By Judy Wakefield
---- — It has all the makings of a good script.
A playwright from Andover picks up the pen after a 35-year hiatus and finds a receptive audience still waiting for him.
It’s based on a true story, too. Just ask theater-goers in the 10 states where Ron Radice’s most recent work has been performed.
At 71, Radice, who put aside his playwriting for more than three decades to raise his family, is now watching his work delight audiences in New York and beyond.
“I stopped writing and you could say I’m back,” said the soft-spoken playwright, who has quietly flown under the radar for years.
His current project, the comic drama “To the Top,” has been on stage for its premiere run this month at the Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y.
The play is about two vagabonds who meet and become comrades at the foot of a mountain, which they eventually climb. As the pair ascends to the top of the mountain, they come upon a number of eccentric characters who inadvertently teach the duo about themselves and their friendship.
Radice said it’s a scenario that’s familiar for many people: You spend some time really thinking about relationships and you learn a lot.
The play was a finalist in Alleyway’s 2011 New Play competition. One reviewer called the script “very philosophical and funny,” proclaiming “this show should not be missed.”
The accolades are a bit of a time-gone-by part of the playwright’s life. By 1972, Radice already had three plays produced by the New York Theater Ensemble. He had taken courses in theater at Bard College and was living in Woodstock, N.Y. Then, he completely put down the pen.
“I got married, had four kids and knew I had to earn money to take care of my family,” said Radice, who has lived on Elm Street since 1990,
Radice turned to the high-tech world and a career in software development. While he flirted with writing at times during that period, he never got serious about it again until a filmmaker friend called looking for a short play that he had written many years earlier. That was 2006. It took months to find the piece, but Radice was glad he did. His friend made it into a short film.
The exercise awakened his writing passion and by 2007, Radice was back to writing every day.
Radice continues to write each day with no plans to stop. He works on his scripts wherever you can find him, including on planes, trains and at home, which he shares with wife Claire.
He said his ideas come to him when least expected. For example, an episode with a brick that was thrown through a window at his home years ago before he moved to Andover served as the basis for “Bricks,” which was produced in 2010. It won first place in a competition at the Heller Theatre in Tulsa, Okla.
“To the Top” is also built around a theme that’s relatable. The play closes out its run in Buffalo on Saturday.
“The characters are very well-conceived and will quickly draw the audience into caring about their relationship,” says director Neal Radice, who is not related to Ron Radice, and, in fact, pronounces his last name differently from the playwright.
“... I hope to stage and interpret the play in a way that lets audiences see the story as relevant to their own relationships.”
The playwright Radice typically sits in the audience when one of his works is being performed. He says the crowd’s reaction matters to him.
“I really enjoy being in the audience and seeing if they laugh — or if they don’t,” Radice said, chuckling. “I just hope the audience remembers me and goes to see (one of his plays). That’s what would be great for me.”
Ron Radice’s first play, “Pickpocket,” was produced in 1972 by the New York Theater Ensemble at the Performing Arts of Woodstock, N.Y.
“Won’t Happen Again” was accepted by the Great Plains Theatre Conference for a reading and received second place in the 77th annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Stage Play Script Category.
“Bricks” was produced in 2010 at the Heller Theatre in Tulsa, Okla., and took first prize in a competition there.
“The Wheelbarrow,” a short play, was written at an Arthur Kopit workshop in Kansas City, Mo., and has been produced in four theaters in four different states and has been published in a collection of short plays.
“The Climbing” received second place in the 79th annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Stage Play Script category, was a semifinalist in the 2011 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, was finalist in the 2011 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Completion with Alleyway Theater, where it was renamed “To the Top.”
“Lulu’s Last Ride” was in production at the Provincetown Theater in May 2012 and “Do Like Papa Says” was in production at the Playwrights Platform Festival in Boston in June 2012.