For St. Louis commuters, the small, inner-ring suburb of Charlack, Mo., passes in the blink of an eye, its borders marked by a pair of signs set only a few hundred yards apart along Interstate 170.
Yet as Brian Golden’s Six Seconds in Charlack reminds us, sometimes an instant is enough to change a life.
The drama — winner of the University’s 2004 A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition — will be presented by the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences April 28-May 1 in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre.
Performances will begin at 8 p.m. April 28-30 and at 2 p.m. April 30-May 1.
Six Seconds in Charlack focuses on Bard (junior Chauncy Thomas), a lapsed writer who has quit the local newspaper, and his girlfriend Penny (sophomore Lauren Dusek), a nurse who has encouraged Bard to join her father’s law firm.
Yet Bard remains haunted by the ghost of Candy (senior Christena Doggrell), whose tragic story gradually unfolds in a series of short, dreamlike scenes that jump backward and forward in time.
“It’s a play about someone trying to remember who they are,” said Golden, a 2004 WUSTL graduate. “Bard is running from something, but his memories — represented by this wonderful, untouchable woman — won’t let him sleep at night.”
The biennial Hotchner competition — endowed by alumnus, novelist, poet and playwright A.E. Hotchner — is open to all WUSTL undergraduate and graduate students. Winning plays are selected by blind jury and undergo a yearlong development process before debuting the following spring in full theatrical production.
Director Jeffery S. Matthews, senior artist-in-residence, explained that the development process “really gives playwrights time to polish and refine their works. It’s exciting to watch, exciting to get the new pages.
“Brian is very talented and a great listener,” Matthews added. “When you give him a note, you know that he really hears it. He’s also a merciless editor of his own work, which brings real depth to the writing.”
The four-person cast is rounded out by Dan Hirsh, who performs a variety of roles.
Set design is by Pushkar Sharma. Costumes are by Salina Greene. Sound and lighting are by Derek Dohler and Matt Kitces, respectively.
It’s been a busy month for Golden. In addition to debuting Charlack, he recently appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as acting partner to Daniel Sheridan, a longtime friend who won an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship at this year’s American College Theatre Festival.
Hotchner, a 1940 WUSTL graduate, is perhaps best known for Papa Hemingway (1966), which recounts his long friendship with the famous writer. His memoir, King of the Hill, which recounts growing up in St. Louis, was made into a feature film in 1993.
Tickets are $12 — $8 for students, senior citizens and WUSTL faculty and staff — and are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
For more information, call 935-6543.