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Writer Hal Long will adapt Grisham's Skipping Christmas for the stage

Writer Hal Long will adapt Grisham's Skipping Christmas for the stage

After 27 years in community theater, Hal Long has finally made it. It will take him seven to eight months to complete the stage adaptation of John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas.”

Long will take the advice of his three-year pen pal Stephen King and move to a small town to write his adaptation. Next month, Long and his wife of seven years Lynn Wolf will move to their cabin in Eastern Oregon. There, in the “thunder of silence,” 65-year-old Long plans to use his talking computer system to turn Grisham’s story into a play.

Already adapted for the big screen in “Christmas with the Kranks” in 2004, Long said Grisham had always envisioned “Skipping Christmas” as a stage play.

But whether it makes its debut in Boston, Chicago or even Portland, Long said a publisher will decide where his adaptation will first capture an audience. If Long had his way, he’d see it debut in Portland, close to home, close to Tualatin.

In 1997 diabetes took Long’s sight, after which he found himself at a VA hospital outside of Fort Lewis, Wash., working 12 hours a day learning to live as a blind man.

The first play performance he attended after losing his sight was a bitter disappointment. The movement of the actors on stage was difficult to follow with just his ears.

But Long came to trust what he heard and rely more on his mind’s eye to see a play unfold.

Long was realistic when he called the publishing company, Doubleday, with his proposal.

He had his doubts. Why would the famed legal-drama novelist John Grisham choose him?

His request went through three months of reviews before the publisher sent a request for credentials – which included his work on “Fail Safe” and such plays as “The War of the Worlds” and “The North Platte Canteen.”

Three months later Long received an e-mail informing him that Grisham had accepted his offer to adapt “Skipping Christmas” into a stage play.

The original concept for a modern Christmas tale about a married couple determined to skip the holiday started a slide show of images for the blind director and playwright.

As his wife read aloud from the novella, Long saw a play shown to him in “a thousand snapshots.”

That’s how he views plays nowadays, he said. Dramas and comedies are broken up into scenes and acts. Actors and actresses enter and leave the stage. He sorts it out in his mind.

At his cabin, he’ll wait for the noise to die down, jump out of bed at around 4 in the morning and produce about 10,000 words in four hours of which only 10 words will be usable, he’s sure.

Writing isn’t the hard part, said Long. It’s rewriting that’s tough.

Long will be physically leaving Tualatin, but he promises to stay involved with the progress of the Lumiere Players.

And he’ll take with him his own snap shots of Tualatin – facing the world without sight, sweaty actors on a flatbed truck, Richard Dreyfuss reciting his words and a phone call from John Grisham saying, “‘Skipping Christmas’ was always meant to be a play.”

Source: Beaverton Valley Times

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