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“It’s Time” at Ruskin Group Theatre Author Interview - A Story That Needs To Be Told

By Ester Benjamin Shifren

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It began as a eulogy from a young widower to his wife. With three small children and a broken family, Paul Linke couldn’t imagine a light at the end of the grief. Writing became his catharsis, but miraculously brought back the freshness of life and an unforeseeable career as a writer, director, and performer of solo productions.

You may recognize him from his role as Artie Grossman on the hit television series CHP’s, or for his co-starring role in “Parenthood,” but he hopes that his solo works will become his legacy. “Time Flies When You’re Alive” (HBO Showcase special - Cable Ace Award nomination) began the series of plays that launched a new life for Paul Linke and his family. “It’s time,” is the bookend at the other side of that legacy.



Time brought directing and co-writing work with comic legend Charles Nelson Reilly, developing his Off-Broadway show “Save It For The Stage – The Life of Reilly” at Irish Rep in NY (Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle Award nomination). Paul directed Ben Gazzara, helping him to develop his story, “Nobody Don’t Like Yogi,” about sports legend Yogi Berra, next there was … “But First, Sammy Shore” (winning the ADA for Best Direction of an Original Play), “The Law of Return” (with Shelly Berman), and “Wilde and Wonderful (Two Ovation Award Nominations), to name just a few.

Time has moved forward almost three decades since that eulogy, “It’s time for dialogs on the end game, to share the extraordinary experiences gained and thoughts on the ultimate connection between us all,” says Linke.



Ester: Where do you start when developing your shows and how do you grow the story? Do you ever completely set the script?

Paul: I have always said that a good story needs to be told, and that the act of telling it informs the storyteller if he/she remains open and in the moment. I develop my shows this way. I begin with a premise, create an outline, and then put it up for an audience. My image is of a river, which for me is the action of performing it and the story is the stone sitting in the middle of the river, being constantly shaped by the action of the current passing over it. In time, the stone becomes smooth and polished, like a finished monologue.

I don’t recommend this process for everyone. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah, and a joy for juggling words. One of my hopes each time I go out on stage is to be able to tell the story better, to be open to new words coming into play. I remember one night during a performance of “Time Flies When You’re Alive,” suddenly imagining the description, “the tall dark haired woman in the black brocaded dress sashayed over….” That discovery mid-sentence was magical for me, and one of the joys I find in being a monologist. I record performances, developing a text from that, trying to sling the words that I have ground on inside my head and let the story lead me. As always, I will seek clarity, brevity, and an open heart. Word crafting while performing is sort of my métier

Ester: Solo performance is what you are known for these days, is that how you began your acting career?

Paul: I didn’t always know that I was a solo performer. When I eulogized my late wife in 1986, I never imagined that those words would lead to a solo career, and an HBO Showcase special. Director Mark W. Travis was the one who said to me after the memorial, “you should do a one man show”! He asked me if I knew of Spaulding Gray and Swimming to Cambodia?

It was a life changing idea and one that I will be forever grateful to have experienced. Together, we made something that became very transformational for me, “Time Flies When You’re Alive.” Over twenty-five years and almost three hundred performances later, it’s the foundation of the “time series” plays. It’s still revived for short runs and benefits, like a one show fund-raiser at the Mark Taper, which benefitted indigent women who needed mammograms.



Ester: In your latest work, about to open at Ruskin Group Theatre, IT’S TIME…for what?

Paul: Time has always been very important to me. It is in the title of all six of my plays. To me there is nothing more moving than time itself. It stirs the soul, and is a constant reminder of the fragility of life. It is our most precious commodity, the currency of existence. This begs the question, since we are all inextricably bound by a common fate, and are all in the same boat so to speak, why does this truth not promote kindness, compassion, curiosity, forgiveness, and love?

This, thematically, is what I am trying to get to in my long lost or should I say, long to find bookend for “Time Flies When You’re Alive.” Director Edward Edwards has been a wonderful asset in developing “It’s Time,” helping to form the piece from long conversations about the experiences that connect us all, and a reluctance that people have for talking about them. We examined the emotional impact from these experiences and how it makes us who we are today.

“It’s Time” is about the enormity of life, the power of love, and the importance of acknowledging the contributions of all those who have contributed to making us who we are.

Ester: Do you always feel connected to your audiences?

Paul: I have a theory, that I call the Pit Boss Theory. The pit boss is the eye in the sky, and the eye sees all the action on the casino floor below. It sees ALL the hands being played. I came to realize that if any of us could be that pit boss, we would come to learn that we are all basically playing the same hand. I know that by truthfully showing my hand, audiences will recognize it. It is the bridge between us. So, in taking that journey with me through all the laughter, tears, and a renewed sense of hope, they become my partner.

Photos by: Ed Krieger

IT’S TIME opens at 8pm on Friday, October 21st and runs at 8pm on Fridays, 5pm Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays through December 4, 2016 (no performances November 25 - 27).Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at Ruskin Group Theatre. Ample free parking available.     





Published on Oct 25, 2016

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