By Dedra Cordle
There have been many budding artists who have drawn inspiration from American playwright Arthur Miller, including Grove City’s own George T. Reed.
When he has been reading and enjoying Miller’s work for close to a decade, the 22-year-old says it was an attributed quote that really pierced his heart.
“He once said ‘The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing himself, always,’” said Reed. “And that statement really resonated with me because it is so difficult to put yourself out there, to open up and be vulnerable in front of others, especially a live audience.”
But that is exactly what the 2018 graduate of Grove City High School did recently, taking the biggest gamble of his developing career in the world of entertainment.
It was earlier this year when Reed, then a junior at the Bethel Conservatory of the Arts in Redding Calif., learned that the head of the department wanted to present an adaptation of “The Crucible” for the conservatory’s winter production.
Being the fan of Miller’s that he is, one might think Reed would be ecstatic about the selection, willing and eager to act in one of his most emotionally complex plays.
He was not.
“I love Arthur Miller but do not like “The Crucible,” said Reed. “It is so incredibly dark and depressing and it is not something I think most people would want to see around Christmastime.”
Drawing up a bit of courage, Reed proposed an alternative to Dean Fabiano Altamura.
“I pitched the idea of writing an original piece for our winter production,” he said. “I asked for two weeks, two weeks to put together a sample of ideas down on paper.”
At this point in his life, Reed had largely moved away from writing scripts and plays, focusing more on acting as his field of study. Thinking back, he said he wasn’t exactly sure what prompted him to take this chance, but he said he almost felt called to do it.
“To my name, I have a bunch of skits I wrote for the school news station and a play that never saw the light of day,” Reed said. “I’m here at this conservatory for acting but I just felt like this was something I could do.”
After collaborating with classmates, using their dream roles as starting points, Reed began to craft an ensemble piece for a murder mystery at the holidays. When presented with the initial draft, the reception was, well, a bit muted.
“Dean Altamura liked it, but he had his heart set on “The Crucible,” said Reed. However, those plans were later changed, paving the way for Reed to present his original piece, “A Deadly Holiday,” to the public.
With the assistance of director Amy Hildebrandt, Reed made revisions to his creation, pulling more from his experiences with life, loss, and love.
“I was in a really vulnerable place then, having just had a falling out with a young lady,” he said. “I had a lot to say about love then, how it is like a mystery.”
In putting those thoughts, those vulnerabilities to page, “A Deadly Holiday” transformed from a straight-forward murder-mystery into a 1940s murder-mystery rom-com with a touch of festive spirit.
“We didn’t want too dark or depressing this time,” he said. “We wanted something that had intrigue but also a lot of comedy and warmth.”
When opening night came around earlier this December, Reed was a bundle of nerves. Not only were people going to sit down and watch his creation, but they were also going to watch him acting out his creation.
“I was cast as one of the slightly bumbling amateur sleuths who try to solve the murder-mystery,” he said. “It created an interesting dynamic, especially since part of myself is in this character, so I was full of excitement and embarrassment whenever we hosted a performance.”
In the end, Reed said putting himself out there, taking that risk by showing vulnerabilities, was worth every moment of private insecurity.
“I had one man come up to me after the show and tell me it made him want to go home and dance with his wife,” he said. “That is all I want to do with my work, to make the audience cry and laugh and feel inspired – even if it comes at the expense of my personal embarrassment.”
The Bethel Conservatory of the Arts’ production of “A Deadly Holiday” has completed its two-week run, but on-demand screenings were launched on Dec. 21. From now until Jan. 3, tickets to George T. Reed’s play can be purchased at http://www.onthestage.tickets/show/bethel-conservatory-of-the-arts-visible-music-college/a-deadly-holiday-on-demand-5207.
Reed, who will graduate this spring, can be seen in the conservatory’s upcoming spring production of “The Crucible.”