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Last Sunday we paid a call on playwright/chanteuse Erica Werner in her capacious Adams House brownstone. We found Ms. Werner, often referred to as "high society's bad girl," reposed in indolent decadence on her silk-sheeted bed, wearing a richly embroidered smoking jacket that smelled of the Orient (If we didn't ask what she had on underneath, it's not because we didn't wonder!).
Ms. Werner is most known for her trenchant wit and mordant bon mots, but on that dreary afternoon we sought her out--not without some trepidation, for stories of her cruelty to the media are legion--to chat about her new project, a rock/operatic adaptation of Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park." The project has been the topic of conversation in the best dining halls and common rooms this season, in no small part because of Ms. Werner's alleged connections to organized crime (which have never been substantiated, as she is quick to point out).
Although Ms. Werner responded to our questions in a drunken slur and from somewhere inside a thick cloud of Cuban cigar smoke, she revealed herself, contrary to legend, to be charming, polite and full of old-world insight.
Fifteen Minutes: Ah yes hello, I know you rarely grant media interviews, so I very much appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me.
Ms. Werner: My dear sir, the pleasure is all mine. Please sit down on one of my well-appointed divans.
FM: Thank you.
MW: Not at all. Would you care for a cocktail?
FM: Oh, no thank you. I rarely drink before dinner.
MW: Neither do I--except on weekdays and weekends! Ho ho ho!
FM: Hee hee hee! Now, would you mind telling me a little bit about this new project of yours that everyone's been talking about?
MW: You refer to my utopian vision of a revolutionary reshaping of society?
FM: Well, no, actually I refer to "Jurassic Park: The Rock Opera."
MW: Yes indeed. Sorry, old man, just a little joke.
FM: Oh--hee hee hee.
MW: (pensively): Ah, yes. "Jurassic Park: The Rock Opera." I like the way that sounds. It conjures up images of majestic beasts long extinct reappearing to tread the primordial swamp, but with one important distinction: this time they've got rhythm!
FM: Oh my! And soul?
MW: Yes, soul too! Why not!
FM: How did this idea come to you?
MW: You're not the first person to ask me that, and you probably won't be the last. But who can explain the workings of genius?
FM: Who indeed!
MW: Suffice it to say that it's one of those visions which requires a grand leap of faith, but which, once conceived of, occupies an integral part in the order of things.
FM: Like the theory of relativity.
MW: Quite right.
FM: So how far have you gotten in the planning process?
MW: Dear man, at this point the planning process is far, far behind me--you might even say extinct. All it took was for me to get the ball rolling, and the project immediately acquired a life of its own.
MW: Absolutely. What just a few months ago was the seed of an idea in the fertile soil of my mind has since grown into a mammoth, bloodthirsty beast with an insatiable appetite that devours others of its own species! Ho ho ho!
FM: Dear me!
MW: Understand me, my friend. The mission of art is not to make you comfortable. It is to chill you blood, thrill your soul and cause you to run, run, run, all the while shrieking in terror!
FM: Do you really think so?
MW: It is my most firm, perhaps my only, belief.
FM: (giggling nervously): Well, can you tell me a little about your collaborators on the project?
MW: My dear sir, man is an island, and stands alone to face the twists and turns of unkind fortune. The same goes for woman. Would that it were not so.
FM: Oh. I just thought you might have a cast and some financial backing.
MW: Ah yes, very much so. I have, in fact, drawn on some of the best minds of our generation. To do otherwise would have been unthinkable. But I am afraid that I cannot jeopardize their privacy.
FM: But couldn't you just...
MW: (bombastically): Fame comes at a cruel price, my friend! A cruel price indeed!
FM: Oh, I'm sorry. I withdraw the question. Perhaps you could tell me, though, for the benefit of my readers, when the rock opera will be performed?
MW: I would be more than happy to. It will be performed the first weekend of December in the Adams House Kronauer Space.
FM: Thank you very much for your time.
MW: You're very welcome.
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