Bringing people back to life
Manchester professor writes plays about historic explorers
By Heidi Masek email@example.com
Charles Wilbert wants to bring to life the historical figures he’s passionate about. So he writes plays.
Realometers is one of those. The title is a term Henry David Thoreau coined in Walden.
Wilbert has taught Thoreau, English composition, public speaking, contemporary drama and playwriting in 29 years at Southern New Hampshire University.
The one-act play takes place after Thoreau has a disaster with his first publication and 700 copies of the book are sent back to him. He decides he’s going to bury the books but encounters a farmer named Dodd on the way. Wilbert created Dodd to represent Concord, Mass., Thoreau’s town, with whom Thoreau had a “lover’s quarrel.”
“My thesis, and I think it’s implied in the play, is that Henry learns from Concord and Concord learns from Thoreau.”
Wilbert won an award for best play in a Bath, Maine, International Play Writing competition in the 1980s when he wrote Realometers. It was performed at the Lincoln Center second stage and in New York City three times professionally. In 1989, the Thoreau annual meeting of scholars gave a standing ovation in Concord, Mass., for the performance. “I guess I wanted to hide,” Wilbert said.
See Realometers at SNHU’s Walker Auditorium, 2500 N. River Road, Manchester, on Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14, at 8 p.m. as part of university weekend, free to the public. The play is only 40 minutes long.
Gary Carkin, a colleague of Wilbert’s with a Ph.D. in theater, plays Dodd and is also cast in Ice Dreamers, Wilbert’s newest play. Ice Dreamers was scheduled for university weekend, but had to be put off for next year when an actress fell ill.
It’s about “the saga of Robert Falcon Scott, and his perishing after his second trip to Antarctica,” Wilbert said. Scott reached the South Pole but was the second to do so, losing the race to Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. The play covers the last three years before Scott’s death, frozen on an expedition. “I wanted to acquaint the audience with the man I discovered in my research ... witty, sophisticated ... a shy man, a tender man,” Wilbert said.
With the 100th anniversary of the disaster coming up in 2012, Wilbert is hoping to bring the play to England, in honor of Scott. Wilbert also hopes that recognition in the U.K. might foster enough attention to get the play produced in New York.
The six-person show runs for more than two hours, and Wilbert and his cast also hope to perform Ice Dreamers at larger venues in New Hampshire. Sharon Krisch of Concord, a Best Actress NH Community Theater award winner, is also cast.
Wilbert has put his lengthy study of Thoreau into the screenplay for a six-hour TV miniseries, something he would hope to interest PBS or HBO in. “The Only Remedy for Love” shows Thoreau’s life as a young man (he died at 44) competing for the hand of a young girl with his brother.
Southern New Hampshire University Professor Charles Wilbert’s award-winning one-act, Realometers will be performed Oct. 13 and 14 at SNHU for the school’s alumni and family weekend. The play dramatizes Henry David Thoreau’s struggle with his first book. Photo by Heidi Masek.