Cowan Palace: A Heart to Heart with THE HEART PLAYS

Ashley Cowan asks producer, Annie Paladino, a few questions about the upcoming February Theater Pub.

Just after you’ve survived the holidays, Blue Monday, and trying to keep up with 2013 resolutions, Valentine’s Day arrives ready to play with your heart. Whether it’s in the form of eating more than your body weight of cupid-shaped goodies, spending the evening with that special someone, or rebelling against another Hallmark driven day in powerful solitude, Theater Pub returns on Monday, February 18th to nurse those candy hangovers and keep the sentiment alive.

THE HEART PLAYS, produced by Annie Paladino, promises eight interpretations of Heiner Müller’s play, HEART PLAY; a 10-line piece of postmodern insight. Known for being one of the top German dramatists of the 20th century, much of Müller’s work is often considered welcoming to multiple understandings rather than held to one linear storyline; developing characters that can disregard the structures of time and space. Keeping with the essence of his style, Annie’s concept explores the openness of Muller’s work by incorporating other art forms (including music and dance) to unravel new meaning.

I had the chance to ask Annie a few questions about the upcoming show while learning a bit more behind her vision for the evening.

What are you most excited about in bringing THE HEART PLAYS to Theater Pub?

I have been wanting to bring this project to San Francisco audiences pretty much ever since moving here in 2009; one of my favorite things about the production is that it really benefits from (and, in fact, relies upon) a cadre of unique and fiercely inventive directors. I’ve been so inspired by the DIY spirit of Bay Area theater makers, and I felt that this piece would really fit that vibe. Ever since attending the first Pint Sized Plays, which I felt was incredibly successful as a full-on production, taking advantage of the physical space and audience relationship in some really exciting ways, I’ve been slowly percolating the idea of Theater Pub as a venue for THE HEART PLAYS, since it follows a similar structure (many very short plays smushed together into an evening, happening ALL AROUND YOU as you sip/chug your Monday night beverage of choice).

How were you first introduced to Heiner Müller and his10-line play, HEART PLAY?

I encountered HEART PLAY in college. This project is the brainchild of Jessica Chayes of The Assembly (NYC), who produced HEART PLAY as an evening of several different interpretations at Wesleyan University in 2006 — “Heart Play(s)”. I was an actor in that performance and it was just an incredible experience, for everyone involved. Then, in 2008, the stage manager of the original production, Rachel Silverman, and I produced “Heart Playz,” using the model that Jess had established two years prior. Both productions were site-specific: the first one took place in various corners of a black box-type theater, and the second one was outdoors. And now we move into a bar!

What do you hope the audience leaves with after attending February 18th’s performance?

A pile of bricks. Or a new lover?

I kid, I kid.

But seriously, I hope that the audience leaves Cafe Royale on the 18th brimming with a slew of contradictions: happiness and sadness, fulfillment and emptiness, enlightenment and existential dread, deep understanding and utter confusion. The text is very open, and each director is likely to project onto it their own feelings about love, connections, selflessness, codependency, you name it.

In ten words or less, could you leave us with a preview of what we can look forward to seeing?

I wrote you a haiku about it, squeezing in at 10 words total:

Backstreet Boys, clowns, blood;
Concertina, opera, dance;
Improv, silent film.

Annie, you had me at “haiku”.

When I was reading up on Mr. Müller, I kept coming across a statement he made regarding his writing. “All art, including mine, is a remembrance of the dead.” It’s a striking sentence and I find it strangely appropriate for this post-Valentine’s Day lovefest. A new group breathes life into a play while the rest of us can reflect on past and present relationships over a beverage and in the company of friends. Most likely you’ll find me with a chocolate smeared face from all the discounted holiday treats falling just a little more in love with Theater Pub. I hope to see you at Café Royale on the 18th for THE HEART PLAYS.