Imagination and Beyond the Curtain

(Guest Author – This article is written by playwright Coni Koepfinger. Please see her bio below)

Ever since I was a little girl, I felt that there was more to the story. That a curtain would lift and, well, something more would be revealed beyond the curtain. My sister swore that I used to go into my bedroom closet and disappear, then show up again several hours later. As I grew up, I continued the practice, but localized my travels in dreams.

It wasn’t until college that my waking life and fantasies began to merge… And thus, my quest became clear- the theatre of the awakened dream. Walking into your dreamlife, can be risky… so I decided to bring my dreams to life.

Communicating with All Life

Writing plays became my way of communicating with all life – from the ordinary people to the sublime consciousness… all of which seemed to operate on the same plane for me. It was clear that we are all human life forms that can conform, reform or deform to the energetic stimulus around us – but when we PERForm- we are able perfect the form, taking it to a higher creative state. I was always surrounded by art. My sister, my cousin, my uncles… Music, painting, drawing was like bread and water. Passion, yes. Madness, yes. But I wanted to know more… What was beyond the curtain? Why is art so important to the human experience?

It was not until this play, Live from the Bardo: My Dinner with Mary, with the help of my brilliant co-author, Dan Carter, that I now have an answer.

What Lies Beyond the Curtain

The search for the inexplicable and metaphysical began influencing my playwriting in the early 1990s… In the play Candledancing, about the voice of St. Julian of Norwich, a medieval anchoress, there is a line, “When you ask God to be your dance partner- the music never stops.”

In 2019, I began to explore the concept of the Bardo – a term from the Tibetan Book of the Dead that explains the Christian notion of purgatory, the place in between this life and next. It became clear to me that there in the Bardo existed The Bardo Theatre, the place where the scenes of life were crafted by the ascended artists for those still living on Earth.

So, what does this have to do with Art here and now. Hmmmm…

In Live from the Bardo: My Dinner with Mary, two estranged friends, Mary and Mary Ellen, reunite. We ask why?

I say to Dan, “Maybe Mary is dying?”

He says, “Write the scene.”

I do, and it starts to work.

Then he says, “What if Mary Ellen is already dead?”

Perfect! And of course, I imagine her in the Bardo. She’s auditioning for the “role of a lifetime” at The Bardo Theatre. But how does she communicate with these great, eternal artists? What do they sound like to us? To the audience. Where is this voice of the great beyond?

Beyond the Curtain in Live from the Bardo

The play is set in a dream, a fever dream, but dinner begins at The Players Club. Here we are surrounded by memory of the actors whose portraits adorn the walls of The Great Hall. And once again Helen Hayes, Jose Ferrer, Katharine Hepburn, Joseph Jefferson begin to speak beyond the walls of time… As they speak to us through Art.

Live From the Bardo: My Dinner with Mary opens Jan 13, 2022 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave, New York City. See what’s beyond the curtain.

Our Guest Contributor:

Coni Koepfinger, a 2021 recipient of the Olwen Wymark Award by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, is currently playwright-in-residence at Manhattan Rep and has worked with the Unfringed Fest NYC, Broadway Bound Festival and Pan Asian Rep. Coni has connected hundreds through her virtual programs Airplay and Determined Women. She has been a member of the Dramatist Guild, the International Centre for Women Playwrights and the League Professional Theatre Women and currently sits as Media Advisory Board of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Coni Koepfinger and Dan Carter’s Live From the Bardo: My Dinner with Mary premieres January 13-30, 2022, at Theater for the New City, New York City. For more information, please follow this link.

Ms. Koepfinger also contributed to Broadway IQ recently. Please see her article Why Broadway?