Richard Farmer, a former area resident and Southern State Community College alumni, is returning to the college this weekend for the world premiere of his play, “Nightmare in Suburbia,” a comedy that first began as a series of characters and stories he developed while under the tutelage of the late Edward Daniels.
Farmer’s comedy will play out in the college’s auditorium, which bears Daniels’ name in honor of his contributions to Southern State’s theater program and other accomplishments. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee will begin at 3:30 p.m.
Farmer was raised in West Union and studied business at Southern State beginning in 1980. After a brief stint at Ohio University, Farmer returned to Southern State to study electronics, and after obtaining his degree, he continued his service in the Army National Guard, eventually becoming a Department of Defense electronics technician in Newark, Ohio.
During Farmer’s time at Southern State, he studied theatre under Daniels and developed a variety of funny characters and storylines that he said occupied the back of his mind throughout his career in the military.
“Everything kind of went to the back of my mind and sat there,” he said, “but I never forgot them. I just didn’t know what to do with them.”
It was not until 2015 that Farmer returned to theatre, joining the Licking County Players as a cast member in several plays. Once, while waiting to audition in an original play written by a fellow Players member, Farmer said he wondered if he could write a play using the characters and storylines he developed in college.
“I had to figure out how to put all these independent storylines in one story,” he said. “And there are some things in these stories that are hard to see on stage: penguins are very important to the story and a Sherman tank is pretty important to the story. I thought, ‘How am I going to put a Sherman tank on stage?’”
Taking a cue from radio dramas, Farmer opted to create a “theatre of the mind” experience and let the penguins and tank appear only in the minds of the audience rather than on the stage.
Farmer said his only hope for the play is that it makes people laugh.
“If you get a moral out of it, that’s on you,” he joked. “I just want people to laugh.”
The play follows protagonist Tom, whose attempts at spending a quiet weekend at home are foiled by crazy relatives and a bad dream brought on by a bad burger.
Farmer said Daniels helped him find the courage to write the stories in the beginning.
“He told me I was a good writer,” he said. “I stayed with it and he encouraged me and kept pushing me… He made a big impression on me in more than just theatre.”
Farmer said he has “fond memories” of Daniels, whom he described as “a great guy” and “fun to be around.”
“He is probably one of the most influential people in my life,” Farmer said.
Daniels passed away in 2002.
Farmer said a fellow Southern State alumni encouraged him to send his manuscript to the college for a possible production, and he reached out to Rainee Angles, SSCC Theatre Director and Associate Professor of Speech and Theatre, who coordinated readings and is now directing the play.
Angles described the show as a “playful farce,” adding that the designers, cast and crew have worked diligently to move Farmer’s characters from page to stage.
“The ensemble has gained first-hand knowledge of what it takes to workshop a new script to a polished production,” Angles said. “Mr. Farmer came to many rehearsals, graciously providing feedback and sharing theatre stories. It has been a joy to connect with a former SSCC Theatre student/actor and now playwright.”
Angles said those interested in the production process can attend a “talk back” session following the Sunday matinee. Farmer and the cast will be on hand for the session.
Tickets for the play can be purchased at the door or online at www.sscctheatre.com. Southern State Community College is located at 100 Hobart Dr. in Hillsboro.
David Wright is a freelance writer.