In 2011, "Harmony Romances" by Old Fort playwright Ron Hill premiered at Genoa Civic Theatre. This weekend, the show is to be staged by Playmakers Civic Theatre in Port Clinton. What's more, Hill is appearing in the show as one of the characters.
Performances are at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday and May 16-18. A matinee is planned for 2 p.m. May 19.
The characters in "Harmony Romances" first appeared in one of Hill's earlier plays, "Ladies of Harmony." That comedy centered around six elderly women of Harmony Church preparing a funeral dinner for a member of the congregation.
"In this one, I had to do away with two of them, because I added four characters, and the cast was getting too big," Hill said.
For the sequel, Hill added the pastor, his new wife, the church janitor and Howard, Leah's groom-to-be. Leah is the "Ladies" character who is unmarried and sour on the male gender. In "Romances," she has hooked up online with "the love of her life" after years apart.
Hill is playing the role of Russell, the janitor, who is mentioned in "Ladies" but never appears. After Howard finally arrives and is introduced, he keeps disappearing. Leah's friends worry he is experiencing cold feet and will desert Leah.
Eventually, the real reason for his distress is revealed and the wedding goes forward.
"I wanted to write the sequel in such a way that it would stand on its own, that you could enjoy one without having seen the other," Hill said.
The playwright admitted the real-life women of Old Fort Church inspired both stories. "Ladies of Harmony" is actually dedicated to them, but the characters do not represent any real people. In creating characters, Hill said he may collect characteristics from multiple people and combine them, or he may exaggerate character traits or behaviors to make them more humorous or dramatic.
He said one actual conversation did become part of the script virtually unchanged.
"There's an element of truth and a real person in everything, and I take it one step further - several steps, perhaps," Hill said.
Now that his works are being widely performed, Hill likes to keep track of the performances and even attend those that are not too far away. He has seen his shows done at a high school in Princeville, Ill., and in many community theaters in Ohio. Churches in Noonan, Ga., Picayune, Miss., and Gettysburg, Ohio, recently did "Ladies of Harmony."
Hill has developed a fourth script called "Gone Fishin'" which Genoa is to perform this fall as readers' theater. The audiences will be asked to give suggestions for improving the play. A fifth play is floating around in Hill's imagination.
"It looks as though it's going to be a play within a play. A man comes home from the theater complaining about such a lousy production, and his wife challenges him to do better. So he starts to write a play. As he's writing, the characters keep coming onto the stage, but they don't interact with the playwright and his wife," Hill said.
"Harmony Romances" incorporates monologues delivered straight to the audience.
"I like to set up different things for myself and challenge myself," Hill said.