River town springs to life in affectionate 'Dim Sum Parade'
By David Templeton
A truly good script only appears after a massive amount of hard work. Every playwright and screenwriter knows this. For Guerneville writer Scott Kersnar, it is doubly true; as it turns out, that proposed link between work and play (as in stage play) has proven to be accurate in more ways than one. His recently completed comedy-drama, Dim Sum Parade, not only required years of writerly effort, it was actually inspired in part by work, and also by the people he's met on various jobs in Guerneville over the last 30 years.
"For a long time, I wanted to write a play about life in a little riverside resort town, but my regular day work kept intruding," explains Kersnar, a longtime Guerneville resident and former English teacher, bartender, newspaper publisher, real estate agent, etc. "At some point, the idea came to me that my play could be about the jobs people do here in a town like Guerneville, the things they do to make money and the things they do to feel alive.
"The result was Dim Sum Parade."
It is, perhaps, a bit ironic that Kersnar went so long believing that his job was stealing away the time he'd prefer to use writing, since in the end he found inspiration in the very jobs that he and his fellow Guerneville residents spent their days engaged in. Ultimately, Dim Sum--an affectionate comedy-drama to be staged this month by Monte Rio's Pegasus Theater--is as much a piece about professional occupations as it is about Guerneville.
"It's true," Kersnar says, laughing. "Work is an important part of this show. I guess it is a little ironic, but I'm not complaining, because now I have a play, and I'm already at work on my next one."
The play is set primarily at the Cafe Rio, a fictional coffee shop owned by a "sometime writer" named Warner, whose wife is a local real estate agent. The Rio has a number of colorful regular customers, including Louise, the widowed local historian; Rhonda, an ex-soldier turned tattoo artist; and Sarah, described in the script as "a homeless shaman." The play takes place over the course of one day, the day a major town meeting is planned to discuss the possible installation of downtown public toilets.
According to Kersnar, the play is not intended as a send-up of true-life local characters, nor is it a fictionalization of any real person or true-to-life events. It is neither satire nor history. Dim Sum Parade, rather, has its roots in the colorful conversations that Kersnar has overheard and taken part in over the years in the cafes and bars he's worked in and the newsroom of the local newspaper.
"The way this play is constructed," Kersnar says, "has a lot to do with the way people talk to each other in coffee shops, the way that, in a small town like this, all the community issues get talked about--on and on and on. It's about relationships in a small town, the way that our jobs bring us together and sometimes drive us apart, and--in a big way--it's about the problems that come up when a married couple try to run a business together in a place like this."
Kersnar developed the play through a Saturday-morning writing workshop he attends twice a month. In 2004, he completed the script and staged a reading for 25 people. Not long after, he made the deal to have the show produced by Monte Rio's Pegasus Theater, a gutsy, high-energy company that has recently devoted itself to producing more new and original work.
According to Kersnar, the experience of mounting Dim Sum has been an energizing one, and he foresees creating a whole series of plays based on his observations of small-town life. He suspects that all of them will be set in Guerneville. "I'm going to stick to writing what I know," he laughs, "and after all these years here, Guerneville is what I know best."
Dim Sum Parade runs Friday-Saturday, Jan. 13-14 and 20-21, at 8pm. A free preview show is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 12, at 8pm. Pegasus Theater, 20347 Hwy. 116, Monte Rio. $12-$15. 707.522.9043.
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