By Mark Hallum
Lon Blais is bringing live performance back to Bayside with encore performances of his one-man show “The Boy on the Bureau,” an autobiographical drama about the playwright’s experience as the “white sheep” of his family in Danvers, Mass. The Bayside resident took over a vacant shop at 41-23 Bell Blvd. for the premiere of the show in September and will be returning to the same location on Nov. 4, 5 and 6 at 8 p.m.
“The Boy on the Bureau” was a bucket-list item for Blais who aspired to write and perform a play of his own, drawing inspiration from such performers as John Leguizamo and Spalding Gray, who both offered audiences intimate stories about their upbringings in their performances.
“The story is one of my escape from my family. I come from a highly, highly dysfunctional family,” Blais said, explaining the play is actually a prequel to the play he originally intended to write before realizing the importance of the stories of his upbringing. “I intended to tell about all my brothers’ and sisters’ perspectives on my family, and I realized I had to write my own first.”
The family Blais comes from is worthy of stage drama, with nine children in the household. He is now estranged from many of his siblings.
“I am in my family referred to—by my family—as the white sheep,” he said, adding that the nickname was an indication of his normality in the household. “I come from a family that has a lot of interesting background… most of the time, it’s that one kid in a family of doctors who wants to be a piano player,” Blais said. “For me, it was being a family of highly disfunctional people, wanting to be normal.”
Blais’ hometown of Danvers was known 350 years ago as Salem Village, the location of the hysteria that led to serial executions of suspected witches. The playwright grew up across the street from the house once occupied by Rev. Samuel Parris, the father of two of the first girls accused during the Salem Witch Trials. According to the playwright, growing up in a haunted town had less to do with whether or not you believed in ghosts than with what the ghosts where you live did last night.
A recent performance of “The Crucible” forced Blais to reclaim the Massachusetts accent he had worked to ditch years ago.
Blais has already received positive recognition for “The Boy on the Bureau.” His performance was described by the Bayside Times’ Ron Hellman as “reminiscent of the narrative skills of a Spalding Gray.” Hellman also said that “Blais held his audience’s rapt attention. He plans to take the play on the road.”
Blais, who describes himself as an actor, writer, director, teacher, life coach and long distance cyclist, is not only coming back to Bell Boulevard, but is also in negotiations for taking his show to a playhouse in Manhattan and a tour of various cities across the United States.
According to Blais, there are three different kinds of actor: a shy person who lets loose on stage, an extrovert who needs no help dominating the atmosphere, and an introvert who behaves like an extrovert to dominate the room. Blais perceives himself to be the latter of the three.
“James Joyce once said that ‘the more specific you write something the more universal it becomes,’” Blais said of the reaction to his first performance in September, where the positive reaction from the audience encouraged him to bring his story to a broader audience.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall