"By The Way, Meet Vera Stark" - a review of the new show at Trustus

Trustus Theatre's new production of Lynne Nottage's play By The Way, Meet Vera Stark tackles an odd paradox from early Hollywood: talented actors of color were finding professional success on screen in mainstream films that starred white performers, but most commonly were cast as maids, slaves, "mammies," and other stereotypical roles. Hattie McDaniel, for example, broke the color barrier when she won the Oscar, but still she played a servant, not a teacher, mother, or romantic lead. Employing a dizzying array of narrative and dramatic techniques, Nottage traces the career of the fictional Vera Stark (Michelle Jacobs), an aspiring African-American actress in the early '30's who works by day as a maid for the frivolous Gloria Mitchell (Katie Mixon), a Mary Pickford-like starlet famed as "America's Little Sweetie Pie." Advance press material notwithstanding, Vera Stark is neither a screwball comedy (although it is sometimes funny, if perhaps not hilarious) nor a riff on Gone With the Wind (although Mixon sometimes channels the breathless drawls of Vivian Leigh and Olivia de Havilland.)  Gloria is desperate to land the lead in The Belle of New Orleans, a weepy film melodrama that draws from classics like Camille and Dion Boucicault's The Octaroon. That term, by the way, turns up frequently: it's a 19th-century term for a person with one-eighth black heritage, who would still have been classified as a slave. (A mixed-race friend of mine once laughingly used that term to describe herself, and later a co-worker asked "What did you say you were again?  A Macaroon?")

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Vera, clearly a close friend, confidante and sister-figure for her scatterbrained employer, wants a shot at playing the “Belle's” maid, an actual dramatic role with lines beyond "Yes, ma'am." In moments that define the play's central issues, Vera and roommate Lottie (Annette Dees Grevious) discuss the inherent irony of Vera's situation; these conversations, and scenes where Vera flirts with ambitious, driven jazz musician Leroy (an earnest and smooth Jabar Hankins) could be excerpts from a good August Wilson drama set in the 1930's. Strangely, however, different scenes and different characters in the first act are written in drastically, sometimes jarringly different styles. When Jacobs and Grevious banter with Janell Bryant (as their saucy friend Anna Mae, who intends to find stardom via affairs with white producers and directors who think she's Brazilian) the mood lightens, and the laughs come fast and furious, in the vein of socially-conscious comedies from the '70's like Good Times.  Hollywood types turn up: Bobby Bloom as a no-nonsense producer who could be from a realistic 1940's drama, and Clint Poston as an idealistic director, clearly an Otto Preminger figure, but as broadly comic as if Franz Liebkind's accent and Roger DeBris's flamboyance were taken from The Producers and morphed into a single character.  Bloom's studio exec, by the way, could easily have been one-note, and played by an older man, simply a quasher of any projects that won't sell at the box office. The youthful Bloom gives a remarkably three-dimensional performance, proving that there are no small roles, only small actors.  With the simplest of tools - suspenders instead of a belt, hair parted a certain way, a cigar held like Bogart, wire-rimmed glasses, assertive body language - he perfectly conveys an Irving Thalberg-like visionary, who wants to give audiences a brief escape from the grim realities of the Depression.

Mixon, meanwhile, dives into the role of the vodka-fueled Gloria with as much gleeful abandon as she dove into that quiche a few months ago in the Side Door Theatre, flamboyantly vamping like Lydia Languish or other 17th and 18th-century heroines of classic farce. When all these characters are on stage together, the show comes closest to capturing the spirit of a vintage screen comedy, a la Golddiggers of 1933, or How to Marry a Millionaire, with Grevious taking the older, more cynical Lauren Bacall role, Jacobs becoming sweet Betty Grable, and Bryant as the luscious but clueless Marilyn Monroe.  But if these references to obscure shows and characters you may not be familiar with are becoming a little annoying, that to some extent is my point. The author clearly intended this mash-up of genres, and each cast member does just fine, but at times the effect is confusing, as if disparate characters from separate plays all found themselves on stage together.

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The storytelling chaos coalesces into something different entirely, however, as Act Two becomes a retelling of, reflection on, and subtle satire of the themes we saw in Act One. Three modern scholars (Grevious, Bryant, and Wela Mbusi) debate the legacy and sociological impact of Stark's life, as we see first a "clip" from The Belle of New Orleans, featuring Gloria, Vera, Lottie, and even "Brazilian Spitfire Anna Fernandez" (i.e. Anna Mae) in the roles that defined their careers, followed by a clip from a 1970's Merv Griffin-style talk show, where we see the older Vera and Gloria reunite. Here director Dewey Scott-Wiley brilliantly captures the differing levels of narrative: we the audience are watching a contemporary academic forum, whose participants are in turn watching a 40-year-old TV clip (acted out live by the performers from within a framed portal;) the talk show guests are in turn watching a film clip from 40 years earlier, the very movie that the characters were obsessing over live on stage in the first act.  Confused?  It actually makes perfect sense, and is a superb payoff to the confusion of Act One. Vera has become a parody of herself, much like the aging Josephine Baker or Eartha Kitt, and we learn that she ended her life soon after this TV appearance, dying young like Dorothy Dandridge, who likewise struggled for mainstream roles in Hollywood.  Leroy turns up as a bitter and defiant Charlie Parker-style burnout, excellently embodied as an older man by Hankins, while Gloria has naturally become a beloved screen goddess of yesteryear.  Scott-Wiley's inventive staging places the live action of the 70's clips behind scrims, eliminating the need for any significant make-up effects, while the 1930's movie was actually filmed in black-and-white by Jason Steelman, and directed by Scott-Wiley.  While it is supposed to be a parody of the era and its cinematic and acting conventions to some extent, the movie-within-the-play is actually pretty decent, with some nice angles, and plenty of attractive shadows, beams of light, and shades of gray.  Bloom doubles as the talk show host, and again manages to create an entirely different character, saying volumes with his pained expression as his interview/reunion devolves into a catfight.

Scott-Wiley doubles as scenic designer, and the art deco-influenced set is serviceable, but looks unfinished. The scrim effects are outstanding in the second act, but really should have been covered up by paintings, tapestry, anything, in the first act. Portions of the stage become particular locales (Vera's apartment, the exterior of the studio, etc.) but little is done to give any sense of change, and the actors' blocking within these smaller areas sometimes seems cramped and constrained. Costumes by Amy Brower expertly define varying eras; a number of characters wear striking creations from La-Ti-Da Jewelry Designs, which are also featured on display in the theatre's bar/gallery area.

Nottage has won just about every award imaginable: Pulitzer, Obie, Guggenheim, even a MacArthur "Genius" grant, but I don't think any were for this play.  The show is enjoyable enough, but never entirely decides what it wants to say, or what kind of play it wants to be. It's never a complete laugh-fest, nor do the more serious moments delve particularly deeply into material ripe for exploration. I also fear that some of the structural madness and much of the very broad comedy in the first act may turn off patrons who expect more from Trustus.  To them I say that the second act is the pay-off, and it's worth the wait. Remember - the venue is called "Trust Us" for a reason.

By The Way, Meet Vera Stark runs through Saturday, May 18th on the Thigpen Main Stage at Trustus.  Information can be found, and tickets may be purchased online at www.trustus.org , or call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 PM at 803-254-9732.  And you can read James Harley's review of the production at Onstage Columbia and at the Free Times.

~ August Krickel

 

"Good People" - Jillian Owens reviews the new play at Trustus Theatre

David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People, the new show at Trustus Theatre,  takes place in Boston, but really exists in two separate worlds.  Margie Walsh (Dewey Scott-Wiley) isn’t doing well at life.  As struggling single mother with a severely disabled adult daughter, she’s barely getting by paycheck to paycheck.   When she’s laid off from her job at the Dollar Store for excessive tardiness –mostly from having to care for her daughter—she’s left with no prospects and a looming eviction. Her friends suggest she go talk to her old high school flame, Mike (Jason Stokes) to see if he can give her a job.  They all remember him as being “Good People” - surely he’ll help an old friend out. Mike is completely beating Margie at the game of life:  he’s a successful doctor with a home, a family, and a practice in Chestnut Hill, an upscale part of town.   Mike never says he’s rich, just “comfortable,” to which Margie snaps back, "Oh, comfortable.  You're comfortable. OK — I guess that makes me uncomfortable."  She manages to wheedle an invitation to a birthday party that his wife is throwing for him, where she hopes to meet her new future employer.

 Richard Kiraly

Lindsay-Abaire presents some truly interesting characters and concepts in this play.  Mike is that guy who managed to “get out” and make something of his life and Margie is that girl who just didn’t make it.  While Mike feels entitled to his success, since after all he did work extremely hard to get there, Margie points out that he had several lucky breaks that most people in the "Southie" end of Boston never had.  At what point are you truly just stuck?  When Margie, the self-proclaimed “too nice” girl attempts to blackmail Mike with frightening secrets from his past, you can’t help but wonder if any of these people are “good” at all.

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This script is particularly compelling as Lindsay-Abaire grew up in Southie.  Like Mike, he grew up as the son of a fruit peddler, and was one of the lucky ones able to get out after getting a scholarship to Milton Academy when he was 11.  The author says that the reason it took him so long to write a play about his childhood home was that “I was terrified.  You love and care about these people deeply, and you don’t want to misrepresent them.”  His characters are treated with compassion and dignity here.

This production, directed by Jim O’Connor, is subtle and well-executed.  This show is a terrific example of what can be done with a terrific cast and a terrific director when they’re given a terrific script.  Dewey Scott-Wiley is a raw and intelligent Margie who interjects just the right amount of humor into a very serious story.  Jason Stokes plays Mike, and while he’s probably too young for this role (despite several references in the script to his looking good for his age), he manages to make you feel truly sorry for him when Margie starts laying in to him.  The supporting cast, consisting mostly of Columbia theatre veterans, all deserve mention as well.  Erica Tobolski, Barbara Lowrance Hughes, Kevin Bush, and Michelle Jacobs all deliver solid performances.

Kiraly

That being said, the set seemed hastily put-together, clunky, awkward, and not very well designed, which has been a recurring issue for Trustus.  For this performance it was downright distracting as actors struggled with some of the set pieces and curtains.  But that’s nitpicking.

Trustus Theatre has been spot-on with the plays they’ve chosen this season.  I’m happy to see them getting back to their mission of bringing some of the best new theatre to Columbia, SC, and I hope this continues.

Good People runs through April 6; contact the box office at 803-254-9732 for ticket information, or visit www.trustus.org (and try out the new Trustus online reservation system.)

~ Jillian Owens

"The Motherf*%#er With the Hat" - August Krickel reviews the new Trustus show

"We're the theatre that curses and does nude shows," Trustus co-founder Jim Thigpen joked in the very first issue of Jasper. And how. The Mother*#%$er With the Hat features plenty of full frontal male and female nudity, liberal use of the title expletive along with its many cognates and derivatives, plus violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. Or, as an old roommate used to say, that's four-star entertainment right there for sure. Director Chad Henderson notes in the program that author Stephen Adly Guirgis chose the title as a disclaimer to signify the intensity of the subject matter, a sort of "let the buyer beware" warning so that the audience has no illusions as to the grittiness of the themes or dialogue.  That said, there is plenty of comedy, a few moments of tenderness and compassion, and a lot of insight into human nature, however dysfunctional and self-destructive that may be.  The play's five characters are low-lifes, addicts, ex-cons, alcoholics and/or scumbags, but thanks to the commitment of the performers, and some creativity from Henderson and scenic designer Kimi Maeda, we sort of kind of care about them, at times anyway.

Jackie (Alexis Casanovas) is newly paroled and newly sober; his AA sponsor Ralph (Shane Silman) now sells nutritional supplements instead of drugs, and has stayed sober for 16 years in spite of a tumultuous marriage to Victoria (Michelle Jacobs) whom he met, you guessed it, at a meeting. Jackie's cousin Julio (Joe Morales) has likewise channeled his energies into therapeutic massage and perfecting his recipe for the perfect empanada, but is ready to stash a handgun or channel his inner Van Damme in a rumble. Veronica (Raia Jane Hirsch) still uses, and may be cheating on Jackie with the titular character, who could just as easily be called "some dude who may be doing my girlfriend." Or Jackie may just be paranoid, and in need of a refresher course on the Twelve Steps.  All five actors believably flesh out these damaged characters as they navigate the choppy waters of recovery, relationships and betrayal. At one point, Silman and Casanovas are so intently arguing with each other that one gets the impression that they have forgotten the audience entirely, and instead just really want to win the argument, using the playwright's words. Equally impressive is the way that the actors bare their souls on stage while baring everything else, yet manage to stay in character, and never miss a beat. The dialogue is very honest, which again explains the play's title, since people use the term so frequently these days, especially in the sub-culture we see depicted here.

 

Guirgis has a way of relaying fairly profound thoughts and ideas via the natural cadences of simple and ineloquent people. At some level, all the characters realize how badly they have messed up their own lives, and how tenuous their grasp on stability is. Yet "the space between who you are, and who you think you are, is pretty wide," as Cousin Julio tells Jackie - cautionary words for us all. Morales, deadpan as Julio, provides most of the wisdom in the first act, which is in many ways a comedy, although one peopled with sad, tragic figures. The second act is more of a serious drama, although full of hilarious lines, most spoken by Julio.  Guirgis once worked on an episode of The Sopranos (as did two of the original Broadway cast, including the original Victoria, Annabella Sciorra, aka Tony's crazy goomah Gloria Trillo.) Before I spotted that in the program, I leaned over to my friend and whispered "Tell me this isn't Christopher and Adriana," the similarly struggling and clueless addicts from that series.   "What are we, Europeans?  I'm from the neighborhood," Jackie protests when faced with a difficult choice. There are a number of modern playwrights who use the natural rhythms of common urban speech to depict "real" life in the big city, including David Mamet, Martin McDonagh, and Neil LaBute, all performed by Trustus over the years.  In fact, this work could almost be reasons to be pretty, Pt. 2, if that LaBute play had focused on losers and substance abusers. Directed a few years ago by Henderson, reasons featured similar themes of commitment and infidelity, similar challenges of growing up and getting serious about life, similar blunt language, similar argument and fight scenes, and similar scene transitions.

Speaking of those transitions, I griped and moaned like a...well, like the title of this play, over another recent production where the actors did choreographed actions as the scenes changed. Here, it works perfectly, and indeed enhances the material. Henderson keeps his cast in character, or stylized versions of their characters, as they act out brief, pantomimed representations or summaries of what they are feeling. Sure, it keeps the action and pace flowing while the cast and stagehands change the scenery, but the mini-vignettes work quite well on their own. Nowhere is it better, or more appropriate, than when Hirsch sees the walls literally and figuratively closing in on her, and rushes to push back in vain.  Kimi Maeda's scenic design is created with an artist's eye, and incorporates three revolving, triangular set pieces, each forming part of the interior of three apartments.  Anything the actors need to touch - a chair, a door, a table, even a boom box - is physically present on stage, while everything else - a window, a lamp, the headboard of a bed - is painted onto the colorful walls with simple, broad strokes. Henderson mentioned the cartoon-like echoes of artists like Roy Lichtenstein in his interview with Jasper, but I was actually reminded of the work of Toulouse-Lautrec, and of local artist Page Morris, who coincidentally was featured in an exhibition just a couple of blocks down Lady Street from the theatre during opening weekend.    .

As I have written previously, back in the day Trustus used to do shows like this all the time: controversial, raw, edgy, unknown outside of New York, and featuring crazy titles. In fact, I found myself mentally casting this c. 1990, with Firdous Bamji and Erin Thigpen in the leads, and maybe Linda Pollitt and George Altman (or Jayce Tromsness) as Victoria and Ralph.  Here, there isn't a lot of controversy per se, apart from, well, OK, the title, the language, and the nudity. The themes are relatively straightforward, with no message beyond acknowledgement of humanity's flaws, and how we all have to strive to overcome those to get through one day at a time, even if we occasionally act like idiots and jeopardize it all. Consider yourself warned, or encouraged to see the show, depending on how much you enjoy challenging material, and how willing you are to laugh at the disturbing absurdities of human existence.

The Mother*#%$er With the Hat runs through Sat. Feb. 23rd; contact the box office at 803-254-9732 for ticket information.

~ August Krickel

Marauding Zombies, Playful Amphibians, and That Mofo With the Hat - What to See on Stage This Weekend

George Romero's low-budget, cult hit from 1968, Night of the Living Dead, was the granddaddy of all modern zombie stories. Zombies had been around before, but were usually depicted as corpses animated by some controlling voodoo master. Romero took the basic idea of hordes of the undead from Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, made them less vampires and more corpse-like, yet still eager to chomp your flesh and turn you into one of them, and his world-view of a zombie apocalypse took off, influencing everything from the Resident Evil and Silent Hill video games, to director John Landis's classic video for the Michael Jackson song "Thriller," to the current hit comic book and cable tv series The Walking Dead. We're still fond of this exchange from the Joss Whedon-produced series Angel, written by Steven S. DeKnight (now the show-runner for Spartacus) : CONNOR (Angel's mortal son, who hates him): He looks dead.

ANGEL (the "good" vampire with a soul) : He is dead. Technically, it's undead. It's a zombie.

CONNOR: What's a zombie?

ANGEL: It's an undead thing.

CONNOR: Like you?

ANGEL: No, zombies are slow-moving, dimwitted things that crave human flesh.

CONNOR: Like you.

ANGEL: No! It's different. Trust me.

Zombies are all the rage in Columbia too, with an annual Zombie Walk (Crawl? Lurch?) each Hallowe'en. High Voltage Theatre is currently producing a stage adaptation of the original Romero film, running this weekend and the next, Friday and Saturday nights, through Sat. Feb. 15th, at the Tapp's Art Center on Main Street. For information or reservations, call: 803-754-5244. And you can read a review at the Free Times.

Over at Richland Mall in Forest Acres, Columbia Children's Theatre is opening their new production of A Year With Frog and Toad, the Tony-nominated (seriously!) musical by Robert and Willie Reale, based on Arnold Lobel's series of children's books. The cast includes local favorites such as Jerry Stevenson, Lee O. Smith, Bobby Bloom, Sara Jackson, Paul Lindley II (doubling as musical director) Toni Moore, and Elizabeth Stepp (who also choreographs.)

From press material:

Arnold Lobel's well-loved characters hop from the page to the stage in A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD, the Theatre of Young Audiences version of Tony-nominated musical. This whimsical show follows two great friends -- the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad -- through four, fun-filled seasons. Waking from hibernation in the Spring, Frog and Toad plant gardens, swim, rake leaves, go sledding, and learn life lessons along the way. The two best friends celebrate and rejoice in their differences that make them unique and special. Part vaudeville, part make believe, all charm, A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD tells the story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons.

The show runs through Sun. Feb. 17th; contact the box office at (803) 691-4548 for information.

Meanwhile, down in the Vista, Trustus Theatre opens Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Motherf@*#&er With the Hat, directed by Chad Henderson, with a score by Preach Jacobs, scenic design by Kimi Maeda, and featuring Alexis Casanovas, Shane Silman, Raia Jane Hirsch, Michelle Jacobs, and Joe Morales.

From press material:

ADULTS ONLY PLEASE: language, nudity, sexual situations, & violence

"This sexy and modern show was nominated for Tony Awards, Drama League Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards, and Drama Desk Awards – TRUST US, it’s more than the title that’s provocative about this show."

Struggles with addiction, friendship, love and the challenges of adulthood are at the center of the story. Jackie, a petty drug dealer, is just out of prison and trying to stay clean. He's also still in love with his coke-addicted childhood sweetheart, Veronica. Ralph D. is Jackie's too-smooth, slightly slippery sponsor. He's married to the bitter and disaffected Victoria, who, by the way, has the hots for Jackie. And then there's Julio, Jackie's cousin … a stand-up, "stand by me" kind of guy. However, when Jackie comes home with flowers to find a strange man’s hat by his and Veronica’s bed, these characters careen forward as Jackie goes in search of the hat’s owner. What follows is an examination of trust, lust, loyalty, and true love.

You can read an interview with director Chad Henderson here.  Contact the box office at (803) 254-9732 for ticket information.

An interview with Chad Henderson on The Motherf**ker with the Hat

 

Jasper had the chance to sit down with Chad Henderson, director of the next play on the Trustus Main Stage, The Motherfucker with a Hat. We had a few questions for Chad and -- turns out he had a few answers that we're happy to share with you now.

 

1. So who wears what hats in the production of the play MFWAH?

 

Well, I’m happily wearing the directing hat for this project. I’ve got a great cast too! I’m excited that we’ve got some new talents making their Trustus debut with this production. Alexis Casanovas, who got his MFA in Acting from Rutgers, is playing our protagonist Jackie. Playing his girlfriend Veronica is Raia Jane Hirsch, who studied theatre at TISCH in NYC. Shane Silman, who many know from his recent work on his adaptation of “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, is playing Jackie’s AA sponsor Raplh D. We’ve also got two Trustus Company members in the show: Michelle Jacobs playing Victoria (Ralph’s wife) and Joe Morales playing Julio (Jackie’s Cousin).

 

We’ve also got Preach Jacobs compiling the score for this show from his music catalogue and Kimi Maeda has designed an unbelievable set. She’s designed a set comprised of three rotating periactoi (three-sided revolves) which allow us to create a lot of movement with the set and get the story moving at a great pace.

 

 

 

2. What about this play made you want to direct it?

 

Initially, the language was what keyed me into this show – by that I mean the actual words on the page…not the naughty words (of which there are plenty – wink). I’ve been a fan of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ work for a few years now. I’ve seen his scripts produced by NiA, Trustus, and Theatre South Carolina – and every time I’m impressed with how musical the language and word choices can be. He writes in a way that reflects actual conversation. Not to mention, his characters are often quirky and dangerous. Motherf**ker certainly exhibits these qualities, and many critics felt that this show was a prime example of his use of language and his creation of realistic characters that live on the edge – whether they intend to or not.

 

Ultimately, I like plays that explore human relationships. This script explores many points-of-view concerning love, lust, loyalty, and betrayal. Without talking too much about my personal history, I responded to a sense of dark familiarity with the relationships being explored in the story. Some of the things being said, I’ve said. Some of the situations the characters find themselves in are ones I’ve been in before. This show is about a lot of the things we can’t talk about in polite company. We have to wait until we’re around our closest friends – where the truth will sometimes surface (but not always). And that’s really what the show is about: friendships. I think they’re confusing at times – don’t you?

 

 

 

3. What have been your greatest challenges and how have you met them?

 

I anticipated a lot of challenges with this show because the language is so specific, and I also wanted to ask for a lot of bravery from the actors. However, that all seemed to fall into place very early on in the process.

 

So in all reality, the greatest challenge I had with this show was learning to trust myself in a new way. It’s been over a year since I’ve worked on a non-musical – which I had wanted to do for quite some time. While the approaches to directing a musical and a non-musical have similarities, they do diverge from each other at many points. I knew that this show had a title that would be singular in Columbia. Therefore – I wanted the production to be singular as well.

 

I’m the type who’s always thinking about “what’s next?”, “what do people want?”, “what’s exciting right here and right now?” So, with a mind running on various cylinders at one time I kept feeling like I couldn’t wrap my head around what the final product would be like for The Motherf**ker With the Hat. There was light at the end of the tunnel however because I was able to work with scenic designer Kimi Maeda and score composer Preach Jacobs.  Now we’ve got a hip-hop score that’s definitive to the Trustus production, as well as a scenic concept that I haven’t seen explored in other productions throughout the country.

 

 

 

4. The play has a "bad word" in it -- a lot of playwrights would have substituted another word to avoid controversy, this one did not. Why do you think that is?

 

In an interview about the show Stephen Adly Guirgis said that he titled the show “The Motherfucker With the Hat” so it would serve as a disclaimer. In other words, you know what you’re getting into. It’s not family friendly – and that’s because it’s about adult life….or “real” life. It can be expected from the title that we’re going to be examining some of the more difficult human experiences.

 

I don’t want to be misleading though…this show does have a lot of comedy in it. Guirgis is a brilliant writer, and I think those who are unfamiliar with him will have a great time experiencing a script by one our more prominent playwrights of the last decade.

 

5. Can you talk a little about the set design?

 

The scenic design by Kimi Maeda is just as “in transit” as the main character, Jackie. From the moment of the inciting incident of this show, we follow Jackie through a series of circumstances and choices that make him careen forward through his already difficult life. He’s in and out of apartments continuously and Kimi’s set allows us to go there with ease. Three rotating periactoi (three-sided revolves) cover the stage, allowing the audience and the characters to move through space and time in an engaging way. In my opinion, plays should often equate to a theatrical EVENT; turning a show into an experience that the actors and the audiences can travel through together. In other words, once the curtain speech has ended I like to make people feel like the safety bar comes down on a rollercoaster and you’re not admitted off the ride until it’s over. Kimi’s set is one of the more effective sets I’ve worked with in allowing the show to take on this “rollercoaster” quality. And boy, with these characters IT IS a rollercoaster.

 

Kimi and I had a lot of conversations about the role the imagination plays in moments of infidelity. Jealousy can begin to take control and has the potential to make someone view their life through a more aggrandized point of view. Hypothetically, if I were to find out from someone else that my wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or whatever had slept with someone else…I might start to let my jealousy and imagination take over. I might imagine them having wild passionate sex, I might imagine them laughing at me behind my back, I may also imagine KILLING THE MOTHERFUCKAH THAT TOUCHED…see what happens? Haha, the darker side of creation can just take off in moments like that.

 

What Kimi did to respond to that idea was to lace Lichtenstein inspired elements into the set. Making the whole show take on that paneled “comic” style look. Both Lighting Designer Danny Harrington and Costume Designer Brandi Smith have made bold choices to marry the other visual elements into this unique pop-art inspired world.

 

 

6. Of the actors in MFWAH, who, or whose role, do you think the audience will be talking about after the play is over?

 

I think audiences are really going to enjoy watching this cast work together. They couldn’t be a more diverse group with varying ranges in experience, style, approach, and education. However they ALL bring these characters to life beautifully, and more importantly AS AN ENSEMBLE!

 

Trustus audiences will be seeing Alexis Casanovas and Raia Jane Hirsch on the Main Stage for the first time, and I think they’re going to be viewed as very welcome additions to the Trustus family. Alexis brings a lot of swagger and heart to the character of Jackie, and Raia exhibits absolute uninhibited work as Jackie’s fiery girlfriend Veronica.

 

I think audiences are going to be talking a lot about these characters that they’re playing. We pull for both of them, and this show takes them on a journey where their strength is constantly challenged. Jackie is a recovering addict and Veronica is a current addict – so their dynamics are always running on two different cylinders. I tell ya – I know a few couples like that.

 

 

7. What's this I hear about a "hat night" and whose brilliant idea was this anyway?

 

HAT NIGHT?! You mean one of the coolest opening night events this season at Trustus?

 

Yes, we had someone post on the Trustus facebook page that they hoped there’d be a “hat night” for the show. I believe it might have been the editor of Jasper magazine (insert winky emoticon here). So, myself and Larry Hembree thought we could turn it into a fun contest online.

 

So here’s how it works: audiences come on opening night, and they wear a hat. My awesome marketing interns Rachel and Victoria will be going around and taking pictures of those wishing to compete for a Trustus Flex Pass. On Saturday the 9th, we’ll upload a photo album on facebook and tag the shots. Whoever’s photo has the most “likes” by midnight on Saturday the 16th will win a Trustus Flex Pass (8 tickets to Main Stage shows). 2nd place wins 4 tickets, and 3rd place wins 2 tickets. So – there’s more than one chance to win some tickets to Trustus shows! Plus…it’s fun to wear a hat and have everyone call you a “motherf**ker” all night.

MATURE AUDIENCE ONLY: language, sexual content, nudity, violence -

BIO Chad Henderson* (Director) is the current 2012 Jasper Magazine Artist of the Year in Theatre. This year will mark a full decade in Columbia for Chad, four of them at the University of South Carolina and six of them as a Company member here at Trustus. Past Trustus Directing Credits include: Next To Normal, Avenue Q (Winner “Best Local Production”), Passing Strange (Runner-up “Best Local Production”), Spring Awakening, Assassins, The Last 5 Years, reasons to be pretty, Swing ’39 (World premiere), The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Southern Baptist Sissies, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Winner “Best Local Production). Chad has been in residency twice at The Studios of Key West, and has also directed at The Columbia Children’s Theatre, Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, Theatre South Carolina, Spartanburg Next Stage, and The Spartanburg Youth Theatre.