by Christy Rodriguez de Conte
The Palaver Tree Theater deviates from the heteronormative narrative of female friendship and commitment by welcoming community members of all kinds to a night of David Mamet’s classic comedy, “Boston Marriage,” running Dec 9-10 and Dec. 15-17 in Crawfordville.
At the turn of the mid-19th century, American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow coined the phrase “a Boston marriage” in his novel “Kavanagh” to describe the intimate relationship shared by two women who were independent of the financial support of any male.
Almost 150 years later, David Mamet wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by the same title. “Boston Marriage” follows the saga of female friendship and romance with a queer, comedic quip.
Today, Herb Donaldson, co-founder and artistic director of Palaver Tree Theater and producer of their upcoming production of Mamet’s “Boston Marriage,” follows in the wake of creative visionaries who opened the door to different types of storytelling; inquisitive and inclusive.
When asked, “Why this play now?” Donaldson happily declared the play was brought to him by local director Jeff Mandel who was adamant that the production be told by a queer team. True to Palaver Tree’s mission of inclusivity and open door policy, he welcomed community involvement and is excited to produce the play with a small yet powerful cast of queer non-binary performers.
“It wasn’t my choice, actually. I think that’s the open door that we have at this theater. Meaning, if you know us and you want to do something here, we don’t try to compete.” Instead, Donaldson says they offer all of their support, “When? How? What will you need? and … Once we got you, we got you. You are a part of the family. Bring us more, bring us more!”
Herb Donaldson first graced the stages of Tallahassee when he was 7 or 8 at the Crawfordville Elementary School’s holiday choir. He took in the limelight, unaware that his talents and devotion to the craft would take him on a theatrical journey from the small stages of Wakulla and Tallahassee to the sold-out audiences of New York City.
While living in Atlanta, pursuing acting, Donaldson discovered the works of George C. Wolfe, which changed his life. He vowed that he would work with him. Destiny was delivered when, after leaving Atlanta to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, Donaldson worked under the legendary theater playwright and producer at the Public Theatre. Donaldson found the energy of New York City empowering and found a home amongst artists.
Donaldson began to create and write in the late 1990s to heal. His uncle had been executed, his family said wrongfully, for murder on Dec. 6, 1996. On that day, Donaldson picked up his proverbial quill. “I wrote him a letter, and he wrote me back. I received his letter Dec. 7, and he was executed Dec. 6. So I got a letter the day after he died,” recalls Donaldson.
“I started writing in my journals, and pretty soon, I started writing to just get stuff out and not be so angry. I met a gentleman who said you should turn these into a play, and I did,” Donaldson said.
Palaver Theater began in 2006 as a group of 30 or so artists to break free from the antiquated and, at times, racist practices of mainstream American theater and lean into the unheard voices of black, brown, and queer theater makers in NYC in the 1990s.
Donaldson moved the company to Wakulla in 2010, when he returned to be with his then-ill grandmother. His dedicated community-based approach stems from Donaldson’s own grandparent’s commitment to supporting, growing, and protecting the community of Wakulla.
Although the production of Boston Marriage has finished its first weekend, there are still three chances to witness this humorous take on female companionship and romance.
Read the rest of the article on the Tallahassee Democrat.
Learn more about the Boston Marriage production.