody,” tells the story of British playwright Joe Orton’s last eight months before he was murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, in 1967.
“The play uses excerpts from his real life,” May said.
Jack Utrata, who plays Orton, said he was inspired by the play’s controversial elements.
“Something about it just really spoke to me, how he was this upcoming artist and a homosexual in the 1960s,” he said.
Julia Howland-Myers, the show’s producer, said getting rights to the play was a complicated process because it’s a play not performed very often.
“(Lahr) actually personally approved,” she said.
The play features 32 total characters. An ensemble of three covers 30 of the roles, May said.
“Diary of a Somebody” is also set in a 12- by 16-foot room, which fit well with the small space offered for LAB! Theatre productions, stage manager Cary Simpson said.
The set — Joe Orton’s small apartment — was decorated by the cast with collaged panels to make it look authentic.
“We’ve tried to recreate the exact setting of Joe’s apartment,” May said.
Utrata said his lead role in the cast showed him how far the sexual revolution has gone and how much further there is to go.
“Joe’s story is definitely eye-opening and it will be for everyone who comes to see.”
Contact the Arts Editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.