The other day, in going through boxes of my notes, I found one of my sketches for the set design of “Beyond The North Star.”
To Build A Set
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In the dawn of 1988, I began converting a story that I had written about my grandfather, Watson Mabey, into a stage play. The story was originally titled, “Two Brothers” and ran as a serial in the Lincoln Park Journal. The story was a weekly installment in LPJ and ran for about a year. I am proud to say that “Two Brothers” did receive positive feedback from many of the good residents of my old hometown of Lincoln Park.
My original story, “Two Brothers” was the story of the coming of age of my grandfather, Watson Mabey, and his brother, Earl Mabey. It ran as a serial each week in the pages of the old Lincoln Park Journal.
It was in the beginning of 1988 that I began working in the Public Relations Department of Amalgamated Consolidated. I changed the name of the company, so that I don’t get sued. I really did like my job, but I found it took me away from writing my stage play. So, what I did was to brown bag my lunch every day. I would eat at my desk, during my lunch hour and work on my stage play.
Every day, working at Amalgamated Consolidated, I would eat at my desk during my lunch hour and work on writing my stage play. I kept my lunch in the big, lower right hand drawer of my desk.
I kept my lunch simple. Every morning, before going to work, I would make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my lunch. I would also pack a couple of oatmeal cookies and an apple in my little brown paper bag. I would have a cup of hot tea with my lunch. I learned to accomplish a lot in a little bit of time, in working on my play, during my lunch hour. I learned the value of time, first hand.
A simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich was the mainstay of my workday lunch. Eating at my desk meant I could spend the time of my lunch hour, working on my stage play. Plus, I saved a lot of money by not buying my lunch in the big company cafeteria.
Just the other day, I found some of the very notes that I had written during my lunch hours at Amalgamated Consolidated. What amazed me, is the amount of detail to being true and honest that I put into the script. Beside writing the script, I would also sketch out plans for the design of the stage set of my play.
This is one of the very pages from my notebook that I worked on during my lunch hours at Amalgamated. What amazed me, seeing my notes all these years later, is that I was very detailed oriented. Also, I was very true to the core truth of my family’s history.
What amazed me, so much, is that I really did work hard to be true to my family history. This was particularly the case in regard to designing the set to be true to the old Mabey Homestead.
I found a photo of the stage set of the living room of the old Mabey Homestead. Then, I happened to find a photo of the Mabey Homestead living room as it looked for real.
The living room of the old Mabey Homestead as it was presented in the stage play, “Beyond The North Star.”
This is a picture of the living room of the Mabey Homestead, circa 1990. Obviously the photo was taken Christmas time.
If you look at the two pictures, you’ll see the center window. That window looked out to the western side yard of the old Mabey Homestead. Then, to your right, you’ll see a doorway. I had forgotten how hard I worked to be true to the layout of the old Mabey Homestead, in designing and building the set.
In the left hand corner of the photo of the real living room of the old Mabey Homestead, you’ll see a rocking chair with a colorful afghan on the back of the chair. This was the very corner where my great grandfather, William Mabey, sat on his old rocking chair. If you look at the photo of the stage set of the living room of the old Mabey Homestead, you’ll note the actor, Mark Selz, on your far left hand side reading the newspaper. Mark portrayed my great grandfather in the stage play.
As a side note, Mark Selz did an incredible performance in portraying my great grandfather, William Mabey. I consider myself very fortunate to have had such a talented actor take on the role of my great grandfather.
In regards to the detail of the set, I remember that my Grandpa told me that they kept the victrola beneath the big window that looked out to the side yard. I had forgotten that I took the time to pay attention to those small details, when designing the set for my play.
I started writing the story of “Two Brothers” when I was in seventh grade. I was under doctor’s orders, at the time, to have strict bed rest as I battled a serious case of rheumatic fever. I stayed true to the story. I never gave up. In 1987, for just about one full year, the story ran as a regular weekly feature of the old Lincoln Park Journal. In June of 1989, the story premiered as a stage play.
This week, I learned a valuable lesson from the ghost of my younger self. And that lesson is to never give up on a dream. Never, ever give up on a dream. No matter how difficult it seems. No matter how impossible it looks. Never, never, never give up on your dream!