This year marks Road Less Traveled Productions Tenth Anniversary Season, and to celebrate they are presenting a special Curtain Up show, Buffalo Rises, featuring Western New York’s exceptional talent in playwriting, performance and fine art. RLTP asked eight WNY playwrights to tell Buffalo’s story through their eyes and imaginations. The result is Buffalo Rises—a collection of eight short plays, accompanied by original artwork by local artists, that recall our city’s history, humor and hope. In one night we are taken on Buffalo’s rollercoaster history as seen from the highs of the 1901 Pan American Exposition, the lows of post-industrial decay and all that’s in between. Over the next few weeks Road Less Traveled Productions, generously sponsored by Buffalo Rising, will present an eight part series taking a look into the plays and playwrights that make Buffalo Rises.
Buffalo, NY—the City of Good Neighbors. It’s a familiar moniker among those who live here, and a reputation that spreads as more and more people come and go from our neighborly metropolis. Many of those going are the young, newly minted degree in hand. Seeing jobs and new thrills they are drawn to cities that, well, aren’t Buffalo. But what’s it like for those who come back, whether to stay or just to visit? Seeing old friends and good neighbors, familiar neighborhoods and favored stomping grounds? And how far does a good neighbor go to help out a Buffalonian in need? Caitlin McAneny raises these questions in her funny and poignant play “Good Neighbors”, part of Road Less Traveled’s season opener, Buffalo Rises.
The East Side. Lovejoy. Kaisertown. Elmwood Village. The West Side. Riverside. Black Rock. Parkside. North Buffalo. The Old First Ward. South Buffalo. Like any old city, Buffalo is a chain of communities, each with a distinct personality and history of its own. South Buffalo, where McAneny sets “Good Neighbors” still largely retains the Irish roots planted by immigrants long ago. With their large, traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade, Irish step dancing schools and Gaelic street signs, their definitive legacy outlasts the city’s changing profile. It was once a thriving community fueled by the immigrants flocking to work in steel plants, factories and rail yards. Like the rest of city, South Buffalo was emptied by economic downturns and subsequent population flight. From its highest point of 573,000, Buffalo lost 55% of its population by the end of the twentieth century, earning a not-so-coveted spot on the list of 20 most quickly deteriorating regions in the nation. Many of those who left were (and still are) the young and newly graduated; termed “bright flight” they subsequently fueled other cities with their fresh manpower, brainpower and willpower, deserting the home city that cannot support them.
And yet, despite the suburban exodus, the bright flight, and the changing neighborhood lines, there remains a sense of community and loyalty for those who stayed and for many who have returned. A sense of camaraderie pervades, a unity of those who stand together against mercurial Mother Nature and repeated economic and athletic disappointments. You lend a hand; you watch the streets, and welcome home all those want to return with open arms. The unity and identity of a Buffalonian resists changing time and location. It’s this idea that McAneny taps into for “Good Neighbors”, the story of a young woman returning to her family home in South Buffalo to deal with a recent inheritance, and the questions that arise.
As a South Buffalo native, McAneny writes with an insider’s view of the close-knit families, traditions and Irish heritage that pervade the community. Her characters are drawn with an honesty and authenticity that speaks to her observant eye and deep roots. It’s easy to recognize in her themes and characters people most Buffalonians know, and the struggle between family, neighborhood and individuality is one familiar to many.
“Good Neighbors” marks McAneny’s fourth time working with Road Less Traveled, and her first as part of the main season. In 2010 and 2012, she won the grand prize in the Buffalo Young Writers contest for her plays Ashes of Emeralds and Just Enough. In 2011 she was runner up for her work Second Love. Of Just Enough, RLTP Literary Director Jon Elston said the play was “another impressive step forward in the evolution of the writing of Miss McAneny who has become an increasingly exiting local talent”. “Good Neighbors” continues this collaboration and evolution with RLTP. Caitlin is a graduate of Canisius College, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the 60th annual issue of The Quadrangle, the annual Canisius College literary and arts magazine. She is currently an editor at an educational publishing house in Buffalo.
Buffalo Rises, directed by Scott Behrend, premieres September 13, 2013 at Road Less Traveled Productions theater inside Market Arcade Film & Arts Center on Main Street in Buffalo. Shows are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm (with the exception of Friday, September 20th at 8pm for Curtain Up!). Tickets are $33 for Adults, $15 for students. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org.