Trouble’s A-Brewin’

Theater ensemble reads short stories about just plain folks being naughty.

There’s no such town as Jubilation, Florida. But there is a
Celebration, Florida. Developed by the Walt Disney Company in the 1990s
to the tune of several billion dollars, it’s a planned community
designed to evoke an idealized early- to mid-20th-century mainstream
America. And it is in this strange place, this pseudo-anachronism, that
N.M. Kelby based her short story “Jubilation, Florida,” which is one of
two works presented by the Central Works Theater Ensemble in
Dangerous Behavior: Actors Reading Writers 2008,” at the
Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley) December 19
through 21.

The story is about two great pals, one male and one female and both
middle-aged. Out of the blue, things suddenly slide out of pure
platonic territory. “It’s not a good idea,” Kelby writes. “Nordan and
Sara both know it. Both are over forty. Both love their spouses. Both
are drunk. Both naked — and not thin. Both wonder if the other is
lying when they say, nearly simultaneously, ‘I’ve never done this
before.'” They’re in Jubilation, booked into adjoining hotel rooms in a
sherbet-colored resort “with a permit-only beach where the sand is
raked into traditional Zen patterns three times a day. There are no
homeless people in Jubilation. No tattoo shops. … You can’t even walk
down the side streets unless you have security clearance; surveillance
cameras are everywhere. It’s not the kind of place you’d have an affair
in. But here they are, naked — and a little cold. It’s
off-season.”

The story was recently chosen for NPR’s “Selected Shorts,” read for
broadcast by actress Joanne Woodward. Kelby, a novelist (Whale
Season
, Theater of the Stars, In the Company of
Angels
, and Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill) whose
many laurels include a Bush Artist Fellowship in Literature and a
Florida State Arts Board fellowship, explains that it was “written on a
bet,” although “there is some disagreement on this point. In fact, the
writer who bet me now denies the entire incident” and “says it did not
happen. I remember it clearly. I am pretty sure that he said I could
not be a great writer until I wrote a story about sex. I am pretty sure
I blushed.” As this happened in the South, “of course, there was
bourbon involved.” Named as the East Bay Express‘ “Best Small
Theater Company,” Central Works was formed in Berkeley in 1991 to focus
on collaborative treatments of original works. At the City Club event,
actors Tim Hendrixson, George McRay, David Winter, and Mary Knoll will
read Kelby’s story along with “Hunters in the Snow,” Tobias Wolff’s
chilling tale of three fractious friends whose planned hunting trip
goes very much awry. 8 p.m., $8-$15 suggested donation. December 19-20
(8 p.m.) and December 21 (2 p.m.). BerkeleyCityClub.com

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