And the Writer’s Block Clears

“A Night in Manoa,”
Marianna Levine in Hawaii in her youth

Anyone who knows Marianna Levine and has seen her embrace a multitude of roles in journalism and the arts on the South Fork might be surprised to learn that she has a background in acting and writing plays and novels.

All of those worlds will come together Tuesday night in the reading of a play, “A Night in Manoa,” at Guild Hall as part of the JDT Lab of performance works in progress. The play is the result of the clearing of a major bout of writer’s block that beset Ms. Levine some years ago and caused her to leave several incomplete projects on the shelf. 

Given all of the hats she has been wearing recently, “I consider myself a writer above anything,” she said last week. After working with Colson Whitehead at the Stony Brook Southampton Writers Conference several years ago, she developed a terrible case of writer’s block and found herself working for the Hamptons International Film Festival, The Sag Harbor Express, Guild Hall, and other places where she could still make use of a creative outlet.

A health scare last year brought her regrets about her unfinished projects back into focus. “After the thought of not being around for my family, the next most devastating thought was ‘Oh no, I didn’t finish the novel or the screenplay.’ ”

She began to write again, a lot. She mentioned her newly inspired writing to Josh Gladstone, the director of Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater and its programs. He asked her if she had done a play. The next thing she knew, she had a date on the Guild Hall calendar, otherwise known as a deadline.

Since she already had the core idea of a story in novel form, she said, she decided to adapt that plot as a play. Two sisters return to Hawaii to bury their mother’s ashes in the garden of the house they had lived in two decades earlier. An old friend re-enters their lives, and the connections that bind their families together — including surviving the Holocaust — are as strong as ever, even after so much time has passed. Inspired by incidents from her life, the play examines whether what happens in love and life comes down to chance or fate. 

The reading will be enhanced by Hawaiian music performed live, palm trees on the stage.

Although the reading, which begins at 7:30 p.m., is free, reservations are required through the Guild Hall website. A $27 prix fixe menu is available at the 1770 House before the reading — the reservation code is JDT Lab.