Local Playwright's Show Hits The Stage In West Springfield

By: Tim Wood

Paul and Jade Schuyler. TIM WOOD PHOTO

'The Tuna Goddess' Also Being Developed As A Film

After a successful run at Cape Rep Theater in Brewster last summer, Harwich resident Jade Schuyler's original play “The Tuna Goddess” will be staged a bit farther inland, in West Springfield, beginning this week.

The play opens the 23rd season at the Majestic Theater on Sept. 5. Schuyler and her husband Paul are also developing a film of “The Tuna Goddess” based on their adapted script, which they hope to shoot locally next year.

“I feel elated,” Jade Schuyler said of having the play produced in the equity theater. Set in Chatham, it touches on themes of love, home and family as well as some of the less discussed aspects of the Cape, including addiction. The play features a professional cast and a set both Schuylers described as “amazing.”

“The boat's gorgeous,” Jade said of what is in essence one of the central characters of the play. “They're putting a 35-foot tuna fishing boat on the stage.”

How “The Tuna Goddess” came to be produced in West Springfield is “one of those 'it's a small world' stories,” Danny Eaton, producing director of the nonprofit theater, said in an email. The theater's resident scenic artist/designer Bev Browne was taken to see the play last summer at Cape Rep by her sister Mary Ellen, who previously worked for the Majestic and plays tennis with Jade. Eaton contacted her on Browne's recommendation, and she sent along the script.

The play has “all the great dramatic elements,” including family drama and a hidden love story, Eaton said.

“While the Cape was a perfect location for 'The Tuna Goddess,' and it was quite successful there, I feel pretty confident that our audiences here in Western Massachusetts will respond to it as well,” he said. “We have a great set design and a wonderful cast, including Larkin Fox, who plays the younger lead character here and was in the original production at Cape Rep.”

Alex, the play's lead character, returns to Chatham to settle her father's estate, only to discover that he's left his beloved fishing boat, the Harley X, to her and his first mate, Pete, who was her best friend in childhood. But she has a successful career in advertising and marketing, and a fiance, and wants nothing to do with the boat. Pete can't afford to buy her out, so she agrees to stay on for one season, during which she deals with her past and tries to figure out her future.

There's a lot to the story that's visual, which is what prompted the Schuylers to adapt it to the screen. Paul, who directed the couple's short film “Runner,” is “such a great visual person,” Jade said, who was able to see what needed to be changed or augmented to successfully translate the story to film. “He added some wonderful depth to it,” she said.

“I think we really expanded on the world” of the play, Paul said, adding action scenes, for instance, that are only talked about in the play.

They have some seed money and have hired a line producer who is working on a budget and schedule. The script is out to casting agents in the hopes of attaching a “name” to the project in order to attract more financing. The producer initially wanted to hire director, but after several recent films by first-time director-screenwriters went for big bucks at Sundance and other festivals, agreed that Paul would be the best choice to direct.

They hope to film “The Tuna Goddess” locally.

“All the production values are here,” said Paul, likening filming here to “Jaws,” which was shot on Martha's Vineyard to take advantage of the beach, ocean and island settings. They'd like to be able to hire as many local people as possible as well, and since they know the community—Jade grew up here; her mother owns Chatham Pottery—they feel they have the contacts to be able to find housing and other resources necessary for a feature film production. They hope to be able to begin filming next fall.