A Drama That Snowballs

With Strange Snow, FST simultaneously kicks off its 1996-97 season and inaugurates its elegant new home at the Biltmore Hotel. Every chair in the comfortable 154-seat house provides a good view of the stage, and the spacious rows make it possible to find your place without tripping over already-seated audience members or imploring them to stand.

According to Cejas, he mounted Strange Snow eight years ago when he was artistic director of ACME Acting Company, with Baldwin and De Leo in the same roles. That short run was really "a long dress rehearsal," he noted recently. "We looked forward to the time when we could get it right." Now they have. Bravo to them for producing an exceptional evening of theater that should not be missed.

Stage Whispers
Two years ago, at the age of 26, Marc Mendelson took his own life, having suffered from bipolar disorder (a condition until recently called manic-depressive illness) since childhood. While he was growing up his mother, local playwright, producer, and actress Carrol Mendelson, wrote a short story about her son's emotional struggles. "Writing 'Imperfect Seed' was a catharsis for me because I was in so much pain watching this child that I loved, who was also in pain," explains Mendelson, who has since created a production company named Marc Productions Inc., in memory of Marc.

After her son died, Mendelson met local playwright and screenwriter Manny Diez through mutual friends. Moved by Mendelson's situation, Diez began collaborating with her on a dramatic version of her short story. At the suggestion of local director Joseph Adler, who saw a draft of Imperfect Seed, Mendelson expanded the focus of the work. The first act now details Mendelson's tale; the second act introduces members of a support group for friends and family of people who committed suicide. "Manny and I conceived of the play as my story," says Mendelson. "Then Joseph suggested opening it up. It's been an amazing collaboration. We deal with what to look for [in friends or relatives who may be suicidal], awareness, what happens to survivors afterward."

This weekend Mendelson will see her work presented on-stage at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center. Imperfect Seed runs for two performances (October 12 and 13) to benefit the American Suicide Foundation-University of Miami Lifesavers "Teen Screen" Program. The pilot program is currently being implemented in select schools to screen teenagers for mood disorders, abnormal anxiety, alcohol or other substance abuse, and other health problems, in an effort to prevent these problems from leading to suicide.

Mendelson is grateful for the outlet of her writing, her stage work, and her affiliation with the American Suicide Foundation. "Participating in both the theater and the foundation has helped me come to terms with Marc's death and to try to find an answer to an otherwise horrific situation. Part of the answer for me has been helping other people understand this problem."

For information on the show, see "Calendar Listings."

Strange Snow.
Written by Stephen Metcalfe; directed by Juan F. Cejas; with Barbara Sloan, James Baldwin, and Peter Paul De Leo. Through October 20. For information call 445-1119 or see "Calendar Listings.

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