When Francis Marion University’s Department of Theatre presents the play Tape at the Performing Arts Center in February, its author, Stephen Belber, will be there.
On Thursday, Feb. 20, Belber will participate in a talkback with the audience and cast members after the play. Tape runs Feb. 19-22 in the FMU Performing Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre at a cost of $5. The play contains language and scenes of an adult nature. Parental guidance is advised for those under the age of 15.
During his visit, which is co-sponsored by FMU’s Honors Program, Artists and Lecture Series and Department of English, Belber will meet with students in FMU Professor of English Jon Tuttle’s Playwriting Workshop.
Tuttle recalls one of Belber’s early plays, The Transparency of Val, which won the Trustus Playwrights Festival Award and was produced by Trustus in Columbia in 2000 during his tenure as literary manager at Trustus.
“He was absolutely fantastic,” says Tuttle. “I think his presence will be a real inspiration for aspiring writers and actors especially, but also for anyone who enjoys being deeply engaged by a theatrical experience and talking about it afterwards.”
Tape is set in a hotel room where an aspiring filmmaker on the verge of hitting it big hooks up with an old friend and admits to have raped a girl they both dated in high school. He learns later that his confession has been recorded and that the same girl is about to join them. Show Business Weekly called the play a “sordid and beautiful take on human relationships,” and The New Yorker called Belber an expert at “torturing his characters with the things that never get said, yet [his] language is uniquely telling and the underlying grief shines through.”
FMU Theatre Professor Keith Best, who is directing FMU’s production, first saw Tape nearly 15 years ago and thought it would be perfect for an intimate performance space.
“Tape is an ideal play for the new PAC Black Box,” Best says. “I look forward to revisiting this very intense play with our students. The topic is timely and should make for a great production and a great dialogue with the author when he visits.”
Tape is arguably the play that propelled Belber to prominence. Since its premiere at the world-famous Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1999, the play has received numerous productions in New York, Dublin and London and been made into a feature film starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Robert Sean Leonard.
“Belber has since become an even more accomplished playwright and has a bundle of great scripts,” says Best.
He is a highly-regarded writer, director and actor with Hollywood and Broadway credits. His play Match, for instance, opened on Broadway in 2004 and starred Frank Langella and Ray Liotta. Belber himself directed the soon-to-be-released movie version of Match, starring Patrick Stewart, Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard.
Tape and Belber’s other plays have been produced in more than 25 countries. His off-Broadway credits include Don’t Go Gentle (2012), Fault Lines (2008, with Noah Emmerich), A Small Melodramatic Story (2006) and McReele (2005). After he co-authored and starred in The Laramie Project, about the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998, Belber appeared on the cover of American Theatre magazine. The Laramie Project has since been made into a movie starring Christina Ricci and Steve Buscemi. A recent play, The Power of Duff, recently opened in Boston, and his newest play, The Muscles in Our Toes, will be produced this spring by New York’s Labyrinth Theater Company.
His other movies include Drifting Elegant and Management featuring Jennifer Aniston. He is currently preparing to direct The Kindness of Strangers, starring Josh Duhamel. Belber also has extensive television credits, including Rescue Me, Law & Order SVU and pilots for HBO and F/X.
For tickets, call the PAC Box Office at 843-661-4444 between 12 and 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. For more information, contact Tuttle at 843-661-1521.