Working Title: Pint Sized Recommendations…or One Llama to Rule them All

This week Will Leschber discusses Pint Sized Play Festival film pairings with Stuart Bousel, Emma Rose Shelton & Rob Ready.

Reflecting on this year’s upcoming Pint-Sized Play Festival has led me to realize what I miss about being at university. The constant consumption of new things and new ideas is the lure, and, of course, those things are generally missed. But the crux, the essential thing that I pine for, is the structured ascension. You feel as if your path is laid before you and that you are constantly improving and growing as you walk down the road towards knowledge…or maybe the road was just leading to semester’s end. Either way, it’s easy at times in our daily lives, our daily grinds, to feel stagnant and/or circling or floating with less aim than we used to know in the past. There is an absence of hope in aimlessness. But the powerful thing is that we are all moving forward, and the trick is to remind yourself that your constant road can be one that ascends, if you mind the way. Nothing like an annual event to rock us back to reflection…or maybe drinking like we are college kids!

Of all the pints, in all the bars, in all the world…you had to laugh into mine.

Of all the pints, in all the bars, in all the world…you had to laugh into mine.

It is time again for the Pint-Sized Plays. This jovial event comes but once a year and it is glorious. A fruitful fun evening that turns over a handful of laughs in the time it takes to finish a beer. This may not obviously link to an evening of what you may call ascension… but many things can be found in the swirls of a pint glass. The quick cycle of the night is part of the allure. If this play isn’t for you, finish your beer and worry not, for another play is 10 minutes away…and maybe another beer too. 😉 Our constant companion in the years that we’ve seen Theater Pub’s Pint Sized Plays has been the Llama. His pint consumption knows no bottom. His wisdom knows no limits. And his beard is just spectacular.

rob-ready-llama

The three pillars of this year’s Llamalogue who I had the pleasure to speak with are Stuart Bousel, Theater Pub’s Executive Director, Bay Area Ringmaster and playwright of the infamous Llamalogues; Emma Rose Shelton, all-around wonder woman and director of this year’s “Llama VI”; and of course, Rob Ready, Artistic Director of PianoFight and the amazing aforementioned bearded Llama himself.

To get you in the headspace of the Llama (oh God NO…you say…don’t worry, it’ll be OK…this will all wear off in the morning) and the Pint-Sized Plays in general, we have three recommended film pairings to play along with the festival’s themes and schemes.

Lets start with the the Rob-a-Llama recommendation…ready, steady, drink and go!

The Apartment, the 1960 classic directed by Billy Wilder and starring the splendid Jack Lemmon and stunning Shirley Maclaine… To move up the ladder at work, Lemmon lets executives use his apartment for their affairs… hilarity and heartbreak ensue. It’s kind of a similar aesthetic and tone [to our dear Llama]…Lemmon does a ton of over-the-top physical comedy in the role while also coming off as a grounded, fully-fleshed-out person with a big heart. Most of the film is really funny, but there are parts that just tear at your heartstrings. And I think that’s roughly what the Llamalogues aim to do.

The Apartment foreign

Well said, and great recommendation! Now let’s hear what Llamalogue director Emma Rose Shelton has to pair with the indomitable Llama…

Groundhog Day, the 1993 Bill Murray comedy classic… There’s something about Bill Murray’s character coming back each time needing to learn the same lesson and just failing miserably at it. Something about him trying to figure his shit out while being lovably melancholy and self-loathing reminds me of our Llama.

God I love that Punxsutawney Phil. Don't drive angry. Don't drive angry!

God I love that Punxsutawney Phil. Don’t drive angry. Don’t drive angry!

OK, last but not least since this is supposed to be the length of a beer…a slowly nursed beer. Let’s get to Stuart Bousel and close this mother out. Bousel brings to the table a beautiful and less well-known film…but boy is it a treat.

Sally Potter’s Orlando, 1992… Sally Potter, perhaps one of the most underrated filmmakers in the world, is one of my favorite directors, and her film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is, like the source material, many many things. For me, the film is about finding your place in the world, and not just the world, but time itself, coming to terms with the infiniteness of human experience but also the limited scope of any one life, including your own. Or in less fancy speak: it’s about accepting your own mortality, and by doing so, finally beginning to really live. It’s no big secret Theater Pub is coming to an end this year, though Pint-Sized may continue. Will the Llama continue with it? I rather hope so. But I have already decided it won’t be me writing it anymore. So this last Llamalogue is my kiss goodbye to this incredible, rewarding, and demanding period of my life that I’ve loved living through and am also looking forward to having behind me so I can move on to other things. As the angel sings at the end of the film, while Orlando and her daughter watch: I am being born, and I am dying.

orlando-1look-1

That rounds out this pint. I promise the night of Pint Sized Plays at PianoFight is hugely entertaining and there will be more laughs and guffaws than bittersweetness…but like any good night of entertainment the presence of both light and dark will be in attendance…or possibly ascendence.

The season’s change is upon us, as it ever is. Soak it in. It goes fast. This is the last Llamalogue as we have come to know it. Come out, have a beer, a laugh and nod to see the shadow of the Llama pass. You know what they say about a Llama who sees his shadow…or maybe that is something else. This shadow pint is for you, Llama.

pintsized3

Editor’s note: our Pint-Sized Tzarina, Marissa Skudlarek, points out that this is the first year of Pint Sized where we have THREE one-person shows. Says Marissa:

Three of the 11 plays in this year’s Pint-Sized Play Festival are one-person shows. In addition to the return of the drunken llama played by Rob Ready, a beloved character who has appeared in every Pint-Sized Festival since 2010, we’re telling the stories of two women who are on the brink of major life changes. There’s the title character of “Julie Kopitsky’s Bat Mitzvah” by Jake Arky: at the age of 36, Julie has finally earned the right to call herself an adult by the standards of her Jewish faith. And there’s Meredith — or should we call her Olivia? — in Caitlin Kenney’s “Why Go with Olivia?”, a woman who’s preparing to cut ties with her old life and start anew.

Julie, the Llama, Meredith… they’ve all been around the block a few times. They’re adults, thirtysomethings, with histories and backstories and opinions. And yet they don’t always make the right choices, especially when pints of beer are involved. They are brash, opinionated, and very fun characters, but they’re also all seeking meaning and fulfillment in their own ways. I know, that sounds like a lot to ask from a proudly self-proclaimed slut who gets drunk at her own Bat Mitzvah, or a woman whose quest for a new life means turning her back on everything that came before, or a boozy llama who started out in 2010 as an absurdist sight gag. But it also happens to be true.

Don’t Miss Pint Sized Plays VI, playing 8/15, 8/16, 8/22, 8/23, 8/29, 8 PM, only at PianoFight! 

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Working Title: The Move, The Packing, The Thrush and The Woodpecker

This week Will Leschber barely makes it out of his moving truck to speak to Custom Made Theatre about The Thrush & The Woodpecker.

Hello there dear readers! You all are a dedicated bunch. I gotta give you props. Not only are you here now reading away, but we even tried to trick you all by saying that the last Working Title blog entry was a goodbye blog! Well, as you may know, it was a farewell Bay Area blog but it is not the last Working Title blog, no siree bob blog… we can’t trick you! Tricks are for kids. Let’s keep this party going from across the country!

So I can’t tear myself away. Even after the 3500-mile journey from San Francisco to Phoenix to Austin then Kansas and on to Connecticut in a 26’ box truck towing a car, even after unloading a ridiculous amount of moving boxes, even after getting my bearings and loosing sleep and battling landlords and praising new daycare workers and thanking in-laws and parents…even after all that, I can’t tear myself away from San Francisco indie theater. You guys deserve the best. So I have a few more suggestions to help wet your whistles and prep your brains as you dive into the new offerings from Bay Area theater.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Brian Katz, Artistic Director at Custom Made Theater about The Thrush & the Woodpecker, a new play by Steve Yockey that has its rolling world premiere beginning in a few short weeks. If you think that driving cross-country with a dog and a dad sounds dramatic and surprising, that has nothing on this revenge play. Starring local legend Stacy Ross, Shotgun Players Company Member Fontana Butterfield, and hot up-and-coming actor Adam Magill (Berkeley Rep’s Macbeth, SF Playhouse’s Stupid Fucking Bird), The Thrush and the Woodpecker tells the engaging story of a mysterious stranger who arrives to turn the world upside down for Brenda Hendricks and her son Noah, who’s recently returned from college unexpectedly. What avian secrets lie in wait?! We’ll see…

The Thrush and the Woodpecker copy

I asked Brian Katz the best film to pair with the new and unusual Thrush/Woodpecker and like a good Artistic Director, he offered up the question to his wonderful production team to get a myriad of opinions. Here’s a sampling of recommendations:

Kitty Torres (costumer) suggests: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Since the play and the film definitely share the same levels of obsession and deceit.

Liz Ryder (sound) concisely recommends: The Birds!

Leah Abrams (Custom Made Theater Company’s Executive Director) offers up: The 2006 thriller Notes on a Scandal because its two female characters strike me in a similar way, a mix of perfectly normal/really off-kilter in their own way. AND Hitchcock’s The Birds. I think it’s the film that terrifies me most – there’s the obvious havoc wreaked by said birds, and also just that sense of the supernatural invading seemingly normal people in the real world.

The Birds copy

With the uncanny, supernatural, deceitful, unnerving recommendations Thrush/Woodpecker sounds to be quite an intriguing experience. The play opens August 4th and runs until August 20th. More info can be found at www.custommade.org.

Working Title: That’s All One, Our Play is Done…

This week Will Leschber bids farewell to the Bay …

Since this is the last blog entry I’ll write while I’m still in the Bay Area, we are going to change up the format, as one is wont to do when times are a-changing. Call it indulgent but I’m confident anyone out there can sympathize with a time of transition.

I’m not sure where to begin. How to sum up the closing of a chapter that has redefined one’s life? We all know that ruminating swell of indigo emotion that accompanies a transition. Whether it be closing a show, semester’s end, season’s shift, a graduation tassel turn, a job change, an impending parting, or a big move: There is a particular bittersweetness reserved for such occasions. As you my know, dear readers, my wife (fellow blogger, beautiful Ashley Cowan of Cowan Palace fame) and I are moving out of the Bay Area. We are journeying due east to see what dreams may come on another coast. Endings lead to new beginnings and the bittersweet feelings remain…

I’ve never been fully satisfied with the term bittersweet. The blanket term of bittersweet doesn’t lock down everything encapsulated in the leaving of a phase of life. There needs to be a term that rolls the jumbled entirety of emotions that may appear in the garbs of… excited to start a new era, anxious about the uncertain future, melancholy for all things left behind, joyful for optimistic possibilities, wistful of times gone by, thoughtful of all the 525,600 minutes that made up each year passed, hopeful for a bright road ahead, cognizant of the fact that these are the last days of disco. The juxtaposed opposing emotions somehow simultaneously crossing vast plains and wide trains of thought.

The Radiant Indigo Fade...or Crimson Wistful Waveaway...the new "bittersweet" should more resemble something of that ilk. If only wordy!!

The Radiant Indigo Fade…or Crimson Wistful Waveaway…the new “bittersweet” should more resemble something of that ilk. If only wordy!!

I knew that feeling when I moved out here 5 years ago. I travelled west to be with the one I love and to move towards a future in a new place and a bright space. I found a small place in the indie theater community here in the City which meant the world to me. Being a part of a living, breathing, evolving beast of creative theater forces was exciting.

12th Night cast copy

Living in a city where every street felt paved with history and character, the light and the dark. Working exhaustive long hours at huge party events from the rolling hills of Napa to the wet cliffs of Monterey where I would not get to attend the affluent galas but I would get to tear down the billowy tents and bright lights afterwards. Living in the middle of the socio-economic divide. Watching the 3am moon kiss the San Francisco skyline from the autumn avenues of Treasure Island in the middle of the Bay.

Treasure Island Living copy

Winking at the final sunset on the roof of our 2nd apartment as we moved into the last apartment we would have in the City. Seeing theaters close their doors when landlords decided they could get more rent. Performing Rent! Performing Shakespeare from bars to redwood forests. Performing my wedding vows in front of 150 of my closest friends and family on a day that could not have been better. Experiencing my first child come into the world and knowing joy unlike any other. Making last plans and saying goodbye… all these things are wrapped in that opalescent mass that color the experience of leaving.

San Francisco U Turn copy

I know anyone who has lived in this tumultuous time and hurly burley place will hear the echoes of my experiences within their own.

I don’t know how to properly put into words the feeling that I know the decision to move on is the right one, yet a part of me will feel as though they never got enough time here. The truth is I am past the point of being able to live and breathe the City. To experience a place fully one needs time and the means to do so. Too often I’ve found myself busy with the act of getting by and being an bill-paying adult to truly enjoy this glorious place. So much of living in the Bay Area within the Theater scene or otherwise feels so transitory and impermanent. But that is the way of all things. The edge of impermanence is just sharper here. Outside all of the sharp edges, I can say in all cliche, I will leave some of my heart in San Francisco. I am so grateful to have known the people I have known. I am so thankful to have been part of the projects of which I was a part. To Theater Pub, to theater goers, to the blog readers, to the bay, to the City, to all co-workers, to the friends I’ve made, the the daughter I made, to love that never fades…thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

…Be seeing you.

I leave you with a little Shakespeare and a little rock ‘n roll bard named Tom Petty

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.
~Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act V, Sc 1

It’s time to move on
It’s time to get going
What lies ahead I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, babe,
The grass is growing.
It’s time to move on
It’s time to get going…
~Tom Petty, Time to Move On, Wildflowers

Working Title: Loquacious Lucania, How Many Degrees Is He Away From You?

This week Will Leschber speaks to Carl Lucania about all Six Degrees of Separation

As you all know, dear readers, usually we crack this blog open with a fun diatribe about a current event or some personal goings-on, then loosely shoestring-link it to a current SF play and top that sucker off with a perfect film pairing to whet your insatiable appetites. Who doesn’t like structure! It’s fun, right?! Well, blog fans, let’s just forget the formalities this week and jump neck-deep into Custom Made Theatre’s production of Six Degrees of Separation, directed by Stuart Bousel.

Six Degrees of Separation cover copy

I reached out to Bay Area actor and all-around stellar human being Carl Lucania about a film suggestion, as I’m wont to do. Instead of sending a single, well-crafted sentence and being done with it, Carl had the grace and good humor to send over a comprehensive five paragraphs and eloquently over-achieve. Carl, you are my hero! Since he can turn a phrase better than this little blogger, let’s just let him do the heavy lifting. The loquacious, learned Lucania not only provides a perfect intro to John Guare’s play, but also throws in film pairings AND a few cross-disciplinary recommendations spanning literature to fine art. Whew! Sit down and listen up; class is session! …You best just read on, folks.

Take it away Carl!!!

Happy to help…

Six Degrees of Separation covers a lot of ground. At the face of it, it’s a story of a middle-aged, upper-middle class white couple in early 1990s Manhattan whose world gets turned around when a young black man, pretending to be Sidney Poitier’s son, insinuates himself into their lives. Within that framework there’s a a lot of commentary on class, race, art, and both personal and world politics. And it manages to do all of this in a very succinct, smart, and entertaining 90 minutes.

six-degrees color chart copy

One of the main themes we talked about when we started working on it was duality: how a story is perceived is entirely up to the person perceiving it — so there isn’t just one reality or story. As Americans, we’re told that we can be anything we want if we’re smart and work hard. And this story turns that ideal on its head. The central character is very smart and works very hard. But is he just a con man? Or is he living the American dream of bettering himself? And it’s the same duality with art: is Duchamp’s Fountain a brilliant work? Or is it just a porcelain urinal in a museum?

Duchamp with fountain copy

One movie that comes to mind is Mike Nichols’ 1988 comedy, Working Girl. For one, it puts you in Manhattan right around the same time period and it also explores a similar theme of someone very clever attempting to jump class by pretending to be something she’s not. And they manage to work quite a bit of social commentary about being a woman in a man’s world into a fairly standard rom-com with Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver. Plus it has Joan Cusack in one of my favorite portrayals of a big-haired, big-mouthed girl from Queens.

Joan Cusack smirk copy

If you want to get cross-disciplinary in your preparation: go stare at a Kandinsky or Hockney at SF MOMA, listen to a recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats or read Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. They are all referenced quite a bit in the play. And if you haven’t seen Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner then you’re missing out, because it’s amazing.

My plug: come see the show. I got on board because I love working with Stuart Bousel and I knew this was his favorite play and I wanted to be a part of that. Our three leads (Genevieve Perdue, Khary L. Moye, Matt Weimer) carry a big load and make it look easy. There’s a large supporting cast, thirteen of us in all, and not a slacker in the bunch. It’s been wonderful to watch this crew get up to speed so quickly and expertly deliver the goods. I think this one will stick with you for a while.

xo, Carl

Carl Lucania Six Degrees Production pic copy

Six Degrees of Separation runs May 19 – June 18 Wed 7:30pm; Thurs-Fri 8pm; Sat 2pm & 8pm. Additional information and tickets can be found here: http://www.custommade.org/sixdegrees.

Working Title: Politics Not Often Politic & Diplomats Thrown in the Duck Soup

This week Will Leschber talks Dark Porch Theater’s The Diplomats and tosses in a little, Clue & Duck Soup for seasoning…

Politics! How much longer do we have to hear the constant barrage of political rummaging, commentary, jokes, lampooning, diatribes and all too serious sidebars? What’s that now? At least until November? Sheeeesh! Oh wait…what’s that you say? Political complaining and satire actually will continue long after that? Sheit. Ah yes, I forgot, we live in the age of the 24 hour news cycle and 24/7 social media update. So it’ll never end. But this is nothing new. Social commentary and criticism has existed as long as we’ve had civilization to criticize. I should be used to it by now. And I guess it’s not all bad… after all the rhetoric and all the online rants, I still get a 1 a.m. chuckle when a dumb Trump Meme arrives in the news feed. Feed me meme!

Trump toupee pun meme

It turns out strangers online actually do not care about your individual political opinions. Who knew! But, if you turn that political bent into a performance, a play or a film (maybe one that still gets play 80 odd years after it was made), well, you could be on to something there. I’m not sure what the true distinctions are between real news and fake news and comedy news and The Onion news anymore, but I will say if I can get my nightly news with a side of satire and a garnish of hilarity, I’ll take it! Political talk trickles into every aspect of our adult lives. Especially our art.

Dark Porch Theater is premiering a new play, The Diplomats, at the EXIT Theater early next month and if you are looking for a political landscape littered with jokes, this may be your jam.

The Diplomats

The Diplomats, written and directed by Martin Schwartz, is described by Dark Porch as a play which “… showcases the ways in which politics are theatrical and laughter is political.” Sounds exactly like the best way to enjoy political bumbling!

L-R Karen Offereins, Tavis Kammet, Dan Kurtz, Ryan Hayes, Margery Fairchild, Courtney Merrell. Photo by Basil Glew-Galloway.

L-R Karen Offereins, Tavis Kammet, Dan Kurtz, Ryan Hayes, Margery Fairchild, Courtney Merrell. Photo by Basil Glew-Galloway.

I had the pleasure of speaking with two fine actors featured in the show, Karen Offereins & Tavis Kammet, and wouldn’t you know, they had two excellent film suggestions to get you in the headspace of The Diplomats. Let us start with the wondrous Karen Offereins. She had this 80 plus year old classic film suggestion that remains hilarious after all these years:

I would say that that Duck Soup would be a great movie pairing with The Diplomats. The Marx Brothers type of humor and nutso situations are very much up the alley and tone of The Diplomats. Their brand of humor in general is a good fit. The farce element is a major driving force of the play, along with random acts by random characters at random times, to underline the very real and bizarre nature of diplomatic proceedings. This play is based on a true incident, and it is all at once ridiculous and frightening.

Those Marx Brothers never get old. Harpo and his evil face might be my favorite.

Those Marx Brothers never get old. Harpo and his evil face might be my favorite.

Rolling along to the next great suggestion; Bay Area actor and favorite middle school Theater teacher of all time, Tavis Kammet, had this to say for his film pairing suggestion:

“Clue…Fast paced, lots of crazy characters, an ending that’s up for interpretation…Clue”

Clue_What_do_You_mean_Murder

Always with the brevity, Tavis. I dig it. With these two comedic gold film recommendations, you can assume The Diplomats will be a pretty raucous time. Check it out!

The Diplomats runs at the EXIT Theater Thursday, May 12, 2016 to Saturday, May 28, 2016. The Marx Brothers Duck Soup, 1933, is available to rent on all the usual platforms (Google play, itunes, Vudu, etc) and Clue, 1985, can be found to rent in the same haunts…unless it’s found by Colonel Mustard in the study with the Candlestick!! …or God forbid, Mrs. Blanche White with the flames!!

madeline-kahn-clue

Working Title: The Space Between Middletown and Transcendence

This week Will Leschber talks Custom Made Theater’s Middletown and all the things in between…

How often do we find ourselves in the middle? In between two points in our lives; in between birthdays; in between doing what we want to do and what we have to do to pay the bills; in between this step and the next; the first step and the last. It seems you could say that about every boring mundane transitional moment of our lives. Our life is the middle. Our days are the Oreo filling of our lives.

oreo-art-Edvard-Munch-The-Scream

Will Eno’s award winning play Middletown, which recently opened at Custom Made Theater, concerns itself with the stuff in between: the unremarkable; the quiet moments of insignificance that add up to a lifetime; life as it’s unexpectedly cut short; life as it opens anew; life as seen from the distant view of the stars. In all the stories, in all the towns, in all of time, is anyone different or special? Or are we all special just like everyone else?

Middletown

I wanted to discuss the odd headspace that Middletown exists in with someone who was a bit more familiar with the show. At times the play feels like it moves in the ether between manifest divinity, exuberant mundanity, boring miraculousness and everyday normality. What film or other entertainment entity could possibly get me in this same headspace?!

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett Collection / Rex Features ( 716635a ) 'Wings of Desire', (aka 'Der Himmel Uber Berlin'), Bruno Ganz 'Wings of Desire' film - 1987


Everett Collection / Rex Features ( 716635a )
Bruno Ganz in Wings of Desire (Der Himmel Uber Berlin), 1987

I had the pleasure of speaking to Bay Area actress, Jean Forsman, after seeing her perfectly cast performance as the town librarian in Custom Made Theatre’s current production of Middletown. Librarians are the gatekeepers to the bound ages of knowledge. So I figured, I’d pick her brain about the perfect film pairing to prepare you for the mindset of Middletown living. Here’s what she had to say:

“In consideration of your question, I keep coming back to Wim Winders’ Wings of Desire. The angels moving throughout the earth, detached from earth, are able to observe us with clarity and compassion and delight in our humanity (watching someone lower her umbrella to feel the rain on her face). Like the astronaut in Middletown, the Angel appreciates the miracle of existence once he is detached from our atmosphere and chooses to live with us, warts and all.”

A classic of World cinema, the 1987 film makes a perfect match for Middletown.

A classic of World cinema, the 1987 film makes a perfect match for Middletown.

Living just on the outside, in the middle between one significant place and another, our slanted perspective may just turn the light of mundane life bright enough so we can peek at the wonder floating around us all the time. The point is not to arrive at a place where you only see the awe-inspiring miracles that pervade our lives. Maybe the point is to take a moment every once in awhile to reflect on the touches of transcendence, and when that moment is felt fully and passed, to then continue moving forward down the great current with everyone else. We are the river and you can never step in the same point of a river twice.

Wings of desire life pic

See Middletown. Spend some time with yourself and everyone else. It runs until it ends…April 23, unless it extends…life has a way of extending.

Working Title: Death and All His Friends

This week Will Leschber talks little deaths and Aurora Theater’s Little Erik with Mariah Castle.

This time of year amidst the frenzy of the award season, there is something that rings undeniably true. Glossing over the red carpet facades and the self congratulation, I guarantee you that 5 minutes or so of anyone of the myriad award shows will capture genuine emotion. It’s possible it will pop up elsewhere in the programming but the section of which I speak is the “In Memoriam” section. We don’t want to linger there (God forbid we focus on death too long in our culture) but for the minutes of montage, I know I am locked in sad admiration and recognition for those who have passed on. The time for award and applause has moved along and all that is left is a 4 second clip and our memories.

Everyone’s relationship with death is their own. Even having lost a brother and a best man, I still feel at arms length and very distinctly separated from death. Maybe that is the proper way we should be as the living moving forward with our lives. As a new parent, I cannot imagine what it would be to lose a child or a spouse. What that would mean to have to re-define how you draw the lines of your personal identity. This playground of dark emotion is called out in the Aurora Theater’s new world premier play, Little Erik. This contemporary adaptation of Henry Ibsen’s Little Eyolf is written and directed by Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson and described as “a dramatically charged, volatile exploration of personal responsibility, grief, guilt, and the nature of desire…as a family searches for meaning and connection after the tragic death of their young child.” (www.auroratheater.org). I spoke with Bay Area actress, educator, and theatre-maker, Mariah Castle, who plays Andi in Little Erik, and she had some excellent recommendations to get you in the headspace of the show before you go.

little-eric-home

Since death (and the way we conduct going about our lives) is rarely simple or without a tension of opposites, Mariah’s recommendations run the gamut in tone. Which is perfect to chip away at the complexity that this subject calls for. Here’s what she had to say:

When our cast first sat down with Mark Jackson, the writer and director of Little Erik, to start digging into the script, he encouraged us all to go watch Hitchcock movies. He said they capture something of the eerie, quiet but potent tension that’s in our show. One of the films I watched was Rear Window. It has a strange, sexy, very stylized, and sometimes even silly quality to it that I would say overlaps with our show a bit. It captures some of the feeling but not all of it.

Rear-Blog-7

There’s also tragic loss in Little Erik, amidst the pleasurable suspense. I’m personally doing a little bit of digging into the experience of loss as research. I have Showtime’s Time of Death on my to-watch list. Lastly, I find some important feminist themes in the play so I’d also recommend watching something with an off-center female character who is finding her voice. Like…The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Haha. No but seriously, I can’t wait for the 2nd season.

unbreakable

It appears that the play has much more to wrestle with than simply despair: strange, eerie, sexy, stylized, silly, off center characters, pleasurable suspense…I’m definitely intrigued. When presented with the tragedies of life, it is curious the colors and emotions that paint the complexity of that time. Traveling back home for a funeral is an awful reason to return (I know; I did it in the recent past) but once there, I found joy amongst friends. I was happy to be brought back to a community of built family to reflect and laugh and grieve. As in the montage of “In Memoriam”, when we remember those passed, not only tears but celebration too is in order.

Aurora Theater’s Little Erik opens January 28th and runs through the end of February. More info can be found at http://www.aurorateater.org. Read Window and Time of Death are available for rent/purchase on the usual platforms (Google play, iTunes, vudu, etc). The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt can be found on Netflix.