Playwright Charles Evered, who splits his time between Princeton and Los Angeles, says his new play, “Ten,” written for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, is short — 10 minutes, in fact — for a reason.
“This was written as a kind of closure dramatically for me in terms of the last decade. I get the train to Newark to take the plane to LA,” says Evered. “I think of all the goodbyes that must have been said (that day). I am also haunted by a strange and beautiful thing: the abandoned cars that were left at the station. Often it was a local police officer who drove them home.
It was those abandoned cars that gave Evered the idea for “Ten.” “It is not a political play,” he says. “It started with my wanting to write about my personal view.” It tells the story of a woman, Flora, who waits at the train station every day for 10 years after 9/11, for her husband to get off the 7:38. She is convinced perhaps he has amnesia and will indeed return. The last thing he said to her, in a phone call before the towers fell was, “It’s going to be alright, I’m going to get out, Flora, just wait for me at the station.” A local police officer confronts her on the 10th anniversary, saying, in essence, it’s time to move on.
“Train stations themselves,” says Evered, “have become memorials, because for a lot of people it is the last time they saw their loved ones. The officer in the play drove Flora’s husband’s car home and met her. The officer and Flora grew up together. He’d known her since kindergarten. She’d met and married a high-powered guy in New York, and he’s the local cop who always looked at her from afar. There’s this meeting 10 years later, but he says, ‘this isn’t about me or my feelings for you; I want you to move on with your life.’”
A staged reading of “Ten” takes place on Saturday, September 10, at 4:30 p.m., in the Solley Theater at the Arts Council of Princeton. The role of Flora will be read by Evered’s wife, actress Wendy Rolfe Evered. Doug, the police officer, will be read by Kevin O’Sullivan, and stage directions will be read by Michele Ferentinos.
The number 10 is significant in the play for a number of reasons, not just its title. It takes place on the 10th anniversary of the attacks; it is the husband’s parking space number; and it is Flora’s street address. “It’s convinced her that there is something about that day that will bring her husband back. In her mind, she’s been able to construct this reality, and she has gone every day, Monday to Friday, to meet the 7:38. And the town knows about it, and no one says anything. But on this day, the cop, Doug, says, ‘This is enough.’ It’s an intense little situation based on real life situations: train stations, parking lots, and last calls made.”
Evered was first profiled in the December 13, 2006, issue of U.S. 1, prior to a staged reading of “Adopt a Sailor,” written after the first anniversary of the attacks, when a number of playwrights (including Christopher Durang and John Guare) were asked to write one-minute plays to commemorate 9/11. They were performed at Town Hall in New York City. “Adopt a Sailor” led to a full-length play, and a film starring Princeton native Bebe Neuwirth.
Evered grew up in Rutherford, the youngest of five. His father, a World War II veteran, was a businessman who sold field warehousing out of an office in New York. His mother was a homemaker and later wrote for the South Bergenite. Evered graduated from Rutger-Newark in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in English, then earned an MFA in playwriting in 1991 at Yale School of Drama. He has written screenplays for DreamWorks, Universal, and Paramount, as well as a double episode for the television series “Monk.” He just directed a new film, “A Thousand Cuts,” starring Michael O’Keefe, which is currently being submitted to film festivals. He and his wife have two children, John, 10, and Margaret, 12.
Evered says “Ten” is meaningful to everyone, not just those who lost someone on 9/11. “When my wife read it, she said, ‘this is a play about loss, and moving on. Gradually we have seen a diminishment of ceremony. It’s sad in some ways, and it’s healthy in some ways.”
Evered, who lost both his parents when he was young, one brother last year to cancer, and has another brother who is about to go into hospice, says “loss for me is constant. Flora goes to the station in a last attempt at some magic, some miracle. It doesn’t happen literally, but she finds something in this friend Doug that breaks that cycle of mourning. We all can’t escape loss and it wil always be with us, and it is what makes life so beautiful. You have to look at the people you’re with and say, this is a good day. People think I make a lot of money in show biz, but I don’t. My riches come in other forms, because I have more time to spend with my kids — that’s the bank I’m making deposits in.
“The end of the script is hopeful, and it’s about moving on and finding another direction in your life, about saying ‘I need to take a step forward.’ It’s so specific to this time.”
“Ten,” Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street. Saturday, September 10, 4:30 p.m. Premiere dramatic reading of a short play by Charles Evered of Princeton. Free. 609-924-8777 or www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.