Aaron Zavitz was watching "The Cable Guy" a few years back when he got an idea for a play. He worked on it, off and on, for years.
The play got a staged reading a couple years ago at the Great Plains Theatre Conference, and Zavitz used the feedback to refine and rewrite.
Tonight, the result, "Intelligentsia," will have its first full stage production at the Shelterbelt Theatre, opening for a four-weekend run.
"Intelligentsia" is about a married couple, Catherine and Lawrence, who are numbly absorbed in the world of television. When their cable signal suddenly dies, they're at a total loss.
They have to face reality, and each other.
Ellen Struve, the Shelterbelt's artistic director, said she and several Shelterbelt board members attended the reading of "Intelligentsia" at the theater conference.
"We knew right away it was something we were interested in," she said. "I'm particularly excited to see the collaboration between Zavitz as writer and Eric Salonis as director. They share a deeply funny, wonderfully absurd aesthetic."
Both perform. Both write. Both infuse their work with pathos and intelligence, Struve said.
Zavitz, a filmmaker who owns a video business with his wife, Molly, began writing while earning a dramatic arts degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has had a love-hate relationship with acting, he said.
"I loved saying great words, the language of Samuel Beckett or Edward Albee, being a vessel for great writing. But I wanted to be the creator."
"Intelligentsia" marks his first premiere of a full-length play.
"It's about how we communicate, how complacent we can get in our lives watching a lot of TV," he said. "And I'm no exception. I used to read a lot. As you get older and life gets harder, it's so much easier to flip on a cooking reality show than to be actually involved in life."
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