Cowan Palace: Getting Bloody with Ariel Craft

Double your dose of blood today via Theater Pub as AC squared gets a little bloody this week bonding about brides, Lorca, and Halloween!

While I’m counting the days until it’s “acceptable” to admit I’m listening to Christmas music (and honestly, this year I plan to start the jams on November 1) you may be feeling like you’re not quite ready to give up the bloody lifestyle of the Halloween season. Well, fear not, Theater Pub friends (or, um, keep fearing if that’s more fun), because Blood Wedding is opening in November!

What’s Blood Wedding? Did you not obsess over that play in college like I did? Well, to start with, it’s a Spanish tragedy written by Frederico Garcia Lorca. But here to help us uncover its beauty is San Francisco gem herself, Ariel Craft, the director of Bigger Than a Breadbox Theatre’s production of Blood Wedding. Since we’re both “AC” (just like AC Slater and air conditioning!), I’ll be the “TP” of this exchange (please think of that as Theater Pub and not toilet paper, thank you).

TP: So to those who don’t know much about Blood Wedding, what would you tell them?

AC: Blood Wedding is a love story set in a place where there is no tolerance for such love. It is a play about people who are too passionate to exist within the confines of their world and, as a result, must try to rip it apart at the seams or risk being ripped apart themselves. It is an exploration of heartbreak. It is also poetry in its own right.

TP: Why did you decide that this would be the perfect time to put on a play that was written in 1932?

AC: I think the beauty of Lorca’s play is that its core is always relevant, because it is rooted in a consistency of the human experience. Regardless of year, people still want things that they aren’t supposed to have and which aren’t good for them. People still find themselves bound by social pressures which they can’t seem to navigate. People still can’t find their footing around loss and want and difficult circumstance. It works anytime because it is something with which we can all identify.

TP: Did you know right away that you wanted to set the play in the modern American south?

AC: Our decision to produce Blood Wedding came hand-in-hand with our overall production concept – rooted in the American south with country music influences – so I guess you could say that we did know right away. This play had been bumping around in my head for years – and I always knew that it was great – but it didn’t become a passion piece for me until we found this entry point. More on this to come…

TP: After spending half the year planning your own wedding, do you think your perspective of wedding celebrations has changed at all? And has any of that knowledge gone into your direction?

AC: Without a doubt, I have a completely different perspective on this play and its central questions now than I would have had a year and a half ago. In one way, I have loads more anecdotal experience to pull from which sometimes comes in handy: remembering the incredibly uncomfortable and unnatural pace at which a bride is supposed to walk down the aisle, for example, informed a moment of the piece. But in a more substantial sense, the sheer act of getting married demands that you ask yourself some profound questions. What does it actually mean to commit to something, or someone, for the rest of your natural life? What is the sanctity of our own promises? These and other such bubblings and introspections have informed my work and my understanding of the play.

Ariel and Max's Calistoga Mountain Wedding

TP: What has been your favorite part of being a real life “The Bride”?

AC: Cake tastings. Seriously: just walk into any bakery, tell them you are getting married, and they give you a platter of tiny, assorted cake slices. It is our society’s greatest untapped resource.

TP: What has been the biggest surprise while rehearsing Blood Wedding?

AC: Unearthing the joy of the piece is always a tremendous discovery. I know it will crop up somewhere but where and how it does is often surprising and delightful. When you do the kind of work that we do, there is a common misconception that you are a tragedy-monger, or that you’re heartlessly blood-thirsty, or that you feed on the depression of your audiences. To the contrary, finding the vibrancy, the liveliness, and the forward momentum of the world and its inhabitants is the greatest reward of our work. Despite the worst circumstances, our characters are always fighting – and often they’re losing – but regardless of the outcome, they push forward with determination and promise.

TP: Why is this production of Blood Wedding different that those that audience members may have seen in the past?

AC: I hope our audiences will find that there is a lot that distinguishes our Blood Wedding from other productions, but the most tangible difference would certainly have to be our musical additions. We’re fortunate enough to have David Aaron Brown, an incredible local composer and music director, as the driving musical force behind our production. David’s written original music and lyrics for the piece, while also setting some of Lorca’s text to music, pulling from a variety of country music inspirations. Some of the music is more honky-tonk, some is more bluegrassy, and then – of course – there is Dolly.

TP: Please tell us more about the show’s original score inspired by Dolly Parton as it seems like such a fun and unique choice!

AC: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” was the song that started it all: that created the initial connection between this play and the genre, that lead us here to this concept and to this production. Using “Jolene” as an inspirational jumping-off point, David constructed the soundscape of this world. The music informs the action of the play, while often being in tonal opposition to it. It juxtaposes what is happening while also feeding it, and to me it adds a dimension which makes the play feel much more like life as I understand it. It is also worth noting: our production is not a musical in any traditional sense of the word. But to understand what I really mean, you’ll have to come and see the play!

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TP: What scene are you currently most excited to see staged in front of an audience?

AC: Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the play’s climax horrifies me on the daily, and I can’t wait to see how others will react to it.

TP: What do you hope audiences leave the theater thinking about once they’ve seen the show?

AC: I’d like it if we stirred audiences to consider the nature of their own choice-making. What do you do because you feel it is right? What do you do because your gut calls you to? Which part of yourself do you navigate from? And are your choices sustainable? And are you fulfilled? And, if not, how long can you last?

TP: If you could grab a beer with Lorca, or maybe some Sangria since he’s Spanish, what would be the first thing you’d ask him?

AC: I’d like to know what part of him this play, because it is so enormous, was birthed from. I also hope that he’d bring Salvador Dalí along, because then it’d really be a party.

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TP: Give us a sneak peek of what we can look forward to this season with Bigger Than a Breadbox Theatre Co.

AC: Blood Wedding is the final show of our second season, and our third season kicks off this March with Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad by Arthur Kopit. That one’s being directed by Ben Calabrese, my assistant director on Blood Wedding and the resident madman of our group. It’s just going to be too crazy to miss.

TP: What are you going to be for Halloween?

AC: I keep the costume stock from our company’s past productions at my home so I’ve thought about pulling a distinctive piece from each show and going as the Ghost of BTaB Past.

TP: What’s your favorite Halloween treat?

AC: Anything except candy corn. I reject candy corn in totality.

TP: In tens words or less, why should we come see Blood Wedding?

AC: Because it has everything to do with you. And you. And you.

I’ll be there and I hope you will join me! Come see the poetry unfold at The EXIT Stage Left, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco, playing: Friday, November 7th at 8pm, Saturday, November 8th at 8pm, Friday, November 14th at 8pm, Saturday, November 15th at 5pm, Friday, November 21st at 8pm, and Saturday, November 22nd at 8pm!

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