Klein’s new play reaches unfamiliar territory

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Aaron DuRall

A scene from ‘Communion,’ Tim Klein’s most recent production, written and performed at Missouri Southern.

Garrett Saunders

Writers commonly tackle subject matter familiar to them. A 39-year-old man channeling a dialogue-heavy story of six women hardly fits that mold but it’s merely a testament to the talent of  Missouri Southern associate professor of theatre Tim Klein.

Klein’s latest production, Communion, which he wrote and directed, recently wrapped up its final show. Though at face value it may seem an unusual act to write such things, Klein does so with good reason.

“My friend, Jane, had been battling cancer for several years now,” Klein said. “She’s at stage four. So, I asked her if I could use her story in a play. It’s not based on her life, but it’s inspired by her life.”

The writing process itself varies with everyone, but Klein tends to focus most during office hours when students aren’t visiting. Communion was done in the same manner.

“I took her [Jane’s] life story and a lot of writing from her blog and I had a character that’s based on Jane. But the other characters in Jane’s life I made up,” Klein said.

One of those characters was Elizabeth, played by performance theatre sophomore Abby Railsback.

“What I enjoyed the most about Elizabeth was all the explorations and discoveries I could make with the character,” Railsback said.

“She really allowed me to explore different tactics I could play to achieve my objectives. I learned how to deal with things I didn’t quite want to deal with at my age, such as cancer and mortality.”

 Her experience on Communion and the direction of Klein is something she won’t soon forget.

 “I learned so much from my experience with him,” Railsback said. “It was really interesting being able to work with him on something so close and personal to him. Tim had a beautiful image in mind that he wanted the audience to see and he pushed us all to our best in order to portray that image.”

Image in play form is not anything new to Klein. He’s written five plays in the last eight years and this was the second to be a Southern production.

Klein is involved with his plays from the writing process all the way to the last direction. He always directs the ones he writes and although he has several plays circulating in the Chicago area, production companies have not picked one up just yet.

“It’s hard to get a theatre company to produce your play if it’s never been produced before,” Klein said. “They want to pick a play that has a proven track record of getting butts in the seats.”

Following through on a project from its inception to conclusion is a definite commitment. That commitment has not gone unnoticed by other professors in the department. Assistant professor of theatre Ann Lile played Mary, the mother in Klein’s story.

Though she came up accustomed to an alternative directing style, Klein’s method was welcomed.

“It’s a new way of approaching and the way that directing is going now, it was interesting to work with him,” Lile said. “It’s a good script.”

This was the second original play Lile has done, the first of which required many changes and rewrites. Those were absent from this production.

 “I think the script is beautifully written and honors a wonderful woman, Jane,” Railsback said.

Though the play centers on women, it hardly lacks aggression. Anyone who watched the show or read the script can attest.

“I personally write plays that other people aren’t writing,” Klein said. “I read a bunch of plays about women, with female characters, female issues and I didn’t like any of them.”

Like in all of his plays, there is a character that represents Klein at some point, but the focus of Communion will always be with his friend Jane.

“Jane was here and it was really a great experience for her to see the play,” Klein said.

With Communion finished, Klein is working on an anti-companion piece.

“I’m starting a new play,” Klein said. “It’s about the inability to connect with people. If I’m pleased with it when it’s done, I might do it next year.”