A Play With Songs
By Paul Enger and Tom Ferriter
Featuring the Music of Michael Valenti
Benefit Performance tells the story of Bea, a retired pop singer, who has returned to her hometown in the Upper Midwest from California to care for her ailing mother, now gone.
Learning of Bea’s return, several local residents drop in for a visit, hoping to persuade Bea to come out of retirement to sing at a benefit. Although outwardly opposed to the idea, insisting that she's too old and out of practice, inwardly Bea wants to be recognized and courted by the town where she has always felt snubbed. Her estranged husband – a pop piano player – arrives and encourages her to perform – also advocating that she reconcile with their adult daughter, now living in Chicago. Too successful in her efforts to dissuade the locals, Bea soon learns that a younger, and better-known, singer has been engaged to sing at the benefit. The news pushes Bea into a depression and, a reformed alcoholic, she falls off the wagon, retreating into bitterness. When the younger singer reneges on her commitment, Bea is convinced to appear at the benefit, over the objections of the local promoter, who is convinced by Bea’s recent behavior, and past reputation, that she won’t stay sober. Bea triumphs at the benefit, in spite of the sniping and worries that she won’t make an appearance. And unbeknownst to Bea, her daughter shows up in the audience for a touching reunion.
Benefit Performance is a play about the trappings of celebrity and the burdens and fallout of success, that exposes the injuries visited upon those adored and adoring alike, and explores the many ways love and patient understanding can heal the wounds of painful neglect and want.
Cast of Characters
BEN SKINNER, public relations man, budding impresario, early 20s.
BEA RENNIE, retired pop singer, recovering alcoholic, late 50s-early 60s.
HAL RENNIE, Bea’s estranged husband, piano player and composer, late 50s-early 60s.
CORAL JENSEN, single mother, fledgling singer, mid-to-late 20s.
KATHY KELLER, committee person and organizer, mid-30s to early-40s.
Paul Enger began his career as a newspaper reporter in his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota, later working for United Press International in Indianapolis and New York, before joining CBS News as a staff writer. Paul has written for all the major news and public affairs programs on CBS, as well as for ABC-TV’s Good Morning, America and its daytime serial All My Children. In recent years, he has written scripts for A&E Cable and The History Channel. He holds three awards from the Writers Guild of America for broadcast scripts in news and public affairs, and is the recipient of the International Radio New York Festival Gold Award for a script he wrote for Walter Cronkite's 20th Century. While writing for broadcast (both radio and television) Paul has written nine full-length plays, including Vestigial Parts, and Harmon and Ruth. His plays have been performed Off Broadway in New York; at Stage West (Massachusetts) (where he was a Ford Foundation grant recipient); the Asolo Center for Performing Arts in Sarasota (Florida); Actors Theatre of Louisville (Kentucky) (which commissioned his one-act play, The Anchor); and theatres in Phoenix and Carefree (Arizona), Berkeley (California), and New Harmony (Indiana). His play, In The Air, was produced by Stageplays Theatre Company, Off Broadway at Theatre 315 in New York City. Paul Enger is a graduate of the University of Minnesota. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, East.
For the stage, Tom has written Ten Million Black Republicans (with Steve Gold), a comedy about the Congressional nominating process, A Howling Wilderness, a military court-martial drama during the time of the Philippine Insurrection (with John Chodes), and co-authored the book of a new musical, BELL (with Michael Treni), based on the life of Alexander Graham Bell and the American dream. He is currently working with Taylor Hallman on Thunder & Lightning, a morality tale set in the Negro Baseball Leagues on the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league sports, and also adapting Santa.Com, John Kallas's play about the down-sizing of Santa's workshop due to the internet shopping craze, into a new musical for families.
Tom has authored six original motion picture screenplays: Songs Without Words, a coming-of-age story set within the music industry; Mother-in-Law (with Taylor Hallman), a saga on racing and race relations during the early days of the American Civil Rights movement; Crossfire, a story of innocent bystanders caught up in the urban drug wars, adapted from the play by John Walsh; Florida, a story of the tapestry of life on the Mississippi Delta during the twentieth century (with Narroyl Parker); Love Object, a film noir thriller about love unattained (with James MacGuire); and Low Tide (with Bernard Mendillo), an investigative drama about illegal aliens, the drug trade, and corruption within the HSA.
Tom Ferriter directed and produced the world premieres of Kathleen Anderson Culebro's The Crying Woman/La Llorona, a cross-cultural drama on international misunderstandings, Off Broadway at the Beckett Theatre, Paul Enger's In The Air, a love story during the Great Flu epidemic of 1918, Off Broadway at Theatre 315, James MacGuire's Nanny (also co-producer), an American comedy of extended families at the Nottara Theatre-Bucharest, and the European premiere of Harding Lemay's From A Dark Land, a World War-II drama of complicity, at the National Theatre of Romania-Craiova (co-producer), after having produced and directed the premieres of Marlene Shyer's First Wife, at the Emelin Theatre (Mamaroneck), Diane Leslie's and Mary Orr's family musical, Enchanted Afternoon, and Frank O'Donnell's Twisters, Off Broadway at the Nat Horne Studio Theatre on New York's Theatre Row. Tom is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Actors' Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and is a graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute's Master Producing Class.
Tom Ferriter has been a visiting professor to the Academy of Theatre in Bucharest, and a guest professor at the Academy of Theatre in Oslo. He was Performance Coach to America's Health Network, a 24-hour cable TV network transmitted by satellite to more than 10 million households across America, and was a member for three years of the faculty of The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where his classes included Acting for Film and Television, TV Commercial Acting, and Basic Acting Techniques. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business Management from California State University - San Francisco and an Associate of Arts degree in Economics from Santa Barbara City College.
Michael Valenti composed, arranged, and conducted the music for the Emmy Award winning television series; A WALK THROUGH THE 20th CENTURY. For CBS radio he shared the Peabody Award for NEWSMARK.
In 1995 Mr. Valenti composed PROCESSIONAL FOR A PONTIFF a large orchestral work which was written for the entrance of Pope John Paul II into Central Park, New York, on the occasion of his celebration of the Eucharist. The piece was performed again on April 19, 2008 for Pope Benedict XVI entrance into St. Patrick's Cathedral. On December 11, 2008 his Christmas carol "Sleep, Holy Infant" was sung by St. Patrick's choir in concert and again at midnight mass on Christmas Eve. In March of 1991 at St. Peter's Church he conducted the premier of his dramatic oratorio THE WAY which is based on the fourteen Stations of the Cross.
In its permanent repertory The Goldman Memorial Band at Lincoln Center has performed Mr. Valenti's MARCH PASHA, CAROLINA SEASONS, ORIENTAL MAGIC, THE GUGUE FUGUE, THE GRAND WALTZ FROM LOLA MONTEZ, and the concert band version of PROCESSIONAL FOR A PONTIFF. In August of 1987 he was given a retrospective at Lincoln Center under the direction of Maestro Ainslee Cox. The Goldman Memorial Band performed all of his published concert band music and premiered his BIG APPLE MARCH. In 1998 Mr. Valenti was invited by The Goldman Band to conduct the first performance of his BLACK HAWK MARCH, and in the summer of 2002 he performed as piano soloist with the band in the world premier of his MUSIC IN SEARCH OF A BALLET. On February 25, 2005 The GMB Band premiered his FESTIVAL MARCH at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Michael Valenti has the distinction of being given more world premiers by The Goldman Memorial Band than any other composer in the bands long and celebrated history.
HYMNE A SAINT-BARTHELEMY, now the National Anthem of the small island of Saint Barthelemy in the Caribbean was commissioned by the Chorale de Bons Choeurs and was introduced by the choir of the same name on December 11, 1999.
In the spring of 2002 The Children's Orchestra Society under the baton of Michael Dadap premiered his THE LITTLE PARK ACROSS THE STREET at the Colden Center for the Performing Arts.
His MOOD PIECE (adagio for strings and harp) was first performed by the Oklahoma Symphony, and his ballet CONVERSATIONS has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and Spoletto.
In 2002 Michael Valenti composed the music for the 25th anniversary production of THE BIG APPLE CIRCUS and has subsequently each year composed for that organization. In 2007 from November 9th thru January 17th his original manuscripts were exhibited at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center.
In 2004 Marshall University established THE MICHAEL VALENTI MUSIC COLLECTION in the College of Fine Arts and THE MICHAEL VALENTI GRADUATE ASSISTANTSHIP where he has served as Composer-in-Residence.
His Broadway credits include OH BROTHER!, CLOTHES FOR A SUMMER HOTEL (Tennessee Williams' last play which starred Geraldine Page), HONKY TONK NIGHTS, BLACKSTONE!, and BLOOD RED ROSES. Off-Broadway he composed the scores for more than fifteen plays and musicals including LOVESONG, IN THE SUMMER HOUSE, (for the Manhattan Theatre Club), JUST FOR LOVE, SONG BY SONG (a review based on his theatre songs) and MADEMOISELLE COLOMBE which starred Tammy Grimes and was awarded five Outer Critic Circle Award nominations for which Mr. Valenti received two for best book, and best music for a musical. His SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS is still the longest running children's musical ever produced in New York and his BEAUTY AND THE BEAST as well as SNOW WHITE continue to enjoy productions world wide. BASHVILLE IN LOVE, a musical he composed for the opening season of The Texas Stage Company was given the Best New Musical of the Year Award by The Dallas Morning News. His score for Williams' THE GLASS MENAGERIE has been performed in regional theaters throughout the country, as well as his music for UPTIGHT by Gunter Grass, and Donald Drivers' A WALK OUT OF WATER. In the fall of 2003 the Goodspeed Opera presented his musical O.HENRY'S LOVERS that he wrote with librettist Joe DiPietro.
He composed, arranged, conducted, and directed THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF JONATHAN WINTERS for the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, as well as composing the music for the Zev Bufman production of BAHAMA BOUND, which opened the Cable Beach Hotel in Nassau.
As a performer, Michael Valenti appeared in the original Broadway production of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WTHOUT REALLY TRYING, understudying the pivotal role of J. Pierrepont Finch. Off-Broadway he originated the role of Michael in YOUR OWN THING, and created the role of Tony Franco on NBC's THE DOCTORS.
His recorded albums include LOVESONG, OH BROTHER!, MUSIC IN SEARCH OF A MUSICAL, PIANO ROMANCES, SOUNDS OF CELEBRATIONPLAY MUSIC! The Stage and Television Music of Michael Valenti.
In 2010 The Portland Orchestra under the direction of Yaacov Bergman premiered STORY OF AN HOUR; the second piece in his CHRISTMAS TRILOGY.
Other published works include "Sleep Holy Infant" from STORY OF AN HOUR the one act opera BEAU NASH first performed by the Portland Chamber Orchestra, a song cycle entitled SOLITUDE, WEDDING MARCH for organ and brass, 12 PIANO PRELUDES, IMPROMPTU for cello and piano, 10 NOCTURNES for piano, RHAPSODY FOR CLARINET and piano, DANCES FOR FLUTE AND PIANO, FIVE SONATINAS for piano, ON RUSSIAN HILL for Horn in F and piano, and TEN DANCES FOR WOODWIND QUINTET. And for children, THE MUSICAL TELEPHONE BOOK for piano, THE COFFEE GRINDER for flute and piano, and ten FANCIES for piano solo.