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Going Public with 'Private'

Going Public with 'Private'A 2005 Tufts graduate interviews a fellow alum about his new theater project.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.10.09] George Psinakis Rausch, a 2005 Tufts graduate, recently interviewed friend and 2003 Tufts alum Morrison Keddie (known in his undergraduate years as James Foster Keddie) about the upcoming premiere of "Private," a play written by, produced by and starring Keddie. Rausch and Keddie majored in drama at Tufts.

Rausch sums up the plot of the play:

The story starts with an unexplained explosion on a military base. The main character, Private, abandons the base and runs into the desert where he becomes lost in a sandstorm. A merchant in the desert rescues him and brings him to a community of artists in a cave. There are three: an actor, a painter and a poet. In their own way, they teach Private to resolve his problems through the use of personal expression.

A band of soldiers goes looking for Private and eventually discover him in the cave. At first, the soldiers think that the artists are enemy combatants, but eventually they and Private discover why they have come to this place and lives are changed.

What is the story of PRIVATE?

I would say this is not a political show or about war, but more about the war inside of a person. I am using soldiers as a metaphor about confronting one's own problems. In the end the story comes full circle because he [Private] discovers what the truth is about; what he was running away from.

The story was very abstract to begin with, but then I started to solidify the story and make it more believable. There are two worlds: the creative world and the real world of actual problems and the destructive power of war.

What is the story based on?

I had a stroke and it made me hyper-sensitive to many different things. It happened second day of orientation [at Tufts] during the Spanish Placement exam... Maybe I should have taken off a semester... what was I supposed to do? Sit around being mopey?

It is based on my own personal experience with anxiety attacks and going inside myself. The story is my life wrapped in a metaphor, so it was easier to write the play rather than using the actual words that I said. Some elements are real from my life.

Not that acting is therapy, but it is therapeutic. If you use something productively in your life, it sends positive energy out, instead of keeping negative energy in.

Is this your writing debut?

It is the first play I've written and produced. It's busy and fun. There are many things that have changed in me. Not just from acting, but mostly from the production aspect. You get a feel for how much everyone is working together. Everyone is contributing. On the whole level, you realize that you can't do everything on your own.

People's support and enthusiasm has been so great. There is a point in your life where you say 'yes' to everything in your life as actor. But now, I've gotten to the point where I can say 'no' to doing certain things. I can now say, 'This is what I want to do.' It's crazy. All these people are coming to help me with it. It's not my story anymore. It's now everyone's story. If you strike out on something and have faith in it, people will follow.

How long has it taken to produce PRIVATE?

Writing started in September 2008. So about six months. Pre-production has been about a month, then one month of production, rehearsals. But we've been making changes up to this day to the script.

How did you raise funds to put up this show?

One of the pros of having a big cast is that you have a lot of resources to pull from. Early in the read throughs, we discussed ways that we could raise money. We discussed pizza parties. Eventually, we got people to contribute to a silent auction and raffle prizes. We raised about two-thirds of what we wanted. I would prefer to have raised everything, but we got a good amount of what we needed to get the actual production started.

Has this play changed anything in your life?

We are all in this together. This is not a vanity piece... [laughter] that's a little bit of a lie... I wanted to know how I could look deeper into my life to improve my work. But then I realized I couldn't do it alone.

How did your experience at Tufts shape this production?

Anything that I did at Tufts helped inform what I'm doing now. The fact that you're interviewing me... There was one guy I worked with who went to Tufts a long time ago and he gave me one of the most flattering compliments about my play when he read it. I trusted his opinion because he went to Tufts and then did his MFA at Yale.

Q&A by George Psinakis Rausch (A'05)

PRIVATE opens July 15 in Studio City, Calif. For more information, visit the Facebook event or e-mail privatereservations@gmail.com.

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