San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

The Warriors’ Duet–An Interview with Charlene Baldridge

on October 16, 2013

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Tell us about yourself.

I am Charlene Baldridge, poet and writer, born in Evanston, IL, in 1934.

All my life I’ve been a writer. After a stultifying career in banking, and a sometime career as a classical singer, I began writing for newspapers and magazines in the late ‘70s, then spent 14 years in theatre administration. Then I quit my administrative job to do a one-woman show I’d written. This was 1995. When that fell though, I said what-the-heck-wasn’t-meant-to-be, and returned to freelancing. I had retirement funds, which I spent while writing poetry, traveling, sitting in coffee shops, and trying to figure out who the heck I was, an independent woman at 62. I wrote for Copley News Service about everything from depression to sex and the senior citizen and eventually was able to earn enough writing just about the arts. Copley went south soon afterwards, along with most of freelance journalism gigs, but I had a specialty and an excellent reputation.

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Laura Jeanne Morefield and Charlene Baldridge

 What is your project?

My journalistic partner and confidante was my own daughter, Laura Jeanne Morefield (Oct. 8, 1960-July 17, 2011). After some rough times when I was in my late 50s and she in her 30s, she and I became very close, traveling together each year, checking in almost daily with dreams, poems and other endeavors, and even sharing some creative friends. She, too, had had a stultifying career in banking, then returned to college, got her degree, and became a fulltime writer of poetry and creative prose, a novel and film scripts mostly. Though getting published was not important to her, she wrote a radical political column in her community’s conservative newspaper. I was always surprised she survived that.

Then after her brother died, Laura and I shared 10 or more years of cultural travel. She received a fatal diagnosis of stage four colon cancer in 2008. She fought for three years and died July 17, 2011. Impossible, it seemed, my life without her. I looked for her everywhere. She was right there on the page before me. Fortunately, she left me an assignment, to collect and edit her post-diagnosis poetry, which she thought her best. I titled the book The Warrior’s Stance, and when the manuscript was sent to a national chapbook contest, it received glowing comments from the publisher, did not win, but placed in the top 13. Then Dan Morefield decided to self-publish the book. Just when the manuscript was completed, Laura came to me in a dream and asked “What next, Miss Mommy?” The what-next became a play titled The Warriors’ Duet. Now, I would have my say in this two-hander, envisioned as a music stand reading for two women of certain ages.

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What happened to the project?

I showed whatever it was I’d written to Claudio Raygoza and Glenn Paris, creative friends and admirers of Laura’s literary oeuvre. In May 2012 Claudio directed a staged reading at ion theatre with two Equity women, Karson St. John as Laura and Linda Libby as Mom – the ones I chose! It was a full house and we had a talkback afterwards with a grief therapist, just in case anyone needed a professional. No one did. Many wanted the play to be longer, knew exactly how it could be done, and, I suspected, wanted to adapt it for their own institutional needs; and others, including Claudio and Glenn, wanted me to preserve its integrity.

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Justin Warren Martin’s poster art

What was your plan to get your play produced?

I sent the script to everyone I could think of nationally and locally, garnering many suggestions and much admiration for the work’s clarity and literary merit. Katherine Harroff of Circle Circle dot dot phoned and asked if she could pair it with a script she was going to write about her mother. Then she called and said she wanted to put it into the inaugural, 2013 San Diego Fringe Festival. The Warriors’ Duet played three sold out Fringe performances at the Cabaret Theatre at 10th Avenue Theatre and received an award for best percentage of capacity sales. Due to the numbers of people turned away, Circle Circle remounted the play in September 2013, again co-directed by Katie and choreographer Anne Gehman, this time four performances at Liberty Station’s White Box Theatre. The work, which had five dancers and two actors, sold very well and was a huge success artistically. I sold Laura’s book after performances and have already had many re-orders.

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Samantha Ginn and Kathi Copeland in Circle Circle dot dot production of The Warriors’ Duet

What is your goal now?

My goals now are several and I am working on bringing each about. I would like to see the theatre work performed as originally intended, utilizing major actors such as A. R. Gurney did with Love Letters. I would like to see it in play festivals. I would like it to be produced by LORT B theatres nationwide. Because of its minimal staging it would be economical to produce. And I would like it used as fundraiser for the helping fields, grief counseling, colon cancer research, etc. Both play and book have already attracted much attention in these areas.

There are other factors that support the play. Proceeds of book sales go entirely to Colon Cancer Alliance in Washington, D.C. Laura’s chapbook is attractive, upbeat and profound. There is a major event in the offing, too. Two months before she died, Laura sent her ten “favorite poems” to American composer Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick), who has set my poetry since 2004. Jake is setting Laura’s poem, “The Work at Hand,” into a concerto for soprano, cello and orchestra, to be premiered in November 2014 by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. As long as I can move, I am available to talk about this woman so beloved and such a warrior. It’s a powerful, inspiring story that has already changed lives.

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2 responses to “The Warriors’ Duet–An Interview with Charlene Baldridge

  1. Ree Miller says:

    Kudos to you for all that you are doing for Laura.
    Love,
    Ree Miller

    • Greg Santilli says:

      Awesome Charlene! Major kudos to you for what you are doing! As you know, I think the world of Laura! She was, and continues to be an inspiration!

      God bless!
      Greg Santilli

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