Local theater troupe presents poetry and prose of Patricia Hernan Grube
Despite a late start, Patricia Hernan Grube’s writing career has been fruitful. Marriage and World War II interrupted her education at UC Berkeley, and raising a family left little time to pursue a lifelong love of writing. But at age 50, she finished her studies at UC Santa Cruz and began writing regularly. Eventually, she began to call herself a poet and a playwright.
Since then, Grube has written more than 20 plays and has published two books of poetry. She’s authored numerous short stories, and is currently in the process of putting together a new collection.
Her writing style, which peers describe as heartfelt and truthful, will be celebrated this week when The Willing Suspension Armchair Theatre—an off-shoot of Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre, which celebrates literature and spoken word—presents some of her work. Grube is honored to be chosen.
“For most of my life I was a wife and mother,” says Grube, a mother of seven. “I didn’t really get started in writing until my kids were a lot older. I was kind of a late bloomer.”
It was during a trip with her son, Donald Grube, in the mid-1980s that Grube was inspired to write her first full-length play, and in the process developed a character-driven approach to writing.
“I was writing short stories at the time,” says Grube. “I took my son up to UC Davis, up to school. On the way he said to me, ‘Mom, why don’t you write a play?’” She told him that she didn’t think she could.
“But on the way back, I got to thinking,” she continues. “I had this picture in my head of the Pacific Garden Mall (Downtown Santa Cruz) and I saw a young man—at the time we would have called him a punker.” Although she had a clear vision of a spikey-haired teen with a blaring boom box, she wasn’t certain who he was supposed to be.
“When I got home, I started with him and I wrote ‘Found Wanting,’ which is about a family that’s struggling with a schizophrenic daughter,” says Grube. The punk rocker became Peter, a character whose rough persona was a reaction to having a troubled sister.
“This was his response to his family,” she says. “This was his way of trying to deal with his life.”
She revised the play several times. She sought out families of children with mental illness to sound it out. “I read it aloud with other people—people who were having problems,” says Grube. “They would see if I was on track.”
While Grube has used a character-driven process for plays, she takes a different approach to writing poetry.
“Usually I have ideas that I just jot down on paper,” she says. “And then when I look at the idea, I think, well, it could be a poem. I do a lot of revising. I know some people say they don’t revise, but I do a lot of revising.”
Last year Grube published “Layer by Layer,” a compendium of vignettes about life.
“I think with poetry I work through my own problems, my situation—or existence,” says Grube. “My poetry is really very simple. Some people might not even call it poetry.”
Two of the poems from “Layer by Layer” reflect upon a time when Grube, her late husband Lester Grube, and their five youngest children traveled halfway around the world to establish poultry farms in the Zambian bush.
When they returned to the United States, the family moved to Santa Cruz, where Grube’s writing would flourish. Many of her plays were performed by Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre.
Karen Schamberg, co-director of this week’s Willing Suspension Armchair Theatre event, has been a fan of Grube’s writing for 20 years. “It’s personal, honest and direct, like Patricia herself,” says Schamberg.
One of the performers, Frank Widman, will read the part of Peter, Grube’s punk rock character from “Found Wanting.”
“What really impressed me about Pat’s work … is her blatant honesty, her simplicity—how she puts her words together. [Then] all of sudden the emotion sneaks up on you,” says Widman. “She put her hopes and dreams into what she wrote and also into her children, and I really admire that in her.”
“From the Heart, Poetry & Prose by Patricia Hernan Grube” takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, at the Scotts Valley Branch Library, 251 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley. And at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, at the Aptos Branch Library, 7695 Soquel Drive, Aptos. No cover, but donations are welcome.