“The details will be different, but it will happen to you. That’s what I am here to tell you. “
The words of Joan Didion have narrated the American experience for decades, from her iconic examination of 1960s Haight-Ashbury in Slouching Towards Bethlehem to her inside look at government in Political Fictions and to even unpacking the propensity of Californians to live with fire season, Didion has been the chronicler of our lives since she first started setting pen to paper as a young writer fresh out of UC Berkeley.
While her journalistic analysis is astonishingly accurate, it is perhaps her more personal essays that deliver the deepest literary impact. Over the years, these meditations have included pieces on self respect, keeping a notebook, moving to New York City.
But perhaps the most recognizable title is her 2004 memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, where she navigates the aftermath of her husband’s death and the illness of her only daughter. It is this story which Rosina Reynolds will bring to life in Intrepid’s Staged Reading Series Monday night at the Encinitas Library, under the direction of Annie Hinton.
“I read Magical Thinking in one day over Christmas break,” says Annie, recalling her first encounter with the memoir. “My father had just died and I wanted to see if it was an appropriate aid to give my mother. I couldn’t put it down.”
Annie wasn’t the only one captivated by Didion’s story. The memoir awarded Didion the National Book Award in 2005 and was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer.
A few years later, she adapted it into a one-woman show for Broadway, where it continued to touch people and catalyze conversations around death and grief and the magical thinking that occurs as one processes these hard-hitting emotions.
The one-woman piece evokes Didion’s voice in a way that her solitary writing cannot, and while the story is the same, the theatrical incarnation is powerful in a very different way.
“The play hits much closer to home,” says Annie. “The voice in the piece is part storyteller and part Oracle, and somewhere along the way we become interested in their lives as well as their deaths.”
While it might seem easy to get lost in the grief, Didion’s writing teaches us that it is only by processing it with the same precision with which she unpacks the details of a crime scene that we can move through that darkness and into something truly miraculous – and perhaps a little bit magical.
The Year of Magical Thinking, a staged reading. By Joan Didion. Featuring Rosina Reynolds. Directed by Annie Hinton. Encinitas Library 540 Cornish Drive. 6:30 pm wine and appetizer reception. 7 pm reading. $15. Funded in part by the City of Encinitas and Mizel Family Foundation Community Grant Program.
“One thing I think about each night is, how am I going to tell this story,” says Jack French, who is making his Intrepid debut on the stage of the Horton Grand Theatre in the current production of Woody Guthrie’s American Song. “Woody Guthrie was a guy who embodied that, who was all about telling the story. To him, that was paramount. For us, that’s the thing for figuring out this production.”
The rest of the cast agrees. Putting in long hours rehearsing Woody’s now legendary music, performing a full run and now in the middle of the show’s extended run has given them an intense familiarity with not only the musician, but the roads he travelled and, yes, the stories he told.
“This isn’t a typical musical,” says Sean Yael-Cox, Intrepid’s Artistic Director who plays the role of the “Folk Singer,” an expression of Woody Guthrie in his mid-life years. “This story is about people who actually used music in their everyday lives. There’s something about when people used to use music to connect to each other and to celebrate and to express their frustration. It’s about what music can do for the human soul.”
While that may sound hyperbolic, the fact is that every audience who experiences Woody Guthrie’s American Song can attest to the connective nature of this music. There is rarely a performance that doesn’t end in a standing ovation and a theatre-wide sing along, complete with clapping and toe-tapping.
“The music is already in us,” adds Megan Storti, also an Intrepid newcomer, who lends the soprano lilt to the cast’s five-part harmonies and strums a mean ukulele. “Even if you don’t recognize the titles of the songs, you already know the music. You innately feel you should know it. It’s a cathartic experience to sing these songs every night.”
In the midst of a crazy political season and a celebration of our national holiday, both cast members and audiences agree that it is important to get in touch with the roots of our country, the shared history that is explored in these songs.
“The hope, the history, the rebellious spirit, the triumph of the little guy over the big guy, something about folk music that is uniquely American,” writes Wendy McGuire, USAR (Ret.), in a review of the show for the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park about her experience singing Guthrie’s songs with other musicians while deployed. “These are all things that make Woody Guthrie so important and so very relevant to active military and veterans today. Hearing those songs got me through some really dark moments.”
“Woody Guthrie wrote way before anyone tried to make songs to sell them,” says Leonard Patton, who is playing the “Writer,” an embodiment of Guthrie in his last years of life. “These songs come out of real experiences, hard experiences. But they are all about moving on and keeping on. We are all affected by they went through in this country many years ago. We are a product of these stories.”
“That’s what is really cool about telling these stories now,” agrees Karen Ann Daniels, who, among many characters in the show, portrays a jaw-dropping saloon songstress. “There really is no music out there now that talks about these kinds of experiences. We are really removed from that part of our heritage. Doing this show moves us closer to those stories.”
“This music is not about solos or the singular experience,” agrees Megan. “It’s about the human experience.”
Woody Guthrie’s American Song plays through July 17 at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego. Performs Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri 8 pm, Sat 4 pm and 8 pm, Sun 2 pm.
–Production Photos Credit: Daren Scott–
“Jen Haley is hands down the most thrilling playwright working in American theatre.”
Matt Morrow is unrestrained in his enthusiasm for Breadcrumbs, a 2010 play by white-hot Los Angeles-based playwright Jennifer Haley, which will be read on Monday evening as part of Intrepid’s Staged Reading Series at the Encinitas Library.
“I’m excited to delve into Breadcrumbs because of Jen’s unmistakable ability to capture the psychological complexities of contemporary relationships,” says Matt, executive artistic director of Diversionary Theatre who will also be directing Monday’s staged reading. “She does not blink at the darkest emotional and intellectual corners of the human heart and mind.”
And from the first line of the play, the audience knows that this particular trail of breadcrumbs might take some dark and twisty turns: “The only way out, is the only way in. The only way forward. Is to the light. Of the witch’s house.” But it is also clear that we are safe in the hands of this award-winning playwright.
“There is kind of a fairy tale quality and it is in kind of a suspended world,” says Jennifer, in an interview with Samuel French about Breadcrumbs. “The characters are both lonely women who really haven’t found themselves, who have a great yearning to reach out to people, but they do it in very different ways.”
These two characters are Alida and Beth. Alida is a reclusive writer who is diagnosed with dementia, living in a world teetering on the edge of fairy tale and the edge of reality. Beth is a nurse’s assistant who offers to help Alida create the stories of her life before they slip away from her. Together, they unravel for us the mystery of Alida’s consciousness – and her past.
“Alida is a hard-charging, no-nonsense, self-sufficient writer who has journeyed alone for most of her life,” says Annie Hinton, who will be portraying the writer in Monday’s reading. “Dementia is now causing her to lose the ability to organize the words she loves so much in her writing; she is being robbed of her ability to create. I had never really thought about losing your ability to create before reading this play.”
As Alida struggles to keep on task, the world of the play shifts back and forth from past to present, from memory to fairy tale. Navigating these shifts alongside Annie will be Tiffany Tang, playing the role of Beth.
“Jen has written such a beautiful piece with Breadcrumbs,” says Tiffany, whose own grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia late in life and can identify with the wavering connections with the present written into the play. “The imaginative elements in the storytelling help the tale to unfold in such a beautiful and surprising way. I think sometimes fairy tales can be more accurate than reality when conveying the truth of some things.”
These imaginative shifts that move through the storytelling also require shifts in character, and Annie and Tiffany will both portray other characters in the story – a younger version of Alida as well as Alida’s mother.
Moving from character to character is no easy feat on the part of the actors, as Jennifer acknowledges.
“For this play, I delved into the fairy tale nature of the story and went so much farther in terms of what the actresses were going to be doing,” explains Jennifer. “It requires a great virtuosity.”
For Matt, working on a play by Jen Haley is like coming home, as the two have been friends and colleagues for many years, most recently workshopping her play, Froggy, for The Banff Centre, which Matt has been developing with Jennifer and directing since its inception. What seems to impress Matt most is the timeliness and relevance of her plays, and Breadcrumbs is no exception.
“Jen is an uncompromising author,” says Matt, “with the ability to write precise, gripping and complex characters and stories that resonant with what is happening in the world around us today.”
Breadcrumbs, a staged reading. By Jennifer Haley. Directed by Matt M. Morrow. Featuring Annie Hinton, Tiffany Tang and Erin Petersen. Monday June 27, 2016. 630 pm wine and appetizer reception. 7 pm reading. $15. RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org or purchase tickets online.
Sipping a glass of aged pinot noir while sampling a bit of “Top Chef”-worthy cuisine may not seem the most likely way to support a local theatre company. But thanks to the Rotary Club of Encinitas, the official organizer of the 13th Annual Encinitas Wine and Food Festival on June 4 at the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course, 18 community nonprofits will see a significant contribution to their programming, including Intrepid Theatre Company.
“In furtherance of ‘service above self,’” explains longtime Festival Co-Chair Rich Houk, referencing the Rotary Club’s mission statement, “the goal of the festival is to bring people together, community and beneficiaries, for a common cause.”
The evening will feature representation from 27 restaurants and 27 wineries, breweries and distilleries. Guests are invited to take in the stunning vistas of the golf course-laden grounds while sampling delicacies from local establishments, listening to live music and perusing the silent auction items, which in the past have included high-end ski trips, aged whisky, golf clubs and Hawaiian getaways. Visit the Festival website for current silent auction listings.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says Festival Co-Chair Sandy Houk. “There’s a lot of wonderful energy each year.”
As a festival beneficiary, Intrepid will be selling tickets to the event, which range from $90-$500, depending on the level of VIP access desired. $60 of the proceeds from the $90 tickets will go towards Intrepid’s programming. However, 100% of the proceeds from tickets purchased at the $150 or $500 will directly fund Intrepid’s future productions, our Staged Reading Series at the Encinitas Library, Camp Intrepid at the Encinitas Community Center and Shakespeare Education Tours. Additionally, 100% of the proceeds from the silent auction items that Intrepid has contributed go back to the company, as well.
The beneficiary model for the festival, which has been adopted by other Rotary Clubs because of its success, guarantees that the nonprofit organizations receive a significant portion of these ticket sales.
“It’s unique,” says Rich. “Not many events are structured they way we are. When you buy your tickets, the majority of the money is credited back directly towards the organization. It’s written in the contract.”
Because Intrepid will not be hosting a formal gala this year, the Wine and Food Festival provides the perfect opportunity for supporters to lend a hand, and still be able to attend a fantastic event.
“It really takes a village,” says Producing Artistic Director, Christy Yael-Cox. “We are grateful for the help of our supporters and the Rotary and are looking forward to a fun event this year. Hopefully, we will see a lot of theatre lovers at the Festival.”
“We are thrilled that Intrepid can be involved,” says Encinitas Rotary Member Marti Rosenberg, who introduced Intrepid to the Festival in 2014. “The Rotary Club is supportive of anything that is going to help our neighborhood.”
Since its inception, the Encinitas Rotary Wine and Food Festival has raised over $1,00,000 for local charities and nonprofits and has had sold out attendance for the last five years.
“It’s a great opportunity for small groups who can’t throw big elaborate fundraisers,” says Marti. “The Rotary does all the work to help our community organizations.”
“Attendees can look forward to a beautiful setting with quality food and quality beverages,” says Rich. “But the purpose of the event is to bring people together.”
For tickets to the Encinitas Rotary Wine and Food Festival on June 4 that support Intrepid Theatre, click here. For more information about selling tickets to the event on behalf of Intrepid, email email@example.com.
Watch highlights from past Encinitas Rotary Wine and Food Festivals at the San Diego Botanic Gardens.
“It scares me how close this story is to mine.”
When Craig Noel Award-winning actor Jeffrey Jones first approached Intrepid Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox about the play Red Dog Howls, he told her how much this play speaks to him, not only because it challenges him as an actor, but also because it is a familiar retelling of his own Armenian family history.
“This story of Michael is so similiar to my past that I can’t help but to relate so deeply to the entire play,” says Jeffrey. “It is so spot on.”
Presented as part of the Intrepid Staged Reading Series, Red Dog Howls by Alexander Dinelaris, writer of the Oscar-winning film, Birdman, explores a very dark corner of world history.
In April 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were tortured and murdered during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in what is now acknowledged in most of the world as a genocide. Stories of the survivors, wherever they are heard, are hauntingly and profoundly resonant and the Armenian community works tirelessly to increase awareness of these events.
To that end, Intrepid will host a talkback panel immediately following the reading with critically-acclaimed author Dawn Anahid MacKeen, noted photographer Bardig Kouyoumdjian and the cast, moderated by Armenian Studies lecturer, Jack Nalbandian.
“I am Armenian and this story helps connect my awareness to my ancestry,” says Jeffrey, who cared for his grandmother, Elizabeth Toshigian, a survivor, until her passing. In the play, the main character, Michael Kiriakos, discovers a pack of mysterious letters left behind by his recently deceased father, which lead him to Rose, an Armenian woman who holds the secrets to his family history.
“My grandmother escaped the genocide at age 13, after watching the Gendarmes slaughter her family. She was the only one who survived,” explains Jeffrey. “She taught me our language, our food, our music, our dancing, our poetry and all our great writers, and mostly our religion, and how millions of Armenians refused to give up their faith and died for it. Like, in a way, they died for me to live.”
As Michael and Rose get to know each other, history becomes present and Michael begins to understand the emotional landscape of his own heritage and family.
Joining the cast as Rose, the strong, dynamic matriarch, is Dagmar Fields, recently seen in Intrepid’s I Hate Hamlet. While she admits that she did not have an extensive knowledge of the Armenian Genocide before encountering this play, Dagmar understand the importance of telling the story of Rose.
“The testimony to survival, family, and the healing power of love in this script help to explain why the soul of man perseveres,” says Dagmar, “despite all we can do as a race to create our own destruction.”
DeAnna Driscoll will also join the cast as Gabriella, Michael’s expectant wife, whose pregnancy prompts him to seek out the answers to the questions of his family’s history. Both DeAnna and Jeffrey were part of the Craig Noel Award-winning ensemble of Intrepid’s The Quality of Life. For DeAnna, the exploration of the darkness of this period of history was insightful and illuminating.
“I feel the Armenian Genocide is one that is often ignored, and if not ignored, our society, in general, is rather uneducated about it,” says DeAnna. “This play can be a catalyst to deeper understanding and empathy.”
Alexander Dinelaris, who was raised by his Armenian grandmother, has stated that the purpose of the play is to both raise awareness about these events, but to also connect with the ideas of making the future brighter and moving forward.
“I don’t think this play is just for the Armenian people; I think the Armenian people know their own story,” he said in an interview with Horizon Television’s Ani Tatevosyan. “This play goes out to non-Armenians, to tell the story very starkly of what happened to the Armenian culture. So, I think I wrote this play on behalf of my grandmother, and my family and the Armenians that I knew and loved. I wrote it to say, ‘This happened. Pay attention!’”
“I think the play, in the end, is really about putting the pain of our pasts, whether it’s Armenian or any other culture in the world, to sleep, to rest, and carrying with us the strength and the lessons of our ancestors,” Dinelaris continues. “I think that is the message to the audience.”
Red Dog Howls, a staged reading, by Alexander Dinelaris. Monday, April 25. 630 pm wine and appetizer reception. 7 pm reading, followed by talkback.
Encinitas Library. 540 Cornish Drive.
Audience advisory: Appropriate for ages 16+ due to graphic imagery. $15.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and pay with cash/check at the door or click here to purchase tickets online.
“This play has been life-changing for me.”
Intrepid Co-Founder and Artistic Director Sean Yael-Cox contemplates revisiting Richard Greenberg’s contemplative and mysterious play, Three Days of Rain, on Monday evening, the first installment of Intrepid’s 2016 Staged Reading Series. Joining him onstage will be Intrepid Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox and local acting favorite Jason Heil.
But aside from being a rare moment when this husband and wife artistic director team will share the stage, this reading is also a nod to the first time they met – while performing this play with Compass in 2008.
“I didn’t know her or who she was, but when she walked into the first rehearsal, late, I literally did a double take,” recalls Sean of his wife, Christy, director of Intrepid’s current mainstage production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? now playing downtown. “I felt as if I knew her. There was something incredibly familiar about her.”
Little did any of them know at the time what that stage partnership would lead to years later. Choosing to do this play as the opening for the reading series this year feels like a nod to Intrepid’s birth and growth over the last seven years. It is only fitting that the story would revolve around intimate relationships and a sense of history.
Set in Manhattan in 1995, Three Days of Rain centers on a brother Walker, his sister Nan, and their childhood friend Pip who meet to settle their parents’ estates. In Act One, Walker, Nan and Pip, the offspring of two very successful architecture partners gather for the reading of the will; in Act Two, the same actors take on the roles of the original partners and the woman who divided them.
“It’s a mystery mixed with a love story with an element of time travel,” says Sean. “The first time I read it, I fell in love with it.”
“This is the kind of play I love to see,” says Jason of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated script. “Greenberg continually brings in layers of surprises without ever feeling like he’s cheating. Also, the characters are smart, complex and real. You feel like you know them.”
“It’s also one of the great chamber plays of the last 30 years,” he adds, of the structure that typically involves minimal set and a small number of characters (derived from “chamber music,” which originally consisted of a small group of musicians who could fit inside a palace chamber, and also related to the intimate “chamber piece” films made popular by Ingmar Bergman).
It is a testament to Greenberg’s writing that the story still resonates – albeit differently – than the first time this group brought these characters to life eight years ago.
“I would like to think I’m a little older and wiser since the last pass,” continues Jason. “When I re-read the script recently, entirely new perspectives occurred to me. I think most great writing is like that. Every time you return to it, you see it through different eyes. Hamlet was very different to me as a boy, a young man, a married man, now a father. The play stays the same, but the lens through which I see it alters.”
And of course, the real-life camaraderie between these three will only serve to heighten the production.
“This is the first time the three of us have all shared a stage together since that production,” says Jason of the original staging that was directed by the indomitable Rosina Reynolds. “We know each other better, have deeper roots of friendship and have had more experiences together. I will be curious to see how that informs the work.”
“We wanted this year’s reading series to be different and to include plays that we were really passionate about so it is a natural fit,” says Sean. “I have no doubt that the audience will love this script as we do.”
Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg. A Staged Reading. Monday, February 22. 6:30 pm pe-show appetizer reception; 7 pm reading. Encinitas Library. 540 Cornish Drive. $15. Purchase tickets online or rsvp to email@example.com and pay with cash or check at the door.
“This is a scary play to produce,” wrote Steppenwolf Artistic Director Martha Lavey when the Chicago-based theatre company added Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to their 2010 Season, a production that would later go on to Broadway. “It is so well known and so respected and…etched in our cultural memory.”
The fact that this, one of playwright Edward Albee’s most famous stories, has attracted film and theatre giants from Uta Hagen to Elizabeth Taylor, Tracy Letts to Mercedes McCambridge, while also holding a somewhat notorious reputation as an angst-filled and alcohol-induced argument, would be enough to puzzle even the most daring of theatre directors. How does one unpack the gems that have built this play’s cornerstone status in the canon of American drama?
“This play is a fascinating psychological thriller,” says Intrepid Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox, who is directing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in guest residency at the Horton Grand Theatre beginning February 11. “It’s about figuring out where the truth lies, and to what extent people will go to hide it, manipulate it or destroy it altogether.”
The mystery of it slowly unravels during an evening at George and Martha’s house, where Nick and Honey – a young married couple new to the academic neighborhood of New Carthage – join the couple for drinks. George is an associate history professor at the nearby university where Martha’s father serves as president. Nick has recently been hired in the biology department.
As the couples get to know each other better, the fine line between social propriety and honest emotion becomes more and more blurry. Soon, Nick and Honey are part of the tangled web that George and Martha have been weaving long before their arrival that evening.
“These relationships can become caustically funny in a very human way,” says Christy. “George and Martha have been married for 23 years and much of that humor is uniquely specific to long-standing relationships. These characters push each other’s buttons in a very specific way. And we are right there, experiencing it moment for moment, along with the actors.”
In order to bring Albee’s riveting, real time tale of a casual nightcap gone awry, Christy knew she had to bring together a cast who could handle the tricky landscape of the brutally honest – both in what they bring to the stage and in the narratives of their characters.
Lamb’s Players Producing Artistic Director Robert Smyth and Associate Artistic Director Deborah Gilmour Smyth – longtime luminaries of the San Diego acting scene – will portray the lead characters of George and Martha. This show will mark the first time the married couple has been seen on stage together outside of the Lamb’s Players home. They will be joined onstage by Los Angeles-based actor Ross Hellwig as Nick and Intrepid Company Member Erin Petersen as Honey.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the foundational pillars of the American theatre,” says Robert. “We have a fabulous director and a fabulous cast and we’re really excited about this.”
Which is not to say that the play doesn’t present a particular set of challenges, especially when a real husband and wife team portray an onstage couple.
“What I love about it, but is also very hard about it, is how painfully truthful George and Martha are together,” says Deborah. “It’s part of being human but you want to look at it from a distance. It’s very interesting to come at it from this direction, to say, I don’t choose to live this way personally because it would rip one apart, but I love being able to explore that side.”
“I’m so honored to be working with this incredibly talented company of actors,” says Christy. “They bring out the honesty of the characters, but they also find the levity, the fun and the raucous nature of their relationships. We root for them and hope they find what they are looking for, even as we watch them stumble and fall over and over again.”
While the dialogue of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? can captivate a crowd, it also challenges them to question – not only their own values and long-held beliefs – but also their own reactions to the narrative unfolding on stage. Is it okay to laugh? Is it okay to worry? Is it okay to identify with these characters? Can we afford not to?
“Ideally, a play should hold a mirror up to people,” Albee said once in an interview with Charlie Rose. “Maybe someone should be asking some questions about your values or the way you think about things. Maybe you should come out of a theatre with something having happened to you.”
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. Directed by Christy Yael-Cox. Starring Robert Smyth and Deborah Gilmour Smyth. Featuring Ross Hellwig and Erin Petersen. Intrepid Theatre Company in Guest Residency at the Horton Grand Theatre. 444 Fourth Ave in downtown San Diego. February 11 – March 13. Tickets on sale now.
“My first concern was, ‘Will people really buy me as an elf?’”
Daren Scott recounts the moment when he was first approached to do The Santaland Diaries, a play adapted from a 1992 essay by satirical writer David Sedaris that illuminates the darker side of Christmas through the eyes of a truth-telling writer turned seasonal Macy’s Christmas elf.
“David Sedaris a small guy and I’m a tall man,” says Daren with a laugh.
The play will be performed by Daren on Sunday evening as the finale to Intrepid’s 2015 Staged Reading Series, complete with an appetizer reception and holiday cocktails. Doors open at 5:30 pm (note earlier start time).
While Daren’s statuesque qualities might limit his traditional Christmas elven opportunities, his ability to spin a searingly wry story about high pressure holidays landed him the role of Sedaris’ Crumpet the Elf at New Village Arts in 2009, where he was directed to critical acclaim by Kristianne Kurner, NVA’s executive artistic director, for three consecutive seasons.
“I knew David Sedaris, but I wasn’t familiar with this piece,” remembers Daren. “I became more familiar with his style as I started to look further into his writing. I’m not playing him but I’m definitely playing his sarcasm and his way of looking at the world.That element of the character is important.”
San Diego agrees. When Daren first performed The Santaland Diaries at NVA, James Hebert of the San Diego Union-Tribune called Daren “an ebullient performer with a huge expressive vocabulary.”
“His wide eyes suggest a sense of innocence,” said Herbert, “but there’s an underlying tartness to his voice, a note of sugarcoated sarcasm heightened by his bemused bearing.”
But it is the unrelenting honesty of the writing that makes The Santaland Diaries a fitting piece for the holidays, according to Daren, and also what makes the piece so refreshing to perform.
“It’s about all of the holiday stuff that we don’t want to talk about,” he explains. “It’s every line that we’ve waited in with too many people and the stores that are jammed and the picture of your kid that doesn’t turn out. But it’s funny because we all go through it. We laugh because we can all relate to the pressure we feel to be smiley and happy for the holidays.”
But aside from the humor, Daren feels the message is also important.
“We are all striving for such perfection, but the truth is that it is okay if the holiday picture doesn’t come out right,” he says. “If we can laugh at ourselves, that’s the key to getting through the expectations of the holidays and just enjoying the time.”
The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris, performed by Daren Scott. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Sunday, December 13. 5:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 6:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a ticket here.
Eytan Grinnell sits in the house of the Lyceum Space Theatre, watching a rehearsal of his new play, Called to Be King. Todd Salovey, his dramaturg, sits nearby, pencil in hand. They watch as a cast of 11 deliver the lines that have been floating around in Eytan’s imagination for almost 15 years.
“After the first rehearsal, the terror went away,” says Eytan. “Now, it’s just awe.”
Called to Be King will be read on Tuesday evening at 7 pm, a special event produced by Intrepid and hosted by the Lyceum. The cast features Jacquelyn Ritz, Jason Maddy, Eric Poppick, Manny Fernandes, Patrick Duffy, Tiffany Tang, Tom Hall, Savvy Scopelleti, Erin Petersen, Marco Rios and Durwood Murray.
“Bringing a new play to life is a fascinating process,” says Intrepid producing artistic director, Christy Yael-Cox, who will be directing the reading. “We’ve brought a talented cast together who have the ability to handle Eytan’s heightened language and bring this story to life.”
The plotline revolves around the retelling of the classic narratives that provide the origins of our storytelling history, specifically the biblical story of Noah and the Oedipus tragedy. Eytan’s reimagining involves invoking a stronger female presence in these stories, which, in turn, affects the outcome by introducing a more redemptive chain of events.
“These stories are the core of western civilization,” says Eytan. “We are pressing the button of these origin narratives.”
However innate these stories might be, the challenge in the retelling lies in accessing the audience’s present familiarity with the original narratives, something that Eytan has had to tackle in the writing. These stories may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue they way they were when first presented.
“For a Greek audience 2500 years ago, this was known,” explains Eytan. “The myth was alive. But our characters also have the benefit and perspective of everything that has happened since then.”
But the fact that this set of characters have this knowledge makes them – and their decisions – that much more accessible.
“This play contains deliberate, consciousness-raising actions,” says Todd, clarifying the moments in the story that diverge from the traditional tales. It is these moments, he and Eytan agree, that change everything.
“This play is a movement of consciousness,” says Eytan. “We are not just going to stay in the unconscious and let the circumstances unfold.”
While the pivots of that consciousness revolve mainly around the strengthened female influence, the relatable questions that the Oedipus tale traditionally invokes are also still quite alive.
“The experience is universal because it ultimately rests on a question we all ask,” says Eytan. “Who am I? Where do I belong?” The audience is invited for a post-show talkback to shed some light on these timeless questions.
Called to Be King, by Eytan Grinnell. Dramaturgy by Todd Salovey. Directed by Christy Yael-Cox. Lyceum Space Theatre. 7 pm. $15. Purchase tickets online here.
“Edward Albee is so funny, so biting and says the most amazing things about human nature,” says Phil Johnson, director of Monday night’s staged reading of The Play About the Baby. “But, he does it in a way that is so poetic and has so much artistry to it. And in the end, the point he leaves you with is so enormous, so enlightening.”
Such strong statements can rarely be said about just any playwright, which is why Albee is considered one of the greatest living American playwrights of our time. From his early work in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (which will have a future mainstage production at Intrepid) to this, one of his later offerings, over and over, and for better or worse, Albee’s plays expose and illuminate the truth in our very human nature.
As in Virginia Woolf, The Play About the Baby centers around two couples, one younger and more naive, and one offering the depth and darkness of experience. The younger couple, Boy and Girl, give birth within the confines of their idealistic worldview and are soon visited by Man and Woman, who have come to take the baby away. What ensues is a dark exploration of human nature, the reality of loss and the necessity of forging on with existence.
While the nature of the play sounds bleak, leave it to the genius of Albee’s words to lead us through the darkness while holding hands with the absurd. Shana Wride and Ruff Yeager, formidable talents with the charisma to tackle this unique brand of humor, will take charge of that journey, portraying the Woman and Man in Monday’s reading.
“The absurd form is one of my favorite genres of dramatic literature,” enthuses Ruff. “The games that these characters play! Role-reversal, gender-reversal, devaluation of language, logic, and plot! If the audience loves a good mystery, the brilliance of Edward Albee, and the witty and wily manipulation of language, this play is certainly not to be missed.”
Bringing the naivete of Girl and Boy to life will be Laura Bohlin and Connor Sullivan, their characters both charged with the daunting task of the play’s awakening.
“One of the most chilling takeaways for me was how much our reality can be morphed according to what, or perhaps WHO, influences us,” says Laura, pinpointing the stark universal truths couched in the absurdist structure of this piece.
“If someone tells you that something is the truth enough times, you may start to internalize that even if your own perceptions have told you otherwise. This really resonated with me because of how often we are told, persuaded, or even coerced to believe certain untruths,” she says.
Finding these universal truths where both the challenges and opportunities of this play lie. Assembling a cast that could unpack the particular language of this search was not an easy task. “I read this play on a fluke,” confesses Phil, “and it was so very funny, and then the point it made was so devastating. I knew I had the right people, and we could do it well.”
In the 2001 Off-Broadway review for The New York Times, Ben Brantley stated that “tragic theater, from Oedipus onward, has always centered on that moment when time is up. Mr. Albee…accepts this harsh given of existence unconditionally. But he refuses to sob and whine about it. Cursing the darkness is easy; lighting candles of defiant, fiery wit, like those that illuminate The Play About the Baby, is heroic.”
It is no wonder that we have entrusted the interpretation of some of our bigger, more human experiences to adept playwrights such as Edward Albee. We invite you to join us on Monday for this heroic journey.
“A big ‘thank you’ to Intrepid Theatre Co.,” says Ruff, “for providing the opportunity to explore the edgy, the experimental and the exciting.”