Psychology professor and playwright Jim Robinson's new comedy has successful first run
Assistant Professor of Psychology Jim Robinson (at left) poses with Death for his new production, Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Psychology professor and playwright Jim Robinson's new comedy has successful first run

At the College of St. Catherine, Assistant Professor of Psychology Jim Robinson teaches a lifespan development course that looks at the human progression from birth to death. Lately, Robinson’s focus has been on the latter — only with live action.

Moonlighting as a playwright, Robinson’s first comedy, Whistling Past the Graveyard, opened at St. Paul’s Lowry Lab theater on Thursday, Oct. 18, and recently finished its first run.

Whistling Past the Graveyard got its inspiration from Robinson’s day job, teaching psychology at St. Kate’s. The series of sketches explores the way people deal with death, a topic familiar to everyone.

“In my lifespan development course, this is something that comes up all the time,” Robinson says.

Robinson contemplated writing about this topic for a long time before he started putting his thoughts on paper in April. By July, he was finished with the work, and the first reading took place on July 18. Rehearsals began on Sept. 18.

“The play is a series of sketches looking at how we deal with death, how people face their existential reality,” Robinson says.

The main plot involves five adult siblings who are facing their father’s impending death. Over time, their behavior reverts to that of small children.

“They regress to their childhood selves, jockeying for position and asking who is Dad’s favorite,” explains Robinson. “In reality, they’re all terrified.”

While mostly a work of fiction, the play also draws from Robinson’s own life and the relationship between siblings during difficult times.

“I’ve been seeing my own father’s ailing health, and it’s very moving, but also some ridiculous things happen,” said Robinson.

The production’s subplots involve an ocean-going research ship and parasailing.

A comic past

An accomplished comic writer, Robinson has been active in improvisational theater and live comedy in the Twin Cities for over a decade. Robinson joined the cast of the Brave New Workshop in 1995.

Some of his writing credits include Pride and Plot of Pointlessness, co-written by Shanan Wexler ’92 of the St. Kate’s Theatre Department, and We Gotta Bingo, which he co-wrote with Michelle Cassioppi Guertin, a student at St. Kate’s for several semesters in the late 1970s.

Whistling Past the Graveyard features music by local composer Dennis Curley, who also composed music for U Betcha: The Making of a Minnesota Boy Band. Jen Scott provided musical accompaniment on bass with Curley at the keyboard.

The cast included Corey Anderson, Julie Grover, Guertin, Tina Miller, Robinson and Scott. The group has worked together for over two years in We Gotta Bingo.

Whistling Past the Graveyard shows at the Lowry Lab, 350 St. Peter St., in downtown St. Paul. The first run of the production began Oct. 18 and ran through Sunday, Oct. 28.

By Andy Ferron
Oct. 31, 2007

Contact Andy Ferron, (651) 690-6831

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