Friday, February 6, 2009

Play imagines trip by Edison, Ford and, curiously, Harding | ®

Play imagines trip by Edison, Ford and, curiously, Harding ®

Published: 02.06.2009
Play imagines trip by Edison, Ford and, curiously, Harding
By Kathleen Allen

When Mark St. Germain has a question, he writes a play.
That's what happened when he heard about a camping trip taken by President Warren G. Harding, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

In the play, Thomas Edison (Roberto Guajardo, left), Warren Harding (Roger Owen) and Henry Ford (James Blair) go camping together.
Photo by Tim Fuller / Courtesy of Invisible Theatre

"I was curious why they (Ford and Edison) would invite Harding on a camping trip," St. Germain said in a phone interview from his New York City-area home.

"Harding was this totally ineffectual president and human being. I couldn't understand why they would want his company."

So he imagined why, and the comedy "Camping with Henry and Tom," which Invisible Theatre opens next week, was born.

St. Germain stuck to the truth as much as he could, bringing up Harding's mistress and illegitimate child, Edison's wit and Ford's political aspirations and bigoted ways.

"I think Edison is a lot of fun, my heart went out to Harding, but Ford was a very difficult man," said St. Germain.

"His prejudices were reprehensible, yet he changed the world with his method of making cars. There are these three giants, but they are human, they have their weaknesses."

Questions are at the root of most of what St. Germain writes for the theater — his 2006 play "The God Committee" came about when a friend's father had to have a transplant, and he began to wonder how people are selected for organs.

And the play he is currently working on, "Freud's Last Session," was inspired by an actual meeting between the atheist Sigmund Freud and the Christian writer C.S. Lewis.

"Camping" took St. Germain about five years just to think about and research before he sat down to write it.

As he thought, the characters came to life in his head.
"It gets to a point where you hear them speaking, and you kind of imagine the characters."
St. Germain has imagined characters for film and television, as well as for the stage.
"I do television and film to feed my addiction to plays," he said.
"I need the immediacy of the theater."

"Camping with Henry and Tom"
• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
• Playwright: Mark St. Germain.
• Director: Betsy Kruse Craig.
• When: Preview is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; opening is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 28. There also will be a 3 p.m. matinee on Feb. 28.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $16 preview; $22-$25 regular performances.
• Reservations/information: 882-9721.
• Cast: James Blair, Roberto Guajardo, Roger Owen, Brian Wees.
• Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.