Five Below’s “8 Count Fountain Pens” Review

For however long it lasts, Five Below currently stocks an “8 Count Fountain Pen” set of $5 (US) rainbow-colored “Made in China” fountain pens that look a lot like the set of rainbow Ooly fountain pens at bookstores and art supply stores. They are not exactly like the Ooly pens: the design of the pen and nib is slightly different and the pen body colors and ink colors are slightly different. The cartridges are narrower (less ink!) than Ooly proprietary cartridges and the 2 cartridges do not swap (i.e. to get more cartridges for your Ooly pens buy them from Ooly.)

The 8 Count Color Fountain Pens/8 Colored Inks in their package. (The inks are inside the pens.)

Of my set of 8 pens Five Below most wrote after the usual steps with any new fountain pen: wipe the tip of the nib with rubbing alcohol (or hand sanitizer) to remove any protective wax or grease, give the feed a brief bath in warm water with a drop of dish soap or Castile soap, blow through the feed (as if blowing up a balloon) to remove any dust or microscopic plastic shavings, then rise the nib in warm water and shake it dry. Insert the cartridge (directions are on the back of the package: I had to press hard on a firm surface and then remove the cartridge and dip the point of the nib into the cartridge to be sure the plastic seal was really broken – then put the cartridge back in.) One pen out of the 8 was a slow starter so I pressed gently back on the metal nib and dipped it in water: after that it worked as well as the rest.

Briefly cleaning the feed and nib is a helpful step with any new fountain pen.

These pens all came with a little piece of white paperboard to cushion the cartridges inside the pens during shipping. It’s not a part of the pen and can be recycled but it’s an odd touch and a sign of how small these cartridges are. (The back of the package notes that the ink cartridge diameter is “2.6mm”. That would be great if I had any idea of the diameter of a standard pen feed ….) I did get a standard international cartridge (a generic fountain pen ink cartridge) to fit on one of the pens and it wrote without leaking: so once the cartridges that came with the pens run out they can write with ordinary cartridges and there are several brands in rainbows of colors to choose from.

The pens with their matching inks.

These are also not eyedropper pens: unless you can make the full 16th of an inch hole in the back of the pen watertight there will be no filling the whole body of the pen with bottled ink.

The 8 Count Fountain Pen inks vs. the Ooly fountain pen inks on Hammermill Multi printer paper.

These pens write well enough, have a slight flex in their nibs, take standard cartridges, and are an inexpensive pen for matching the color of your pen to the color of ink, inside (or for trying out no-name inks that might clog a prized, more expensive pen). They are as good as most low-end pens with stamped steel nibs (inexpensive or disposable Pilots, Itoyas, Zebras, Oolys, etc.) and I haven’t yet gotten them to leak. (They do write better if kept point down: better pens should be kept nib up.)

Top: The 8 Count fountain pen Bottom: An Ooly fountain pen

-Lisa Shapter

Note: I have no connection with Five Below, I bought these pens on my own at full price, and I owe a thanks to YouTuber SuperRaeDizzle for mentioning that Five Below has a website.

Five Below’s “2 Count Calligraphy Fountain Pen” Review

I like fountain pens for their longevity (I have 100 year old pens), how they write, how comfortable they are to write with (if you are willing to try out different weights and widths of pens), and the variety of ink colors. Expensive pens write well and have the durability and workmanship to last 100 years but (since it’s a good time to carry your own pen) I try not to own anything I’d fear losing while running errands.

My few (not very) expensive pens stay home for letters and long form writing but I am always on the lookout for inexpensive pens to treat more cavalierly. I especially like finding fountain pens at drug stores, office supply stores, and discount stores. For this hot minute Five Below sells two types of fountain pens: the “2 Count Calligraphy Fountain Pen” ($3.25 US) and the “8 Count Fountain Pen” ($5 US). This is a review of the first (a “Made in China” knock off of the excellent and more expensive Lamy pens found in bookstores and stationary stores).

The 2 Count Calligraphy Fountain Pens in their package

The package comes with two pens (one with a Fine nib, the other with an Extra Fine nib) and four generic black ink cartridges. There are directions on the back but you will need to push firmly if you are using your own ink cartridges, instead. (The package helpfully(?) notes the ink feed’s diameter is 3.4 mm. I have no idea how this compares with other, standard pens.)

The 2 Count Calligraphy Fountain pens ready to be put together, with the box of spare ink cartridges.

The “2 Count Calligraphy” pens are not calligraphy pens. They have ordinary fountain pen nibs that write “Fine” (hooded nib) and “Extra Fine” (standard nib) – not the wide square tips for fancy lettering.

The nibs and feeds of the pens (which kept rolling when I tried to get a top view).

They will write with a line like a ballpoint’s: for actual calligraphy fountain pens there are several good choices at most crafting stores. These pens do have an advantage: most high end fountain pens do not come with “Extra Fine” nibs (“Medium” is far more common – think of a thick-lined 1 mm gel pen) but the tradeoff is that fountain pen fans are always looking for paper that won’t feather the ink like a cheap felt-tip pen or have it show through badly on the other side of the page. If you want a fountain pen that will write well on nearly any paper (ordinary notebook paper, printer paper, most cards and stationary) an “Extra Fine” pen is your best bet. There are two flat places on these pens for your fingers so you know you’re holding the pen correctly. (Write with a fountain pen at a low angle to the paper: for best results write with the blob on the side of the nib not with the very tip of the sharp point.)

These Five Below pens write beautifully. They have ink windows that let you see when you’re running low on ink. These are not eyedropper pens: blowing into them shows air leaks around the ink window. Unless you could seal the window without covering it over there will be no filling the whole back of the pen with bottled ink. (I recommend using up the ink they came with then filling the empty plastic cartridge from your choice of bottled ink with a dull syringe: an online pen store of your choice can set you up with both.)

How the 2 pens write (top: the black ink they came with bottom: a standard international cartridge of Thornton’s green).

These pens take standard international ink cartridges (ye generic standard ink cartridges) but I had to press hard on a firm surface to get the narrow end of the cartridge to seat correctly. (It took a few tries to get the cartridge flush to the back of the feed so the pen could not leak.)

Top: one of the black cartridges that came with the pens Bottom: a standard international cartridge of Thornton’s black for comparison.

I was prepared to write a you-get-what-you-pay for review about the usual faults of cheap pens (‘won’t write, write only in ink blots, won’t take any kind of cartridge you can ever find again, leaks’) but I recommend these pens: they are good starter pens that write surprisingly well and pleasantly, do not feather or bleed on most ordinary types of paper (sticky notes, free charity notepads, printer paper, school notebooks, inexpensive Thinking of You cards), and so far they write without blobbing or leaking. They are a good choice if you want to try out fountain pens or want a pen for that off-brand glitter-filled or corrosive vintage ink that might clog (or eat) a pricier pen.

-Lisa Shapter

Note: I have no connection with Five Below, I bought these pens on my own initiative at full price, and I owe a thanks to YouTuber SuperRaeDizzle (check out both channels, esp. the tests of historic art supplies and vanished paint colors!) for mentioning that Five Below has a website.

My Routine

I seem to alternate years of not finding a publisher with years of better luck.  My routine is the same with either:  write a short story a week (I’ve nearly finished a sequence of 36 stories taking place on successive days); send rejected stories out to another publisher; query agents for a novel; and revise a 3/4 done novel, novella (usually a past year’s National Novel Writing Month project), or first draft of a short story  or script — all of which must be kept in continuity with each other.


I used to think when a favorite writer didn’t have anything new that they were either writing a novel or taking time off.  Most writers I know work steadily, all the time, and there’s a portion of luck in appears in print/on screens and when.  A writer is someone who writes: I keep at it (and all the secretarial work that goes with finding publication) until my luck changes.



-Lisa Shapter



For Your Bradbury Award Consideration

The production script for  my first play, “The Other Two Men,” is on the Bradbury Award Suggested Reading List for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation:

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America members may read the script here:

The script is set 800 years in the future in a colonized Milky Way galaxy. In this play, historians on an established colony world decide to clone two of their four planetary founders in order to solve the problem of what went wrong in their lives. These clones are raised in strict historical recreations of their 300-years-gone-by North America hometowns and are given the same military training as their originals.

This play is about the day the two young men meet.

They find themselves locked in one room until they solve an unspecified problem about the past. Some things go wrong:  historians on this colony planet have only cloned two of the four founding figures; the clones have figured out they are duplicates of famous long-dead men and everyone around them is an actor in a living history museum; and they’re two unique new people – not their original, heroic progenitors.

It is is a story about free will and predestination – what can and cannot be planned. It is about a relationship that do not fit conventional categories and a story that does not follow conventional patterns.

-Lisa Shapter


Deep background (Or:  (Nearly) Everything I Write is in the Same Universe) —

This script is based on an unpublished short story.   The play stands on its own, but it  is linked to an ongoing series of short stories now appearing in Black Denim Lit.  The prequel stories are:

This is Not a Love Story in Black Denim Lit (October 2015)  (How the originals of the two clones met.)

Inducement” in Black Denim Lit (2016)

Searching” in Black Denim Lit #8 (December 2014) (The Rain and the Resada mentioned in passing in the script)

Planet 50” in Black Denim Lit (July 2015) (A better view of Resada.)


These related stories are set in the same universe:

The World in His Throat in Things We Are Not: An M-Brane SF Magazine Queer Science Fiction Anthology (2009)

Life on Earth” in Expanded Horizons (January 2015)

Nightskyman Hope” in Expanded Horizons (January 2016)

No Woman, No Plaything” in Kaleidotrope (October 2012)  (Resada on her own.)

Planet 38” in Four Star Stories (Summer 2013)  (Another story about Resada on her own.)


I also have an unrelated alternate history novella published by Aqueduct Press:

A Day in Deep Freeze


Nearly all of my work is interconnected:  each work stands on its own but each piece adds depth and nuance to the others.  Those who read this script will know things about these characters that no one else knows.  (Readers of the short stories will appreciate the two original characters’ world and why their descendants might have wanted to clone them.  There was a draft of the script where the two originals and Rain and Resada had an entire conversation about the world they’d founded (and their worries for the place) but it didn’t end up in the production.)


The script also benefited immensely from the feedback and questions from the workshop reading by Generic Theater, and the specific and detailed revision suggestions of Susan Turner, Alan Huisman, Alex Pease, Collin Snider; and the careful rehearsal process at The Players’ Ring — with the sound advice of Tomer Oz, Emery Lawrence, Bailey Weakley, and the encouragement and wisdom of Todd Hunter, Barbara Lakin Newton, and master playwrights David J. Mauriello and Jim Kelly.  I was tremendously moved by the play’s reception and have made friends of fellow artists that I hold dear.

-Lisa Shapter

The Other Two Men: Credits & Acknowledgements

At the end of the workshop reading and Q&A  of my play last November, Alex Pease spoke to me about getting the script ready for production.   One of the first things he said was:  “Theater is collaborative.”


To honor that truth, let me say that I owe every success of the first production of my science fiction play “The Other Two Men” (review) to the professional acumen and hard work of many, many partners, advisers, and benefactors —


Lisa Shapter wishes to thank Christopher T. Garry and Back Denim Lit, the first venue to take a risk on these characters.  She also wishes to thank everyone who came out to see the reading or the production of a new work of science fiction as experimental live theater.  She also extends her profound gratitude to every actor who auditioned for an unknown role in a new play set in the far future.  She also thanks James Patrick Kelly for his generosity of soul and his commitment to science fiction in New England; Alex Pease (and Outcast Productions) for his guidance and encouragement, Tomer Oz (and Oz Productions) for his kindness and dedication; playwright David Mauriello for his solicitude and wise advice; Tomer Oz for his audio narration and concept art and Kaitlyn Huwe for poster art; Jasmin Hunter (and Jasmin Hunter Photography) for publicity photos; Joi Smith (Back Alley Productions) for publicity; Sam Smith, Alex Pease, Bretton Reis (lighting design), Mike Kimball (sound design), and Tomer Oz for giving their all on lighting and sound; Barbara Newton for holding the whole place together; and the Generic Theatre and the Players’ Ring for taking a risk on this (and other) new work in the Reading Series and Late Night Series.  She also wishes to thank the Generic Theatre‘s Susan Turner and Collin Snider.  She particularly wishes to thank the play’s two leads Bailey Weakley and Emery Lawrence, whose gifts and skills kept turning up things about these characters and their relationship that (the author was certain) only appeared in as-yet unpublished short stories.  (These talents are all the more evident when they are working with material by experienced script writers.)  It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with all of you.


Oz Productions wishes to thank PPMTV for their rehearsal space, Lisa, Emery, Bailey, Sam, Alex, Brett, Mike, Tin, Jaz, Todd, Joi, Peter, Barb and everybody else at The Players’ Ring, Generic Theater and everybody who was part of the reading, everybody who auditioned, and anybody else who was involved in making this production what it is today!  Also, thanks to you, the audience for coming to see the show!


The Players’ Ring wishes to thank all of its members (become one today!), volunteers, and LCHIP donors!  It also wishes to thank its 24th season sponsors:  the Atlantic Grill, Allegra Marketing, the EDGE, Heinemann Publishing,  and the Sound.  It also wishes to thank its generous supporters at Pickwick Mercantile, Garrison Players, Federal Savings Bank, Geno’s Chowder and Sandwich Shop, Ambrosia Gardens Florist, Piscataqua Savings Bank, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, Ceres St. Bakery, The Salt Cellar, Generic Theater’s production of Love, Loss and What I Wore by Nora and Delia Ephron, Cavarretta Gardens, The Seacoast Repertory Theater (The Rep), the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources for its grant via its Conservation License Plate Grant Program (the ones with the moose!), Hazel Boutique, the Library Restaurant, Kennedy Gallery and Framing, Old Ferry Landing Restaurant, Discover Portsmouth, Tugboat Alley, Puttin’ in the Glitz, Great Bay Spa & Sauna, Portsmouth Book & Bar, Louis Clarizio DDS PA, Esta Resale Clothing, Sanders Fish Market, The Press Room, New Hampshire Professional Theater Association, Music on Wheels & DJ Mile Pomp, and The District Restaurant, and the Portsmouth Gas Light Restaurant.


Support the arts by supporting these local businesses!   Lisa Shapter also wishes to acknowledge the following friends of the arts:


210 Hair Salon, B.G.’s Boathouse, Bubby’s Deli, the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, Philbrick’s Fresh Market, Fresh Press Juice, Warner’s Hallmark Store on Market Square, Hannaford’s Supermarket, the Ice House Restaurant, Jardiniere Flowers, the ever-helpful Information Kiosk in Market Square, Justin’s Seafood Hut (Hebert Brothers), Kittery Trading Post, the Life is Good Clothing Store on Market Square, Lexie’s Joint Burgers, Dr. Mark Moses, Pink Bamboo Hotpot Cafe Restaurant, Portsmouth Public Library, River Run Bookstore (they carry my work), Robert’s Maine Grill Restaurant, Seaport Fish, Sheafe Street Books, Spectrum by Design Hair Salon, Water Street Bookstore (they carry my work).



Theater Programs and Posters:  Southport Printing Company

Ms. Shapter’s Florist:  Jardiniere Flowers

Ms. Shapter’s Makeup Provided by CHANEL

Makeup Artist:  Camille at CHANEL (Macy’s) (Ask for her at the CHANEL counter!)

Ms. Shapter’s Hair by 210 Hair Salon

Hair Stylist:  Melissa at 210 (Ask for her!)





“The Other Two Men”: The Director

The funny thing about my play “The Other Two Men” (review) is that it’s a story about an arranged marriage – that started out as a kind of arranged marriage.  The Players Ring wrote me that Tomer Oz would be my director.  Tomer arranged to meet and started right out with the two issues that cause the most conflicts in relationships:  money and sex.

“We’re paying the actors.”  He said, after introducing himself.

As a disciple of Yog’s Law in science fiction circles no other possibility had occurred to me:
“Of course we’re paying the actors!”

We moved on to how he wanted to approach the play.  “I’m not so interested in the gay stuff.”  He said.  I decided to ask what he meant rather than take instant offence.  (This is the director who added a kiss and a down-on-one-knee proposal to the staging:  he has no problem with same-sex material as a producer, director, or actor.)  What he meant was ‘I don’t see this as A Gay Story – this is not a niche production that would only interest an LBGT audience’.

“I agree.”  I replied.  “In fact you’ve understood all the main themes of the play perfectly.  So tell me your ideas for putting this play on stage.  How can I help?  I’ve typed brief casting notes on 3×5 cards, as a start ….”

We quickly moved on to casting, callbacks, the table read, and a startlingly compact rehearsal schedule.  I found it to be wonderful (everyone I’ve worked with at The Players Ring is kind and professional) and very difficult:  I had to trust Tomer before I knew or liked him.  As producer and director he made every key creative decision, as producer he had say over the production’s budget and finances, and while I quickly had good reasons for trusting him, extending immense confidence to a near-stranger was a hard thing to do.  Worse, we grew up on different continents and came from different artistic worlds:  so there were two cultural differences that could have created difficulties.  (My grandparents were from different continents so I knew that kind of difference well.)

The difference between writing and theater culture was the most difficult part for me – writers (see Yog’s Law) always suspect that publishers are not being above-board with shared creative decisions and finances.  Theater is collaborative and each person – stage manager, actor, producer, or light tech is trusted to do their job and work as a team.  Tomer explained (as a fellow playwright) that if I believed my script was a finished work then I should trust that a theater could stage it without my guidance or intervention.  In fact he did let me sit in on every step of the process, told me his ideas and showed me what he working on, and asked what I thought about each stage of the process (this was a courtesy, not a consultation).
Over rehearsals I quickly discovered that Tomer is an excellent manager; an organized, prompt, on-top-of-the-details boss who is clear without being overbearing.  He has a sense of humor, he is flexible (when the lights were stuck on ‘blackout’ one day during Tech Week he had no trouble shifting gears to an equally valuable alternate type of run-through), and he translated my high-concept science fiction (whose ideas about history and predestination he compared to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy (!!)) with lots of strange emotional territory into to-the-point guidance that made immediate sense to our two leads.  He changed much of the play’s stage directions (even after James Patrick Kelly’s advice I had too many of them). (“Well, you’re limiting what I can do as an actor.” Emery Lawrence explained when I asked for his and Bailey Weakley’s feedback on the script.).  I had set the play on a traditional proscenium stage with two legs and a border in the wings – the Players’ Ring has a bare, black box 3/4 thrust stage with entrances at three corners.  Tomer changed the geography of the set and did a beautiful job turning the space between the actors into a metaphor for the two characters’ sorta-romantic relationship.

Tomer’s also … a lot of people talk about tolerance now; what a different, truly egalitarian American society would look like.  Without any grandstanding Tomer treated me as a full human being and fellow professional (even when I said, “Look, I don’t know any of the rules around here:  you’ll just have to tell me everything about how theater works.”)  Every culture I grew up with – whether it was Spanish or Southeastern U.S. – has a role for women (and for men).  During rehearsals Tomer had no box I was supposed to stay in.  It was very disorienting.  I had a job (the playwright) but I was an entire human being.  He also did a second thing that I put down to culture:  he understood the theme of fundamental human decency in the script with the clarity of noon daylight.

Tomer Oz is a good person to work with and an excellent producer and director.   By Tech Week I liked him – after trusting him entirely for three week with one of the most personal things I’ve written.

It turns out The Other Two Men is Tomer’s first directing and producing gig in the Seacoast.  He is a familiar and sought-after actor with a wide range:  a player with the comedy improv troupe DARWiN’S WAiTiNG ROOM, the role of Musa in the Players’ Ring production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (VIPA).  His upcoming shows include:  Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun (Aug 4-14) with ACT ONE at West End Studio Theater, A Christmas Carol (Dec 2-23, 2016) at the Players’ Ring, and Metamorphoses with the New Hampshire Theatre Project (Jan. 13-29) at West End Studio Theater.  I urge you to see him in any of those roles. He will also produce Hurly Burly (March 10-26, 2017) at the Players’ Ring, which should not be missed.

I knew only two things about Tomer Oz before I met him:  I had watched him act in Bengal Tiger (“If you can act like that — and interpret a script like that — then you can direct *this* 45-minute play blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back.”  I said to him.)  And Alex from the reading had assured me:  “He’s great.”  (This means a very different thing in L.A.)

Alex Pease, one of the actors from last November’s reading, came on as our alternate light tech.  At one point during Tech Week he sat down in the theater seat next to me, and observed:

“This is a hard thing to do, to make the jump from short stories to scripts.  It’s also a hard thing to make the jump from publishing to the theater, they’re different cultures.  You’ve done both.  Normally I don’t allow the author to be a part of the actual production, because oftentimes you feel like you have to consult them with every choice or note, which can suffocate the director. This project is different; you’re one of the few who actually understands these limitations, and from what I can tell you’re one of the most understanding and accommodating playwrights I’ve ever seen.  This works.”

I replied:  “This has been everything I’m bad at and everything that’s difficult for me.  I like Tomer, though, he’s been worth trusting.”

Alex said: “I told you he’d be great to work with – we came into theater at the same time, only a month apart.  I’ve worked with him before.”

That’s the other cultural difference between theater and writing:  authors will overlook many flaws in collaborators and business partners as long as they’re competent professionals.  In this local theater culture the first criteria for hiring someone is ‘are they a decent person’ – everyone already knows who can do their job — but what matters is whether they are difficult, don’t keep their word, or are bad at getting along with people.  So they knew all that beforehand about Tomer and I didn’t.

I will work with Tomer Oz again any time.

-Lisa Shapter

Stirring sci-fi at The Ring (Review of “The Other Two Men” in the The Sound)

Stirring sci-fi at The Ring

Jul 21, 2016

Emery Lawrence (left) and Bailey Weakley star in
Emery Lawrence (left) and Bailey Weakley star in “The Other Two Men.” photo by Jasmin Hunter

“The Other Two Men” is thought-provoking theater

Modern society’s interpretation of history is never certain. Despite our best attempts to learn from the past, our current resources limit us from experiencing the proper lesson. We try anyway, for as the old saying goes, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

A new play on stage at The Players’ Ring in Portsmouth is spinning that popular belief into a reverse concept: If we were to repeat the past, would we learn from it?

In “The Other Two Men,” presented by Oz Productions, this question is explored through the interactions between Saskatoon II (Emery Lawrence) and Nebraska II (Bailey Weakley), clones of two of the four long-dead founding fathers of a future society built upon a colonized Milky Way galaxy. Saskatoon and Nebraska are under observation by their creators, who hope to discover historical intricacies by replicating the lives of the original two founders through their clones. But the controlled nature of their existence causes the clones to question and debate the ethics and value of such an endeavor.

Written by Lisa Shapter and directed by Tomer Oz, the two-man show is great entertainment for fans of the sci-fi genre, particularly those seeking a production with non-traditional plotlines. “The Other Two Men” is attractively unorthodox, a good choice for anyone looking for a different kind of theater experience.

The scenery and detail of the set is refreshingly sparse, allowing the audience to devote all of its attention to the two actors onstage. The spotlight remains on Lawrence and Weakley, who cope with the pressure through a dedicated maintenance of character. Their dialogue is steady and their facial expressions reflect the strong emotions their characters are feeling. The two stars develop and maintain a clear chemistry.

photo by Jasmin Hunter

Despite the compatibility of the actors, Nebraska and Saskatoon have conflicting reactions to their circumstances. While Nebraska continually expresses worry and doubt about their situation, Saskatoon is more resigned to his fate and optimistic about the outcome of the experiment. Although this dynamic creates an interesting tension between the two, Saskatoon gets somewhat short-changed as a character, lacking Nebraska’s depth and vulnerability. This results in a slight imbalance in the plot.

The lighting for the production is well done, but some of the sound effects are vague, particularly the source and meaning of the sounds the characters hear in their heads. Furthermore, the narration that accompanies different scenes is often difficult to understand and too brief for the audience to adequately consider.

But the artfulness of the writer and director, the performance of the actors, and the skill of the crew are all on full display in this production. The cast and crew’s ingenuity has created a compelling and thought-provoking show out of scant resources.

Audiences will not easily brush off the effects of “The Other Two Men” once they leave the theater — they will be made to think, and they will be made to feel.

“The Other Two Men” is onstage at The Players’ Ring in Portsmouth through July 24. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12, available here.


Go & Do: 5 Things to do This Weekend (from

The Other Two Men‘ opens at the Ring
From July 15 to 24, Oz Productions presents “The Other Two Men” by Lisa Shapter at The Players’ Ring, 105 Marcy St., Portsmouth. Showtimes are 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 9 p.m. on Sundays. Tomer Oz directs Shapter’s play, with Emery Lawrence and Bailey Weakly as two clones figure out if their future is a choice or not. This is the debut performance of Shapter’s first play. It is based on an ongoing series of short stories published in Black Denim Lit. Tickets cost $12 with discounts for Players’ Ring members, students, and seniors. To reserve, visit or call (603)­ 436-8123.

Source: Go & Do: 5 things to do this weekend

“The Other Two Men”: The Actors (Part II)

Casting my science fiction play The Other Two Men (review) was difficult.  A lot is at stake:  while we’ve joked about landing spaceships on stages, smoke machines, and robots for comic relief this play is science fiction with no special effects — just these two characters and their unique problem about history, predetermination (genetic, sociological, and psychological), and choices.  Tomer Oz  (Oz Productions) and I knew that the casting could make or sink the play before the first table read.  We had two auditions and callbacks and were at a bit of a loss with so many talented and experienced actors to choose from.
We both kept notes and checked in with each other – but I could not feel any winnowing happening as we went through a long day of callbacks.  During a late break near the end of the day we turned to each other and said, “I really like Bailey for Nebraska II.”  This was not a decision:  Tomer was casting a two-hander, a very small ensemble cast – one promising actor on his own is not ‘an ensemble’.   My director shook his head.  “Who I cast for one part will depend on who I cast for the other part.”  He remarked.
During rehearsals I’ve been trying to put my finger on what caught my interest in Bailey Weakley’s audition and callback:  it’s continued to be there.  I think it’s actually two things:  he’s able to portray a complexity or gravity that reads older than his actual age (a particularly important trait for this part, given the revelation at the end of the play) and he’s good at putting across several things at once.  The part of Nebraska II in The Other Two Men is thankless – the character is a walking box of defense mechanisms who hides behind his masculinity and his military profession.  I spent quite a while worrying that any actor in his 20’s might hold onto those aspects a little too tightly …. and the part does not give many chances to see the character without those masks.
Bailey portrays Nebraska II as someone who has needed to build a protective shell and he gives the character more depth than he has on the page.  This perceptive choice makes the role into an intelligent man who is always thinking – and feeling at least three things at once, including the reasons why he isn’t just saying what’s on his mind.  It is still a role that could push away an audience’s sympathies (as well as the other character, Saskatoon II’s (Emery Lawrence)) but Bailey gives the part a touching sweetness that makes you want both characters to find their way through the play’s strange dilemma.
Looking at Bailey’s professional experience I can see where this comes from:  he’s been acting for 15 years.  His last role at the Players’ Ring (in Memento Maury) called for him to stand on stage – wearing a full mask – while projecting an ominous numenosity.  Not easy, and not easy to keep that moment from becoming silly or absurdist, but it lifted the play (along with outstanding monologues by James Ouellette and Shaughnessey H. Gower) into the realm of chill-inducing metaphor.  Bailey’s training and experience comes from work at New Hampshire Theatre Project.  Notable roles include:  Valentine (Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona), Mortimer Brewster (Arsenic and Old Lace) and Berenger (Rhinoceros).


Bailey was also the assistant stage manager for Memento Mary.  A Portsmouth local, he is an artist of broad and genuine talent:  he is also musician and an expressionist painter.  He will soon be releasing an album with his band, Marvel Prone — and see one small part of his extraordinary talent in “The Other Two Men” (review) —


Oz Productions is proud to present:

The Other Two Men:  A New Science Fiction Play by Lisa Shapter
with Emery Lawrence and Bailey Weakley
at The Players’ Ring Late Night Series
July 15-24, 2016
10 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
9 p.m. Sundays

Tickets at:
or call: (603) 436-8123

  • Lisa Shapter