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Paul Robeson Theatre goes to Washington with original adaptation

Early one morning in 1992, while working as news anchor and reporter for a television station in Huntsville, Ala., Harold Fisher was roused from his sleep by a remarkable dream.

He sat bolt upright in bed and went straight for his pen and a yellow legal pad, where he scribbled down his memories of the dream on the floor of his sparsely furnished apartment before they had a chance to fade away.

“I got my cigarettes, I got a tumbler of scotch, and I sat on the floor in the living room,” Fisher recalled in a phone interview from Washington, where he works as a radio host on the city’s top-rated urban station, WHUR. “I sat down and I started writing the story on a legal pad. By the time I sat down, it was 1 o’clock in the morning, and I wrote well past sunrise.”

Fisher, who co-hosted “Daybreak” on WGRZ with current anchor Maryalice Demler, eventually developed his hastily written dream journal into the 2010 novel “Two Weeks Until the Rest of My Life.” Last year, Fisher’s former WGRZ colleague Paulette Harris, also the artistic director of the Paul Robeson Theatre, adapted the book into a stage play. A popular production of the show, directed by Paul Robeson veteran Mary Craig, wrapped up a three-week run in the East Side theater June 2.

And now, after an extraordinary series of events and thanks to the pair’s deep friendship, the small Buffalo theater company is taking the show to Washington, where it will play three performances in the 325-seat THEARC Theater on July 20 and 21.

For the 45-year-old company, a community institution whose commitment to theater has enriched the lives of generations of East Side residents and many others, opportunities to take shows on the road are rare. Its mission is resolutely local, its budget modest and its work rightly directed at the need of the community that it has served so well for almost half a century.

So it was a welcome surprise for Harris to see her very first adaptation, which grew out of her selection of the novel for a book club that meets quarterly in the African American Cultural Center, meet with such success. The show, which follows Fisher’s novel closely aside from one major twist, tells the story of a career-focused woman who falls in love – quite unexpectedly – with a much younger man during a trip to New Orleans.

“Trust me, I’m still floating,” Harris said in an early June interview about the upcoming Washington production, which is largely being financed by Fisher. “My feet haven’t touched the ground.”

Harris credits the success of the show and its out-of-town production to her friendship with Fisher, which began the day Harris was hired as the floor director for the WGRZ program “Daybreak.”

“I said, ‘Look, something that you don’t know about me is that I have an excellent work ethic,’ ” Harris recalled about her first day on the job. “If there’s something that I want to do and I do it, I give it 100 percent and then some. And ever since then, both he and Maryalice have been very good friends of mine. We reach out to each other a lot. It’s nice to have that type of relationship.”

As for Fisher, whose news program “The Daily Drum” airs daily on WHUR and on Sirius XM Radio, the Washington production is proof positive of the strength of his friendship with Harris and of the creative energy of the city he once called home.

“Buffalo, as I said, is an amazing place. I don’t care what others say about it from the outside,” he said. “It has been and always will be a great part of my life, and this is a prime example of the spirit of that city.”