A man's age represents a fine cargo of experience and memories.
This quote from French writer, poet and aristocrat Antoine de Saint-Exupery aptly inspired Keith E. Enloe's title for a collection of short plays, "A Fine Cargo," which will premiere Wednesday at Scene One Theatre in Jefferson City.
"When Mark (Wegman, founder, president and artistic director of Scene One Theatre) asked me to put together an evening of original work, I realized each one of these plays had a central character that was an older, aging male at different stages in their life," he said.
These scripts were not ones Enloe came up with specifically for this theatrical showcase. In fact, they were written over the course of about 10 years, initially inspired by using Scene One Theatre's popular Short Attention Span Theater theme prompts such as "picnic table" or "shoes," with one play, "Cane Rocker," debuting in the first Short Attention Span Theater at Scene One.
"The other three were all written for Short Attention Span but never produced," he said, noting those range 20-35 minutes in length.
"Cane Rocker" stars Enloe and Chris Kennison as old farmer friends sitting on a porch and reminiscing. Enloe based his character on his grandfather, infusing the stories he told, the language he used and his colloquialisms into the play.
A legendary coach getting ready to retire, played by Tim Duggan, is revisited by a former student and now journalist, played by Patrick Pollock, who wants to write about his retirement in "The Old Green Dog." Older generation also meets younger generation in "Trash Talk," when an old man forced into retirement spends his days picking up trash at the park and runs into a young Boy Scout working to get his Eagle Scout rank.
"The old man thinks he knows the younger generation, and the young man proves him wrong," Enloe said. "This play also all happens around a checkerboard."
With the largest cast, "Bygone Days" follows three retired silver screen actors from the glory days of Hollywood — played by Dick Dalton, Warren Krech and Jack Renner — who now live in a retirement home.
"They are reminiscing about their working days, relationships, etc. There is a lot of humor, conflict and a surprise twist in this one," Enloe said, noting Tammy Acosta also plays the men's nurse in this play. "They say, 'Write what you know.' I pull from personal experience, memories, characters I have known in my life."
Enloe is directing "Bygone Days," but three other individuals are directing the other plays in this collection. Jeff Lockwood is directing "Cane Rocker," Courtney Lecure is directing "Trash Talk," and teenage director Hannah Dolan is overseeing "The Old Green Dog."
"It is interesting to turn your work over to someone else, and it is really kind of tough. But I found it invigorating to let someone else interpret my work," he said. "I have stayed hands-off. People have a different vision, and sometimes it is even better than what I could have imagined when I wrote it. It has been a very rewarding experience."
With fine actors, directors and settings in "A Fine Cargo," Enloe knows the audiences are in for a humorous, heartfelt and relatable treat, as well as a surprise or two.
"Being that Scene One is a small black box theater, we come up with some creative stuff as far as staging. There is a unique surprise for the audience when it comes to this, and I think they will enjoy it," he said.
"A Fine Cargo," has adult language and content and is intended for mature audiences. The production starts at 7 p.m. May 2-4 and May 10-12 at Scene One Theatre, 619 E. Capitol Ave. Tickets are $8 on opening night and $15 for the remaining performances.
For more information, call 573-635-6713, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sceneonetheatre.com.
Correction: Jack Renner's last name was misspelled in the original version of this article. The error has since been corrected in the text above.