William James, one of the fathers of modern psychology, took great pride in debunking fraudulent psychics and mystics because it conflicted with his pragmatism. His conviction that all telepaths were charlatans was shaken, however, when he met one spiritualist he couldn’t prove fake. Famously, he likened her to finding the single white crow that “upset[s] the conclusion that all crows are black.”
That idea inspired West Coast playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos to pen a drama about the bridge between this world and the next. One White Crow, which received its premiere February 25 and runs through March 20 at Arena Players Repertory Theater in East Farmingdale, tells of a skeptical journalist sent to interview a television medium and being taken aback when the latter claims the writer’s dead father is trying to make contact from the afterlife.
“I recently lost my father,” the playwright told Pulse, “So I brought that element into the play. And like my dad, the father in the play is very much a rationalist. Except in Crow, he’s communicating with someone he’d never have touched with a ten-foot pole during his lifetime. Like him, I have a scientific and skeptical mind, so I pursue this marriage between rationality and belief in a lot of my work”
Artistic director Frederick DeFeis tells Pulse he chose to stage Stamos’ play (out of 150 other submissions for Arena’s annual world-premiere slot) because of its good writing and an interesting concept “that’s on the minds of a lot of people right now, what happens when we pass away.”
Stamos returns the compliment by noting that she submitted One White Crow to Arena because it’s a theater “friendly to new and emerging playwrights, which is a smaller and smaller group. Even those that claim friendliness aren’t always open to getting manuscripts through the mail. I have an agent, but it’s still nice to submit directly when I want to. I think it also helps that it’s a three-character play, because these days, I’m wise enough—economically speaking—to write small-cast plays.” The drama will also get a production this year at Los Angeles’ 99-seat Edgemar Center for the Arts, which staged the author’s Dialectics of the Heart in 2006.
And speaking of connections: No, Ms. Stamos is not kin to Full House actor and heartthrob John Stamos. “My husband’s full name is Stamatoyannis,” explains the playwright, “and the actor’s is Stamatopoulos. Still, when John was on General Hospital, teen girls would call us all the time and say, ‘Is John there?’ Just using his first name because they wanted to seem like they knew him. Finally, my father-in-law called John’s agent and found out, no, we’re not related.”