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Volume 71, Issue 136, Thursday, April 27, 2006

Life & Arts

'Happy Hour' inspired by America at work

Pulitzer Prize winner gave writer idea for play, playwright says

The Daily Cougar

Happy Hour, one of the six plays in Edward Albee Playwright Workshop series, will run at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Jose Quintero Lab Theatre in the Wortham Theatre Building.

Joe Barnes, a Princeton alumnus and student in the Albee workshop, said he was surprised when Lanford Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, chose his submission to be a part of the series. This is Barnes' first play to be produced.

Happy Hour was conceived in a conversation between Wilson and Barnes. Wilson had described his experience in a diner when he overheard a conversation between women who were working, Barnes said. Barnes then took the idea and ran with it, saying that Wilson's stories about his day in the diner could have produced 10 plays.

"Happy Hour offers a glimpse into the lives of working women in America today," Barnes said. "It portrays four women of different ages straining to maintain a semblance of self-respect in a society where dignity is hard to come by."

The play took four to five days to complete, Barnes said.

MJ Emig directed Happy Hour and also cast actors for the play. Emig at times would ask Barnes for input in the casting for the characters, Barnes said.

Barnes is returning as a student to the UH so he may take part in the Albee Playwright Workshop. He is also a poet, having had work published in TimeSlice, a recent anthology of Houston poets, the Houston Chronicle and New York Times.

The experience producing a play was a good one for Barnes. He wouldn't be opposed to pursuing this path, but is a bit hesitant at the same time, Barnes said.

Barnes is employed at Rice University as a Bonner Means Baker Research Fellow in public policy and has been at the Baker Institute since 1995.

"At my age, there isn't much time to pursue a new career," Barnes said.

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