Cast & Crew
Greg: Robert Arnold
Anne: Lauren Rachel
Musician: Matthew Crewse
Producer: James Antoine
Writer: Robert Arnold
Director: Robert Arnold
Announcer: Tom Badgett
Artist: Robert Arnold
Special Thanks to:
- Jim Thompson of EgglestonWorks
- Eric Sefton
Spoiler alert! Don’t read these notes if you don’t want the ending of the story revealed.
The Separate Self comes entirely from a 1989 Associated Press story quoted in Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn’s How to Think About Weird Things. It reads:
E. Frenkel, one of the Soviet Union’s growing number of psychic healers and mentalists, claimed he used his powers to stop bicycles, automobiles, and streetcars.
He thought he was ready for something bigger, so he stepped in front of a freight train. It didn’t work.
The engineer of the train that ran Frenkel over said the psychic stepped onto the tracks with his arms raised, his head lowered and his body tensed.
The daily Sovietskaya Rossiya yesterday said investigators looking into Frenkel’s decision to jump in front of a train near the southern city of Astrakhan found the answer in a briefcase he left by the side of the track.
“First I stopped a bicycle, cars, and a streetcar,” Frenkel wrote in notes that the investigators found. “Now I’m going to stop a train.”
Frenkel apparently felt he had found the secret of psychic-biological power and that his efforts to halt a train would be the ultimate test of his powers, according to the notes. “Only in extraordinary conditions of a direct threat to my organism will all my reserves be called into action,” he wrote.
It’s a story that stuck with me, and one that, I eventually decided, deserved a bit of fictional exploration. I find belief — or, more accurately, faith — fascinating, especially when it leads people to drastic action. Considered in its broad strokes, Greg and Anne’s story is not so unfamiliar; practically all of us make irrevocable decisions based on claims about the world that can’t be proven. It’s just that some decisions are more extreme than others.
I first met Lauren Rachel during the recording of Annie Christmas, but I didn’t get a sense of her dramatic chops until I read against her in a local audition. Neither of us got cast, but I knew immediately that I wanted to work with her on a Chatterbox show. Thankfully, this script presented the perfect opportunity. When we sat down to read through it, her instincts were so good that I can’t really claim to have directed her at all.
And once again both James Antoine and Matt Crewse proved to be the perfect men for their respective jobs. This is a deceptively simple piece that could have been utterly destroyed by the wrong tone or the wrong soundscaping. Luckily, in the hands of these two talented gentlemen, I never once had to worry.
Chatterbox gives us the opportunity to create shows that are like novels as well as shows that are like short stories. Rehearsed and recorded over two nights (along with King Me), The Separate Self represented a break from our longer, larger productions. And what an energizing — and fun — break it was.