Playwright Charles G. Blewitt, or Charley to those who know him best, was born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Blewitt knows NEPA, and over the years, he’s learned a thing or two about the area, its people, its peccadilloes and its language.
A living, breathing example of writing what you know, Blewitt has taken his experience and translated it into works for the stage. Whether he’s writing about work at a counseling center, a cranky senior citizen or a trio of down-on-their luck small business owners, his love for the area and its anthracite brogue shines through. Though the playwright is in the middle of turning the area’s culture of corruption into his next stage show, he took a few minutes to chat about living, working and writing in the area we call home.
Weekender: What first sparked your interest in theatre?
Blewitt: I’ve always been interested in literature and the arts and given my chosen career and doing psychotherapy and the drama incumbent in my work, I see playwrighting and theatre as an extension of my life.
Weekender: What made you want to write for the theatre?
Blewitt: My exposure to real-life, everyday dramas in living made theatre an almost logical place for artistic desire to flourish.
Weekender: What’s your theatre background?
Blewitt: A long time ago, I was a part of Scranton’s Theatre Libre, the forerunner to Scranton Public Theatre. I’ve acted in three or four plays and still marvel at how good actors can make writing live.
Weekender: Do you prefer drama or comedy? Why?
Blewitt: I’m strictly equal opportunity in this regard. I see elements of both in each, and I incorporate comedy and drama in all of my works. The truth be told, I love the comedy of the absurd and whenever possible take opportunities to inject it everywhere in my writing.
Weekender: What are you working on now?
Blewitt: Presently I’m working on a play involving disgraced jurists and their tendency to speak legally rather than truthfully. It is chock full of ironies and irrationalities.
Weekender: What’s most rewarding about writing?
Blewitt: When the writing accurately and precisely identifies the real emotion of the characters. For me, these are my most satisfying aspects of writing.
Weekender: What’s most challenging?
Blewitt: The challenge of all good dramatic writing involves “keeping it real” and allowing the characters to tell their own stories in their own language, not mine.
Weekender: Any idea what you’ll be writing next?
Blewitt: A gentleman asked me to write his family history. I was initially reluctant to agree to this venture since I write fiction. But as his story involves a tale of survival beyond what most of us know, I agreed to do it. My friend, his parents and brother and sister were bounced between German and Russian concentration camps from 1939 to 1945.
Weekender: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Blewitt: I love this question. Matter of fact, I ask that same one in my play about the disgraced jurists. Being a baby boomer — and remember, that meant you were always in a crowd of kids — I think I always wanted to be someone special … someone who had meaning for others. I never dreamed of a particular profession per se but later came to appreciate a gift for words and a parentally ingrained social concern that characterizes my writing.
Weekender: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Blewitt: I’m a family man, a gym rat, a so-so golfer, jazz enthusiast and reader. My life is pretty circumscribed. If I’m not driving my son to a practice somewhere, or working, or working out at the gym, then frankly I don’t have any idea where I am!
Weekender: Do you have a favorite piece of yours so far? Or is that like asking you to choose your favorite child?
Blewitt: I’m very partial to “For A Darker Tan,” my first play to have had a staged reading. It’s about three female owners of a tanning salon in Pittston. But “City Counseling, Please Hold” occupies a real warm spot in my heart. Many clinic characters are trying frantically to be heard.
Weekender: Is there a theatre moment you’ll never forget?
Blewitt: I just loved Bracken Theatre’s production of “Aunt Betty,” about a cranky elderly woman in a Florida nursing home who wants to come back to her home in Northeastern Pennsylvania — to die.
Weekender: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned while writing for the stage?
Blewitt: Make sure to write in the language of your characters, no matter how fractured that language may be.
Weekender: Any words of wisdom or words to live by, for writing, theatre or life in general?
Blewitt: I’ve always found great meaning in Albert Camus’ essay on “The Myth of Sisyphus.” We must imagine the banished king, condemned to roll a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down, as happy. Keep writing. It matters. You will be happy doing so.