The Metropolitan Opera recently announced they had scheduled a work from a female composer into their season for the first time since 1903. That’s ridiculous. For companies that do a lot of classics, be they little like us or gigantic like the Met, it can be hard to look beyond the canonical male writers. But there is incredible work, both modern and classic, out there from women writers and tonight is our first step in making sure those brilliant authors are seen on our stage.
In a 1925 interview with the Virginia Quarterly Review Pirandello took some time to talk about his inspiration. If you’re interested, I highly suggest taking the time to read the article online as it goes far more in depth than my limited space allows. For clarity, the author the characters regularly refer to as leaving them unfinished is in fact Pirandello himself. This play, in all its strange and intriguing complexity, is an illustration of not only the process of theatrical creation, but also of Pirandello’s understanding of his own imagination. The struggle between creation and stagnation, reality and fiction, and character and creator is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever picked up a pen or sat down at a computer to write.
I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who has visited the Dukesbay Theater to see one of our productions this season. Independent theater is a difficult business, but just like Pirandello, there are stories we need to tell; and because you support theater in the best way, by showing up, you make that possible. Thank you, I can’t wait to see you in the audience again next time.
Once upon a time, there was a little boy, somewhere around 3 or 4, obsessed with a VHS recording of a musical about fairy-tales. I didn’t actually see it again (or Act II) until I was a teenager, but that grainy recording on a black and white TV in the corner of my grandparents’ living room has never left me.
While preparing this production I made a risky decision, I decided to let 3 year old me take the reins. Why? Because as a child, my imagination didn’t have any boundaries. A chair could be a cow if necessary (in fact, the arm of our couch often served as my horse when playing cowboy or knight). If someone needed to be several characters in a story they just did it, because it’s what the story required. The imagination of a child is driven by necessity and availability, and that’s what you’ll see tonight. Things can be other things, actors can be many people at once, but the story is always the important thing. So I invite you to imagine with us. Let this beautiful script and score take you to that same place I visited so many years ago. And remember, children will listen. I certainly did.
“I had to write ‘Ghosts.’ I couldn’t stop at ‘A Doll’s House’; after Nora, I had to create Mrs. Alving.” - Henrik Ibsen, 1882
Why wasn’t Ibsen satisfied? A question that’s been haunting me for the last year. I can’t say I’m sad about his dissatisfaction, he went and wrote GHOSTS, and it is an absolute masterpiece. But, why did he need to write it so badly?
As I’ve watched each of these plays in rehearsal, I find their similarities striking, but their differences more so. You can think of these two plays as Ibsen’s variations on a theme. Each is whole and complete on it’s own, but when experienced together they turn into something new.
I hope you’re looking forward to immersing yourself into the world of Ibsen. I’ve certainly enjoyed working on these plays and want to express my dearest thanks to everyone who has collaborated on this project from the start. Enjoy the show. When the lights go down at the end, I hope you aren’t any more satisfied than Mr. Ibsen.
Romeo and Juliet is a story driven by competing passions, love and hate. The hatred between two families, driven to the extreme by their own familial love and loyalty, rips a city apart. You’ll hear Romeo, soon after he first appears, exclaim, “Why then O, brawling love. O loving hate.” And then suddenly everything slows down for our two lovers. They find in one another an escape, a kindred spirit yearning to break free of the hatred and chaos of their everyday life. A love this immediate, this passionate, this memorable, could only come as a response to so much overpowering hatred. And now we have the story of Juliet and her Romeo. A story about family, loyalty, hatred, and friendship, but most of all… a story about love.
After MISS JULIE and knowing we would be going into SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO it became clear that as a company we needed to look at relationships through a modern lens to contrast with 100 or 40 years ago. REASONS TO BE PRETTY does exactly that. It’s been on our shortlist for a couple years but essentially got mothballed after we did THE SHAPE OF THINGS because I didn’t feel like we could do the same author again so quickly. But this particular set of circumstances has made it work.
I’m personally very drawn to the simplicity of the argument that sets off this play: he says something he thinks is a compliment, she hears the same words but with a different intent and sparks fly. Labute has a terrifying ability to make us think of his plays in terms of our own relationships and this script is no different.
Last summer Bethany, our resident stage manager, insisted that I had to see a little film from the 80s called “About Last Night.” After the credits rolled and the dialogue started, I looked over at her and exclaimed, “I know this, it’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” And from that point on Bethany insisted it had to be part of this year’s staged reading series. To be fair, I didn’t take a whole lot of convincing.
In many ways Sexual Perversity is the perfect compact representation of David Mamet and his singular writing style. From the rapid-fire witty dialogue to the exceptionally not politically correct black humor, he manages to entertain you while exploring relationships between men and women through his own twisted lens. We’ve had an absolute blast working on this script and hope you enjoy the show.
Too often, when a director, or adaptor, takes on a classic work like MISS JULIE they run into an audience member who considers themself a “purist,” who complains that the work they are witnessing is egregiously different than the way it was originally meant to be performed… For that audience member I call your attention to Mr. Strindberg’s original introduction to this very play. He writes of his great desire to see the work performed naturally, by actors lit without footlights, in minimal makeup, in a setting where the characters live within a room, ignorant of the audience… “and, if first and foremost we could have a small stage and a small house, then perhaps a new dramatic art might arise, and theatre once more become a place of entertainment for educated people (Strindberg, 1888).” 7 and 1/2 years ago, on a cold autumn day. I aimlessly climbed a hill in Stockholm, only to discover a little park, and at its center, a great statue of a man sprawled atop a craggy pillar of stone. That statue is a memorial to August Strindberg, a tortured artist who struggled with his own mountains and valleys. His works have dragged the theatre, sometimes kicking and screaming, to the place where we can revisit this play in a manner I think he would have enjoyed, and I hope you do as well.
Angels in America Part II: Perestroika is open and running. Take a look at the second excellent review from Alec Clayton:
Thank you to Tacoma News Tribune theatre critic Alec Clayton for his lovely review of Angels in America on his personal blog:
"Under the direction of Niclas R. Olson and with super performances by a cast including Christian Carvajal, Anthony Neff, Bonnie Vandver, Austin C. Lang, Terrence Lockwood, Sara May, and Andrea Weston-Smart, Olympia Little Theatre’s staged reading of Angels in America Part I: Millennium Approaches is a new high for local theater." - Alec Clayton