An ailing choreographer-dancer is haunted by memories in "Traveling", a romantic drama that blends dialogue, movement and music.

Evolution Theatre Company will rpesent the world premiere if Kenneth Talberth's play, which will preview on Friday and Saturday and open on Sept. 28 at the Columbus Performing Arts Center.

"I wanted to explore the fine line between the comfort and warmth of memories and the danger of living too much in the past and relying on illusion to avoid the future," Talberth said from New York.

The playwright will visit Columbus to see a performance and participate in post-show talkbacks after the Sept. 29, Sept. 30 and Oct, 1 shows.

"There's a sadness in the play with someone who is dealing with mortality, but I don't call it a tragedy or a play about illness," said Talberth 61. "'Traveling' explores the larger issues of how we all relate to memories...(and) happier times. I'm hopeful that the final moments are joyous and inspiring."

The title, which refers to an acting exercise in which partners use memories to explore ideas or places, offers a metaphor for the "journeys in peoples lives," Talberth said.

The two-act incorporates ballet, with an original instrumental score by composer Russell Boiarsky and choreography by Tony White.

"The style of this meditation on life and love is very light, very delicate, like a ballet," director Dee Shepherd said. "Talberth writes good dialogue and is very knowledgeable about relationships, art and dance," she said.

"He offers serious talk and confrontation but also humor about the themes of coming to the end."

Mark Phillips Schwamberger, Evolution's managing artistic director, plays 55 year old Winston Lambert.

"As we all age, we tend to look back at our past with sometimes fondness or remorse," Schwamberger said. "Winston runs the risk of being more in love with a memory than with the person who's supporting him now. ...Winston believes you must be passionate about your art and work, or you can't succeed. You have to give it your all."

Winston is torn between Tyler Morrison (Nick Hardin), his young lover and a talented 21-year-old dance student, and theater director Benjamin Cain (David Allen Vargo), Winston's former college roommate and lover.

Unanticipated conflict is sparked when Tyler, eager to lift Winston's spirits, brings Benjamin to visit him.

"Tyler's present almost backfires,: Schwamberger said. "You always love your first love, and Tyler now has to compete with that memory."

Meanwhile, only Winston can see the Dancer (White), a character who keeps reappearing to perform in Winston's memories.

"Winston is facing transition," Schwamberger said. "The ballet dancer -- the spirit of youth, ballet and art -- is helping him to accept that trip, that mortality is inevitable."

The aging artist has achieved much during his career, Shepherd said.

"But there's always that level of wistful yearning for more, ...for that level of perfection and joy that perhaps he thinks he never really achieved." she said. ‚ÄčBeyond is focus on art, the play raises serious and universal questions, Shepherd said.

"How do you let go? How much does your past matter to you? How do you negotiate coming to terms with your own mortality?" she said.

"Is it purely a private matter, or does it involve everyone in your life? And how honest should you be with your loved ones? What do you owe them?"


Play getting world premiere incorporates ballet in examing art, mortatilty

By Michael Grossberg/For the Columbus Dispatch