For Eric Fraisher Hayes, the artistic director of Danville's Role Players Ensemble, the past several months have been filled with surprises small and large as he continues his research and writing of a play commemorating the May 7, 1964, crash of Pacific Airlines Flight 773 into the hills above Danville.
All 44 aboard were killed. The crash site marked not only the site of a tragedy, but of a crime. In an instant, sleepy Danville became the center of unprecedented national attention.
Hayes, who grew up in Danville, felt a hometown kinship to the crash, caused when the pilot and co-pilot were shot to death by a despondent passenger. But the link became even closer when his mother mentioned she'd gone to school with one of the passengers.
He was also shocked by how apparently easy it was for the shooter to bring a pistol on board, and how odd it seemed that the hallways of the airport, leading to the departure gate, were lined by insurance machines, and, how many people took advantage of the service.
Those small and large surprises will go public at 7 p.m. May 7, when "Tassajara '64," Hayes' 50th-anniversary tribute to the tragedy, gets a public reading at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, 205 Railroad Ave. in Danville.
"Aside from scenes and a few 10-minute plays, this is the first play -- full-length play -- I've ever written," said Hayes. The reading is to present his work to the community on the anniversary of the tragedy and to get some idea of how the show works for an audience seeing it for the first time.
"It's a difficult story to tell, since there are so many threads to it, from the crash itself to the Village Theatre site, where we perform, being used as a makeshift morgue after the crash."
On the other hand, writing a play about a local historical event that happened on a specific day, gave Hayes something of a solid deadline to shoot for in completing the work. Still, he adds, there is still much to be done before he can call the show complete. What the reading will do is help him get the idea of how the structure works and what he might be able to do with the structure to make the content clearer.
The major part of the story is what happens when a huge tragedy happens in a small town, which is exactly what transpired that day 50 years ago, when Pacific Airlines Flight 773, a "Fun Flight" returning from Reno, brought tragedy to what was then a small, rural town.
"The play is a drama, a thriller, a history lesson and a tribute to the many lives changed that day," said Hayes.
Tickets to the performance in the museum cost $20 at the door or at www.RolePlayersEnsemble.com. The production is presented in partnership with the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and the Danville Library.
at the firehouse: Meredith Willson's affectionate look at small-town, USA, at the beginning of the 20th century, tells the story of when silver-tongued traveling salesman, Harold Hill, pays a visit to River City, Iowa, to sell parents on the notion of putting together a boys' band.
What he's really selling are instruments, uniforms and music, but what he's pushing is the image of Jimmy Jr., marching down Main Street tooting the brass and dressed, for all the world, like a drum major. It's a con he's run successfully throughout the Midwest, and probably could have pulled it off if he hadn't fallen for Marian, a lovely young woman bent on seeing the professor behind bars until she fell for him.
There are some, including this gent tickling the plastics here, who believe "The Music Man," opening May 2 at the Firehouse Arts Center, is one of the best-ever musical comedies.
The show won the Tony Award and New York Critics Award as Best Musical for its original 1958 Broadway production. The original Broadway production was nominated for an additional three Tony Awards, including Best Director, Best Choreography, and Best Featured Actor in a Musical. The 2000 revival was nominated for eight Tonys.
This Pacific Coast Repertory Theater Company production should be a treat. The group has performed enough in the unusual theater space to make every corner play beautifully. And the small-town feel of downtown Pleasanton will add the proper atmosphere to a show that cannot be seen too many times.
The show will run at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays from May 2 to May 18. The theater is at 4444 Railroad Ave. in Pleasanton. Tickets are $17 to $38 each and are available at the Firehouse Arts Center Box Office, at www.pcrtproductions.org, www.firehousearts.org or 925-931-4848.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.