Glory can come slowly in the theater.
A play Ken Levine, once of Los Angeles, now Philadelphia, wrote some 15 years ago is getting its first production in Brooklyn.
Not that he didn’t try. Levine submitted the work to director-producer Garry Marshall, who had his own LA theater, and learned he had made a “rookie mistake.” Marshall’s reaction: “It’s very funny, but there are too many people.”
Levine learned his lesson. He now writes no more than four characters into any play, and his second work was a two-hander.
He also persevered, writing “a lot of” 10-minute plays he submitted to various festivals, like “The Hook-Up,” and full-length plays. One of the latter, “Our Time,” is receiving a staged reading at Best Medicine Rep, a non-profit theater that specializes in new comedies.
Set in 1975 LA, “Our Time” is about breaking into the world of comedy during a golden era for comedy. Four young Baby Boomers come of age and try to find their place in this new world — beset by “levels of talent, degrees of desire, jealousy, confusion, competition, the sexual revolution, rental pressure, ego, insecurity, religion, discrimination, luck, struggle, and decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Who will make it, and who won’t?” explained Levine.
The playwright knew that world well. A director and producer as well as writer, he has worked on a number of television series, including “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers” — for which he shared Outstanding Comedy Series honors at the 35th Primetime Emmy Awards — “Frasier,” “The Simpsons,” and others at a time shows like “Saturday Night Live” were launching.
“Our Time” is loosely autobiographical.
“I lived within walking distance of people like Jay Leno and Richard Pryor in the dying days of AM radio,” Levine said. “It was a much-more hopeful and inspiring time.”
Now the writer is mostly devoted to creating plays — mostly comedies. He’s also been a play-by-play commentator for Major League Baseball games, including of the Baltimore Orioles.
Catherine Aselford, who is directing Levine’s staged reading, has also directed works by John Morogiello, president and artistic director of Best Medicine Rep, in a few venues as well as other staged readings at his theater. She is artistic director of Guillotine Theatre in Northern Virginia.
Aselford was a bit “late” in discovering a love for theater, though her musician father entered the field.
“When I was about 10, I became interested in witches, and then “Macbeth” — and realized theater isn’t just ‘Dames at Sea,’ she said. “Although now I like ‘Dames at Sea.”
Obtaining a degree in directing at Catholic University, she realized while working theater that the directors, cast, production values, etc., could be fine, but the scripts might not be.
“So I developed an interest in scripts and plays,” said Aselford.
“Usually with staged readings the directors don’t choose the scripts — they’re asked about their availability on a certain date and about the number of characters.”
After accepting this gig, she read Levine’s script, and said she “really liked it.”
“It’s an excellent farce, really well structured, and resolves satisfactorily,” she added. “Then when I found out he was a sit-com writer, it made sense,” Aselford said. “Each moment made sense and was enjoyable.
She also liked the characters, despite an initial concern the gay character would be “a bit stereotypical. But I had gay friends in my early-teens, and knew it was accurate.”
Admission is free at the reading, which is part of Best Medicine Rep’s reading series, on Sunday, Jan. 6, at 2:30 p.m. The theater space is located on the second floor of the Lakeforest Mall (701 Russell Avenue,) Gaithersburg. Easiest access is via the Green Flower entrance. www.bestmedicinerep.org.