Click play to hear a conversation with the cast of Blur in the Rear View.
Aleks Merilo saw a painting: Summer Evening by Edward Hopper.
In it, a man and a woman stand on a porch. He’s talking, she’s listening, “and you can tell something is not quite right,” Merilo says.
The playwright started wondering what was wrong, what the story was. That curiosity turned into a script that the University of Kentucky Theatre will present the next two weekends.
The story centers on three people who were affected by a horrible tragedy when they were in high school. It sent one of them to prison. We meet them eight years later and look back at their relationships before and after that tragedy.
“I wanted to look at how one moment can effect the course of an entire life,” Merilo says of his play, which beat about 30 other scripts from around the country and one from Australia.
“It really met all the criteria for the competition,” says UK theater department chair Nancy Jones. Those requirements included skilled writing, that it be an achievable production for the student ensemble and that it “celebrates the human spirit,” Jones says.
She says the competition’s namesake, a retired UK theater professor, “believed strongly in the last requirement, and this play fulfills that beautifully.”
She said she could not elaborate on that much because the play “is a mystery.”
For the students in the production, Jones said, it has been valuable to be able to work with a living playwright.
“It’s been very cool,” Merilo says, “though I wish I could be more involved.”
Merilo is based in California and is teaching theater at a middle school in Battleground, Wash.
Jones says, “In an ideal world, he wouldn’t be all the way across the country, but these days, there are ways to overcome that.”
Merilo says it has been good to work with the student company and get their thoughts and suggestions for the play.
“Writing, you can get really focused on your vision of what it is supposed to be,” Merilo says. “So it is good to hear other perspectives.”
Both Jones and Merilo mention the final scene, which was chopped in half after the cast said it was too long and repetitive, and Merilo agreed.
“What I appreciate is that you could be very direct,” Jones says. “Some people you have to approach it gently, but I could just call him up and say, ‘The final scene isn’t working.’”
Merilo says, “It’s been a great experience. What I love about universities is that they are willing to take risks.”