No pressure, Marco Players and Island Theater Company. The guy who actually wrote your plays is in the audience this weekend.
Both companies on Marco Island coincidentally are staging plays by Joseph Simonelli, "Men Are Dogs" and "Heaven Help Me." So Simonelli, who puts relationships and contentious events such as selling the family vacation home under the microscope, called both to say he's coming down from Staten Island, New York, to see them.
Simonelli was at Marco Players for a talkback session at the end of "Heaven Help Me" Wednesday and he'll attend the play Friday just to watch a production in action. He'll be at the Island Theater Company production Thursday and Saturday for post-play Q&A about the tale of a women's therapy group who finds its voice — its extreme voice — with the male actor who comes in to role-play with them, under the eye of a therapist with her own love-life quandary.
Pat Berry, a founding artistic director for the Island Theater Company, said the cast and director Ann Megna, far from from being nervous, want to go out with him Saturday after the play.
Simonelli said the double dose of his own work was confusing at first. The 59-year-old former stockbroker Googles his own works just to keep a vigilant eye out for theater companies that might use his works without paying royalties.
"People's intentions are good, but sometimes they might not realize they have to pay for the play," he said. Community theaters have a varying level of sophistication with royalties. "I'd say 99 percent of the time theaters are good about rights, but there's that one or two. I have to be my own policeman."
So when Simonelli saw the Island Theater Company's plan to stage "Men Are Dogs," he called Berry to offer his time for an audience Q&A session. Then, several months later, he returned to the web and saw that "Heaven Help Me" was coming up.
"So I thought, 'Oh, so they decided to switch titles,'" he recalled. But after talking to Marco Players and making the same offer, Simonelli found the advance information for the Island Players. "So it was, 'Wait a minute. There are two theater companies on Marco?'"
Simonelli doesn't mind making this a working weekend: "Florida theater companies, at least on the west coast, seem to like my plays. And we look for an excuse to come to Florida. We make a bit of vacation out of it." In fact, he added, he and his girl friend are scouting for a retirement home in Florida, and a place that likes his works will certainly be on his list.
Ironically, this is the first Simonelli play for both Marco companies. Cape Coral Cultural Park Theatre has done several.
Richard Joyce, who's directing "Heaven Help Me" at Marco Players, says he likes the situations Simonelli explores — in this case, the tale of a family whose restaurant business is foundering, and they're gathered at the family beach retreat with the grim task of selling it. Unbeknownst to them, their late brother, the family business wiz, is still at the home, in spirit.
Both it and the other play came to Simonelli in unorthodox ways. "That one actually came to me in a dream," he said. In the dream, Simonelli and his family had visited the old family cottage in Rockaway, New York, and were playing Monopol on a rainy day when one brother, who was deceased in the dream, appeared and asked to play.
"I told him you can't play because you're dead," he recalled. The next morning, a plot was born. The title for the Island Theater play came from a female friend whom Simonelli casually told he was looking for a name.
"She must have had a bad day, because she said to me, 'Why don't you call it 'Men Are Dogs'?" he said.
So Simonelli did.
If you go
'Men Are Dogs'
What: Island Theater Company production of the Joseph Simonelli comedy
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 20-22; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23
Where: Rose History Auditorium, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island
To buy: Online at theateronmarco.com; at Centennial Bank, 615 East Elkcam Circle, Marco Island; box office 30 minutes prior to each performance at The Rose History Auditorium or by phone, 239-394-0080
'Heaven Help Me'
What: Marco Players production of the Joseph Simonelli comedy
When: Thursday through May 7; 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays
Where: Marco Town Center Mall, 1089 N Collier Blvd, No. 432, Marco Island
Tickets: $30 and $28
To buy: Online at themarcoplayers.com or by phone, 239-42-7270