When Kelly DuMar closed her psychotherapy practice in 1995, the move triggered a recurring dream.
``There was this muse figure that kept appearing and telling me, `Well, you've already written all you will ever write in your whole life,' " she recalled. ``And I'd wake up thinking, `Well, what the heck does that mean?' "
The answer was quickly clear. DuMar, 47, of Sherborn, had decided on the career change to make time for her children and for writing plays. The muse was simply pointing her toward what has become her main resource -- the nearly 200 diaries she's filled over the past 34 years, DuMar said.
``It's a lot of raw material," she said. From her first crush to career anxieties to her children's first words, and from life-altering moments such as births and deaths to simple trips to the grocery store, it was all there. But more than serving as a strongbox for memories, the journals were packed with useful dialogue, anecdotes, observations, deliberations -- the stuff of life.
``In a way, the diaries almost exist as this map of where I'm going as a writer," she said. ``So, a lot of things spring from them."
For instance, her piece ``This Byte," which she said is about ``an adult couple, cyber sex, betrayal, and the tooth fairy," grew in part out of diary entries about her children's notes to the tooth fairy.
``Bloom," a 10-minute play about a mother helping her son prepare for his prom, had a similar start. ``Just one paragraph about a dream I recorded became the germ for that whole play," she said. ``That happens a lot."
It also seems to work. After closing her practice, DuMar wrote nonfiction, and in 2001, she published ``Before You Forget: The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children" (Red Pail Press). But once the book was out, she turned to play writing as planned. In the five years since, she has created two one-hour dramas, 10 short pieces and one full-length play. Her works have been featured in national festivals, and recognized with awards, and a few published.
DuMar will be one of six playwrights and filmmakers featured in the Hovey Summer Arts Festival in Waltham over the next two weekends. And, again, a diary plays a role in her piece. Only this time it's at the center of the plot.
In ``What We Save," high school lovers Corrie (Leigh Berry of Groveland) and Lance (Ted Batch of Somerville) meet at their 25th high school reunion, but with their spouses in tow. When Lance's wife plucks Corrie's old diary out of a dusty trunk, a long-kept secret is revealed.
``It's about expectation versus surprise . . . and it's about emotional consequences and how they play out over time," DuMar said. ``It has its comic moments, but there are some emotional conflicts at the center of this piece that really drive it."
The plot itself is not autobiographical, but Corrie's show-anchoring monologue, in which she reads the diary entry, draws from the teenage voice in DuMar's own early journals.
``The diaries take you through every age and stage of life lived," she said.
``You're writing always in the voice and the age and perspective that you are at."
But will she ever run out of journal material? Not likely. ``I keep four to five journals at a time. Two for myself, and one for each of my three children to record events in their lives. I'm writing more often than I'm not."
The festival will present two one-act plays and one or two short films in two alternating tracks of performances, with DuMar's work slated for tomorrow night and Aug. 5. Local playwrights also featured include John Shanahan of Framingham (``Bob's Date") and Philana Gnatowski of Lincoln (``The Halfway House Club") .
The Hovey Summer Arts Festival will run tomorrow and Saturday and Aug. 4 and 5 at the Abbott Memorial Theater, 9 Spring St. in Waltham. Admission is $15 for adults or $13 for seniors and students. Call 781-893-9171 or visit www.hoveyplayers.com.
IN THE SUITE OF THE NIGHT: Also on stage this weekend, the Sudbury Savoyards forgo their usual Gilbert and Sullivan obsession to put on their annual non musical summer show. This year, it is Neil Simon's ``California Suite," a comic flit through the emotional baggage that five sets of guests bring along with their suitcases for a stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Call it humor with guts. ``It really has the deepest, rawest of emotions in it, but it's still hilarious," said director Harriet Friedman of Waltham.
And the audience will be in the thick of it. ``As you walk into the ticket area, our set designers set it up so you're actually arriving in the lobby of the hotel. We have the front desk, the concierge desk, and the gift shop off the lounge," said coproducer Laurel Martin of Sudbury. ``Then you walk into the theater, and we've done it in the round, so you are actually sitting in the suite. You're smack dab in front of the action."
The play offers four vignettes that follow a mother trying to retrieve a runaway, a husband attempting to conceal the hooker in the bed, an actress in from London hoping to pick up an Oscar, and two couples from Chicago with a magnificent knack for bickering.
The early '70s setting was a challenge for the Savoyards, who have plenty of poofy Victorian dresses in their wardrobe but few leisure suits. They did, however, manage to turn up the right duds, including loud scarves and big-hoop earrings.
``Most of the props are from the '70s, too; even the Time magazine on the stage is from the right date," Martin said.
``California Suite" will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Hawes Hall in the Sudbury United Methodist Church at 251 Old Sudbury Road (Route 27) in Sudbury. Adults $13, seniors and students $10. Call 978-443-8811 or visit www.sudburysavoyards.org. All proceeds will be donated to world hunger relief.
SHE'S GOT A BRAND NEW KEY: An icon since the 1970s, folk singer Melanie has entered the blogosphere, and on Aug. 5 she'll be entering the firehouse at the Center for Arts in Natick for a show.
Though she skated to the top with her 1971 hit, ``Brand New Key," Melanie was more than a novelty act, and she's still out on the road proving it with her sweet but soulful, belt-it- to-the-rafters voice and smart songwriting.
Her busy concert schedule frequently takes her to Europe, and the set list mixes her hits with blues, jazz, and folk covers, and some new tunes, too.
Meanwhile, she's sharing her thoughts on her blog at melaniemusic.net about a variety of things, including her recent switch to a vegan diet and rock star stuff. It's a pretty good read, like this bit about trying to catch a break long before she wowed Woodstock:
``It was a different industry then. Without appointment or protocol, I sat right in with presidents and A&R heads and sang my songs. All of them passed on me without much comment, except for one. After I sang for him, he asked me where I was from. I told him . . . New Jersey. He said in earnest, . . . `What's your name? Melanie? Look, Melanie, you look like a nice girl. Why don't you go back to New Jersey, get married, and have a couple of kids.' . . . It turns out I did go back to New Jersey and got married and had three children, but not without singing at Woodstock, having several hit records, and embarking on my `brilliant career' first."
Melanie is to perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 5 at TCAN at 14 Summer St. in Natick. Adults $35, students and seniors $34. Call 508-647-0097 or visit www.natickarts.org.
COPYCAT CULTURE: Counterfeits in the art world have a fan club all their own. ``Copies and reinterpretations of famous works have been popular for a number of years," said Westboro Gallery founder Therese Bacharz of Shrewsbury. ``People all over the world are spending a lot of money for copies of masters' works."
So, members of the artist-run gallery in Westborough decided to give the sincerest form of flattery a try. ``The Master-Faux Show" features outright fakes, witty reinterpretations, and a few original riffs on the work of the greats.
Shrewsbury resident Joel Tro offers his take on sculptor Louise Nevelson , and Cindy Fedeli chips in with pieces styled after Van Gogh, Monet, and M.C. Escher.
``The Van Gogh is absolutely beautiful," Bacharz said. ``You have to see it."
Working a little more outside the lines was potter Carol Mecagni of Hopkinton, who created an abstract version of Joseph W.M. Turner's 1844 ``Peace -- Burial at Sea" on a clay plate.
Meanwhile, Jo Russavage of Westborough painted and stitched a version of Robert Rauschenberg's ``Yoicks" collage. And Mary Harrington of Westborough pieced together a gorgeous, color-rich photographic collage in a modern nod to Gustav Klimt.
Also up is the annual members' show, which runs through a range of media from serigraphs and hand-pulled giclee prints to sculpture, photography, ceramics, jewelry, and decorative tiles.
``The Master-Faux Show" and the ``Summer All-Members Show" both run through Aug. 20 at the Westboro Gallery, 8 West Main St. in Westborough. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Free. Call 508-870-0110 or visit www.westborogallery.com.
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