The Making of The Boatwright

A man with a half-baked idea and years of dead-end work under his belt is what led to the award winning production of “The Boatwright” by Bo Wilson.

On stage at the Firehouse Theater, 1609 W. Broad St., the show is making its regional premiere as part of Wilson’s yearlong residency at the theater. “The Boatwright” expresses a common desire to “sail away to a quieter place” away from the hustle and bustle world we live in.

I had been involved in some very entertaining but not very fruitful work with a good friend, trying unsuccessfully to hammer out a TV pilot, and the work stretched into years,” Wilson said.

“At some point I thought, with a bit of a smile, that we resembled a couple of Minnesota bachelor farmers, passing the winter building something absurd in our barn while we waited for the ground to thaw so that we could get back to being truly productive.”

This idea grew in Wilson’s head as he wondered what those two people might be building, who might they be and why would their venture be interesting? From there, the play culminated into what it is today: two men of different generations fighting their own demons — all the while building a boat.

Ben Callaway, one of the two characters in the show, is a fatherly figure. He holds his own views in high esteem and seizes any opportunity to give a life lesson. Despite his demanding demeanor, as his past and his motivations behind building a boat are revealed, his image softens.

Jamie Watson, the second of the men, is a college-aged aspiring film-maker. His endless persistence in his work drives Callaway mad, but working together has benefits for both of them. Watson’s demons are ones that plague many college students; in perspective of Callaway’s internal struggles, Watson’s character sheds light on similarities among people who may seem totally opposite.

Having these characters and plot in his head, Wilson said he had a lot of work ahead of him.

“It’s a great joy to see people of different imaginations and perspectives take the words which once lived only between my mind and the page, and to add designs and costumes and lights and sound and scenery and fully fleshed characters and to emerge as a finished production,” Wilson said.

The idea was there, but knowing problems would pop-up along the way is just part of the business. “There are certainly surprises, and one must occasionally adjust one’s thinking to the necessities of a particular circumstance, but this isn’t a job for the inflexible,” said Wilson.

“I’ve seen four casts perform this play, and each has been different in wonderful and interesting ways.  It’s a bad idea to operate on the assumption that there’s only one correct production.”
On stage at the Firehouse Theater, 1609 W. Broad St., the show is making its regional premiere as part of Wilson’s yearlong residency at the theater. “The Boatwright” expresses a common desire to “sail away to a quieter place” away from the hustle and bustle world we live in. The show will continue until Saturday, March 4. Tickets can be purchased at firehoustheater.org or by calling the theater at (804)-355-2001.


Emma Sue Sims, Contributing Writer

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