After 40 years, Victor L. Cahn felt like he was losing touch with his audience. His classroom audience, that is.
As for the theater, however, his work seems as engaging as ever.
"I knew my time was up because I'd be doing my performance in front of the classroom and I'd see students looking at their iPad instead of me," said Cahn, a retired Skidmore professor, author and playwright/actor whose 2003 work "Fit to Kill" is being staged by Curtain Call this month. "And I would throw out cultural references that would just pass them by, or make a reference to a TV show, or some movie, and I felt like I was talking to myself. The kids were fine, but I felt like there was too much of a gap between us."
"Fit to Kill" was originally performed by Cahn, Curtain Call Theatre founder Carol Max and former WTEN Channel 10 anchor Marci Elliott back in 1993 under the title "Murder on My Mind." Cahn reworked the play, changed the title to "Fit to Kill" and had a very successful world premiere at Curtain Call in 2003. The play is about a woman who's made a fortune in the exercise business, her self-indulgent, chess-playing husband and a younger woman who enters their world with her own agenda. Steve Fletcher is directing the show that stars Laura Graver, Cristine Loffredo and Knathan MacKenzie-Roy.
"There's that famous phrase, 'Plays are not written, they are rewritten,' and I continued to tinker with this one until we did it again in 2003," said Cahn. "One of my producer friends came up from New York to see it at Curtain Call, and then we took it to New York and off-Broadway. That's when Samuel French published it, and since then it's had quite a few productions around the country."
Cahn was also happy to report that "Fit to Kill" had a 10-week run in Turkey.
"Most of my plays go off-Broadway and that's typically a four-week run," said Cahn. "There were other productions in England and Japan, and it was also translated and ran for 10 weeks in Turkey. I couldn't read the review, but one of my colleagues at Skidmore knew some Turkish. They said they weren't sure what the reviewer was saying, but they were pretty sure they liked it."
Cahn, who has also worked at Curtain Call as an actor, hadn't paid much attention to how the rehearsal process was going for this production of "Fit to Kill."
"Steve Fletcher was the director for the 2003 show," said Cahn. "I have complete confidence in him and Carol. They know what they're doing."
Graver, Loffredo and MacKenzie-Roy, meanwhile, all worked together in November in a Schenectady Civic Players production of "As Bees in Honey Drown," and Graver and Loffredo also worked together in a May production of "Steel Magnolias" at SCP.
"I write plays with very small casts," said Cahn. "I call them chamber plays. It's usually a small and intimate stage, and everybody in my play has a good part. It's about two or three people telling a story. It's very basic and it's been going on since the Greeks. I like to say I'm a part of a nobel tradition."
Cahn, who has now produced 15 books on Shakespeare, said the Bard remains his favorite playwright.
"Shakespeare better understands us than anybody," he said. "He has the surest, dramatic hand of anyone who ever lived. The language is spectacular, the roles he creates are so rich and his understanding of human nature is so profound. He has the answers, and he provides us with the right questions."
'Fit to Kill'
WHERE: Curtain Call, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Feb. 10; performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: www.curtaincalltheatre.com, or 518-877-7529