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July 11, 2016

PLANE LOVE and FringeNYC: An Interview with Playwright Rosary O’Neill


This year marks the 20th Annual FringeNYC Festival, which will run from August 12 – 28, 2016. Founded in 1997, FringeNYC is one of the largest multi-arts events in North America. The festival takes place over the course of two weeks every August and is spread out on more than twenty stages across several neighborhoods in downtown Manhattan, notably the Lower East Side, the East Village, and Greenwich Village. Attendance is generally in the tens of thousands. Unlike most Fringe festivals, FringeNYC uses a jury-based selection process and approximately 200 shows, out of a much larger pool of applicants, are selected for inclusion each year.

Rosary O’Neill is one of the playwrights who will have her show, Plane Love, produced at FringeNYC 2016. Rosary is an award-winning playwright who has had her worked produced all across the United States and abroad; a number of her plays have also been published by Samuel French. Rosary decided to enter the FringeNYC competition after a friend of hers had overwhelmingly positive experiences with the festival.

Although getting accepted into FringeNYC is undeniably an honor, it also comes with a lot of responsibility and hard work attached. “I was very pleased with how open and cooperative everyone was,” Rosary said, while noting that the technological aspects of the festival were the hardest to manage. “I found it challenging to respond to the needs of the larger social networks that are attached to the Fringe,” she said. “Anyone who enters the festival has to be prepared to do a lot of self-promotion and make many deadlines.”

While submitting a play to FringeNYC is free (and can usually be done easily via email), if the work is accepted for production playwrights are required to pay a $700 participation fee. They are also largely responsible for producing the show— including finding a director, designers, performers, and rehearsal spaces—as shows need to be brought to the Fringe fully staged. However, the Fringe does provide photographs and a review, which is extremely helpful for promotion. Rosary expressed extreme gratitude towards her director, producer, and several technical supporters who helped her make “Plane Love” a reality. Anyone who is considering submitting a play to FringeNYC should be aware of the time and dedication that such an endeavor requires.

“Out of all my twenty-five plays, I chose to enter Plane Love to FringeNYC because it’s a two character play that can be done anywhere,” Rosary said. “The Fringe does not let you know right away what theater space you will get, so your company must be flexible in terms of staging and also in terms of setting up the show and striking down! In order to keep the cost for playwrights manageable, the Fringe negotiates with many theaters to get the best venues, but often the artists do not know until summer.”

As of June 10, Plane Love was still waiting to be assigned its venue. Despite such delays, Rosary is very pleased to be involved with the festival. “It’s an amazing opportunity to have a show produced in NYC, where most of my new work is limited to readings because of the cost of production,” Rosary said. “The brilliance of FringeNYC’s founder, Elena Holy, is inspiring. She put this dream project together and has tirelessly kept the organization thriving for twenty years.”

Plane Love chronicles the relationship between two stars who are embroiled in a steamy romance. Like most of Rosary’s work, this play is based on actual people and events—namely the romance and 1939 marriage of Hollywood movie icons Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. “I was inspired to write this play because I was mesmerized by the enduring love affair of Clark and Carole and its tragic plane crash ending, which completely changed Clark so much that he would fly into gunfire and take on the darkest flight missions of World War II,” Rosary said. “I wanted a play with a different ending than the one he confronted, which was only finding one of his wife’s sapphire blue earrings at the site of the crash!”

With a cast of only two performers, Plane Love makes an impact largely through dialogue. The majority of the play—which takes place in modern times—features the two characters emailing each other while separated due to business obligations. The play chronicles their early flirtations to their marriage, and covers their struggles with infertility and untimely death. Ultimately, the play is a glimpse into a very intimate relationship between a man and a woman, people graced with glamorous lives of fortune and fame that still fail to protect them from difficult situations and tragic outcomes.

As the characters become engaged in a spiraling series of emails, the messages become increasingly more personal and sensual. The audience is thereby offered a revealing glimpse into the lives of two stars and the jeopardy incited by their deadly attraction to each other. Described as “uplifting, funny and sad” by reviewers, the play will strike a particularly strong chord with anyone who has ever fallen in or out of love.

Rosary and her husband, Bob, actually met on a flight, and a good portion of the dialogue was inspired by their courtship conversations via text, email, and other e-communications. Plane Love also employs the turning points of Gable’s and Lombard’s lives: the click-snap falling in love when they meet, their gradual recognition of their feelings for each other—despite being involved with other people—and the tug and pull throughout, until they symbolically choose what is beyond their power to resist. Try as they might to deny it, they are soulmates who belong together and cannot fully enjoy life without one another. This plot line is similar to the actual love story of Carole Lombard—who died in a plane crash at the age of 33—and Clark Gable, who mourned her loss for the rest of his life.

Essentially, Plane Love is an illustrated commentary about how intimacy can be achieved through letters and/or other forms of text. This concept is particularly timely in today’s technological society, where texting and emailing are more regular occurrences than meeting in person or even speaking on the phone.

Overall, anyone who enjoys love stories will find Plane Love of interest, and the play holds additional appeal for fans of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Tickets will go on sale starting July 15 and can be purchased via the official FringeNYC website.