PACIFIC GROVE playwright Carol Marquart dramatizes historic figures from California’s past, ranging from Mark Twain to Bette Davis.
It’s a unique genre in local theater, but a lively interest in history combined with a theatrical background that has included acting at Western Stage and Magic Circle and makes Marquart a logical and enthusiastic choice for the job.
She’s written and directed The Life and Times of William Randolph Hearst at the Phoebe Hearst Social Hall at Asilomar, The Rise and Decline of J. Paul Getty at the Pacific Grove Art Center, and most recently Mark Twain and the Wild Wild West 1863-1868 at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.
“But almost all my plays, including the one about Mabel Dodge Luhan,” she told me last week, “have had their first performances at the MPC Gentrain Society Wednesday Lectures. The material is educational, and that’s what Gentrain is all about.
”The lecture forum there works for me too because their PowerPoint technology means I can show historical slides as the play is being read. I write about real American people who have lived their lives in the early 20th century. Revolutionary thinkers, financial geniuses, people with creative vision. What could be more exciting than that?
“Also, I think we are in an electrically charged political present, in danger of losing our American past.”
The Bette Davis piece differed in being offered at an established local theater. It was part of the ongoing Western Stage Legacy Theatre program for senior actors. It also offered several different actresses depicting the movie diva at various stages of her career. “But my plays tend to be staged in non-theatrical settings because I don’t have much of a budget and I’m not much of a collaborator,” she says. “I like writing my own scripts but I don’t think I’m very good at directing. So most of my staged readings have one or two rehearsals and that’s about it.”
Her dramatic histories have attracted local actors as experienced and acclaimed as Rollie Dick, Teresa Del Piero, Michael Lojkovic and Pat Horsley, a fact Carol attributes in part to the readers’ theater format. “There are some great dramatic actors out there who love these meaty challenging roles. And they like it all the more when they don’t have to memorize lines and go through weeks of rehearsal. The public seem to like the format as well.”
Carol’s next project moves out of the early California scene and homes in on a major Midwestern literary figure in An Interview with Kurt Vonnegut.
She is energetic and committed to her research and her writing, but she frankly admits that “when I get tired, I’ll stop.”