"She was my first true love," sighs playwright David Templeton, deeply blushing, appropriately, bright pink.
Templeton's new play, Pinky, which opens this week, tells the tale of young, Renaissance-obsessed David's not-quite-unrequited love for Pinky, and the extravagant lengths that his seven-league boots must travel to win her heart. Enlisting a band of merry friends, the lovestruck David concocts elaborate plots to catch—and keep—Pinky's attention.
Bohemian readers know Templeton from these very pages, in which he reviews weekly local stage productions. Some will even recall his debut one-man show, Wretch Like Me, a meditation on his teenage days as a born-again Christian. Pinky premieres at Sebastopol's Main Stage West Theater this week, directed by Sheri Lee Miller and co-starring Templeton, as himself, with Liz Jahren as Pinky.
The fictionalized but essentially true script finds 15-year-old David catching sight of Pinky for the first time. ("Bathed in a pink light as she entered the room," Templeton recalls fondly. "It was love at first sight.") A year younger, but every bit the adventurous romantic, Pinky appreciates and is flattered by the attention but isn't quite sure that David measures up to her ideal Prince Charming. She formulates a list of 10 attributes that "P.C.," as she affectionately calls her prince, must possess, and David, rating only a seven, tries to achieve the required perfect score.
To accomplish this, he masterminds treasure hunts, kidnappings, swordfights and other dastardly deeds that his posse of pals enact in full costume and makeup, portraying Pinky as the damsel in distress and David as the rescuing knight in shining armor. Fairy tales, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and Dungeons & Dragons weigh as heavy as King Arthur's sword Excalibur in their role-playing. Orcs, elves and dwarves deliver poems written in Elvish, riddled clues to hidden treasure and roses to Pinky, courtesy of her wannabe prince. Young David, who more often identifies with the tragic, second-string characters like trolls, woodsmen, frogs or beasts, also commissions a real—albeit dorky—P.C. suit, complete with tights, to prove he is the prince inside that Princess Pinky seeks.
"When I tell people about this, I can see by the looks in their faces that they're both surprised and delighted and disbelieving that I would go to such lengths," says Templeton, smiling. "It makes everybody think of their own first loves, and I just knew that this was a special story that needed to be told."
As the narrative swings back and forth in time, with the actors portraying both young and older versions of Pinky and David, the play begs an unavoidable question of motivation. Why is a 50-year-old, happily married man not only writing about his first love but also spending years' worth of time and once again involving the company of others to relive his teen years, something so many of us are eager to leave behind? And what would the real Pinky think about someone with whom she's only had a thimbleful of contact since she was 19?
"It's got to be a weird thing," admits Templeton. "I don't know what would happen if somebody called me up and said, 'Yeah, we haven't really seen each other in 30 years, but remember that time we did this thing? Well, I just wrote a play about it, and it's called David and here's the script.'"