Local playwright directs his own award-winning work
Brad Owen, whose credits on Brevard Little Theatre’s season opener Virtually in Love are writer and director, was educated in neither skill. In fact, when he wrote his first play, he had no idea there was a standard style for stage scripts. “My mentor was a photographer who was also a very good playwright,” says Owen. “I told him I had tons of ideas for plays and when I brought one to him he said, ‘Well, this looks really good, but you didn’t write it in Samuel French style.’ When I asked him what that was, he told me to look it up.”
Owen discovered that Samuel French was a publisher of plays that influenced a certain format. “Basically, other than that, I’m self-taught,” he says. His 17 years in practice as a psychologist didn’t hurt when it came to observing human behavior: “I get ideas all around me. I see or hear something and think it sounds interesting, let it play out in my head, then write it down.”
But it was an observation by a pastor at his church that played out to take shape as Virtually in Love, described as the tale of two co-workers at a brokerage firm “rolling the digital dating dice by logging onto a soul-mate-finding website.” Spoiler alert: Things go awry.
“Several years ago, our former pastor was talking about self-centeredness and offered dating websites as an illustration. He said [the subtext is] basically, ‘I like me. I look for people who are like me. The more you’re like me, the more I like you. If you’re not like me, I don’t like you.’ I thought that would make a great play.”
Virtually in Love follows the aspirational couple, Tom and Ellen, Tom’s mother, and the pair’s colleagues, friends, and supporting cast through the myriad delusions, illusions, pratfalls, and pitfalls of looking for love in a virtual world.
As the finished play itself was looking for some love, a writer friend suggested Owen enter it in a playwright contest. “I had no idea such things existed,” the playwright, now special-events director for Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, admits with a laugh. “I entered it in the [national] McLaren Comedy Playwriting Competition, and to my surprise, it won.” As a result, the Midland (Texas) Community Theatre, host of the competition, staged the debut of Virtually in Love. “They flew my wife and me down for a week to observe rehearsals and be there for opening night. What an experience — to see life breathed into your words.” The play was so well-received a fourth week was added to the original three scheduled.
That was ten years ago. When the play was chosen by the Brevard Little Theatre to kick off 2020, the artistic director suggested Owen assume the real-life role as director. “She assured me they have an incredible staff and was very persuasive. Auditions were great, and this is going to be a lot of fun for me, and I hope for the actors and the audience.”
Virtually in Love will be performed January 31, February 1 and 2, and February 7-9 at Brevard Little Theatre (55 East Jordan St., Brevard): Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm, Sunday matinees at 3pm. For tickets ($6-$18), call 828-884-2587 or see thebrevardlittletheatre.org.