Reasons to see The Pillowman

Pillowman_Web-Large

The Pillowman is a dark play. The playwright, Martin McDonagh, refers to it as a “cinematic black comedy.”

I’ve wanted to direct this play for over ten years. As a theatre major, I devoured the play when it came out in 2003. I went to a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. I delighted in reading the newly-published plays that came into my academic advisor’s office.

Upon finishing The Pillowman, I was amazed at how much it had affected me. I had never been that moved by merely reading a script quietly by myself. The next thought that I had was that I had to direct the play.

As a 19 year old college student, I had never directed a play before. I would go on to direct both a one-act and a full-length play before graduating. But that’s how powerful the play was for me: I knew I wanted to direct it before I knew I could direct.

The Pillowman has been an exercise in possibility for me, both personally and artistically. Could I find a company willing to produce it? Could I find the right group of actors? Could we pull it off? Would audiences come and see it?

Last year, I proposed the play to OutCast Productions. Ned and Sandy founded the company with the principles of producing theatre on the edge: theatre that provokes “a dialogue about such issues as oppression, human rights, politics, and the psychological and emotional worlds of human beings at large.”

The Pillowman is a perfect fit with OutCast’s mission and values, and I was honored to be selected to direct it in the 2015 season. Actor by actor, the cast fell into place: Max Cole-Takanikos as Katurian, Ned Farley as Detective Tupolski, Jim Scullin as Detective Ariel and Aaron Simpson as Michal.

To answer my third question above: yes, absolutely, we’ve pulled it off. Artistically, I’ve never been so satisfied with a theatrical production. Sandy O’Brien’s set is masterful, Max’s haunting illustrations project behind him in the long monologue scenes and Ashley Eriksson has composed an original score that elevates the entire show.

The fourth question I asked above is about audience members. That means you. Yes, you, reading this post on your computer or smartphone. You’ve probably heard that the show is pretty dark. You’ve perhaps read about how child murders play a part in the story. You’ve perhaps experienced the other works of Martin McDonagh and are trying to decide whether or not you should go.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. But I extend my heart-felt invitation to you to come and see what we’ve been working on. You won’t hear or see anything that’s more gruesome than a typical episode of Law and Order or any other procedural police drama. It’s definitely not as grotesque as Dexter or The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.

I think what makes this piece so powerful, so visceral, for audiences is the magic that only comes from live theatre. There’s not the separation provided by a glowing screen. The actors and the story are so compelling, it’s hard to look away.

OutCast is an intimate, black box space where brave theatre happens. I hope you’ll come and share that experience with us.

***

The Pillowman runs through July 25, 2015. >>Learn more and get tickets.

30 things for my 30th Birthday

stm005_c300_30th_candles1219917367_180

 

In about a month, I’ll be turning 30. I’m actually pretty excited about it! Here is a list of things I’m pursuing with intention. If you read any of these and you think “Gasp! I could totally help make that happen!” by all means, do so!

1) Hit 3,000 podcast listens by my 30th birthday on August 17th. How cool would that be?!

2) Get more >>sponsors and >>donors for the podcast. Yes, it’s a labor of love–it would be swell to get more financial support to cover web hosting and travel costs.

3) Start digging into the Podcast bucket list of people to interview, including, but not limited to: Sarah Galvin, Jinkx Monsoon, BenDeLaCreme, Kitten N’ Lou, Waxie Moon, Marya Sea Kaminski, Mary Lambert, Darragh Kennan…the list goes on and on!

4) Have full houses for the remaining shows of >>The Pillowman. The show runs through July 25th. Look, I know it’s a dark play. It may be too dark for some people. But we have been working our asses off on it. It has been easily one of the most fulfilling artistic experiences of my life. I want to share it with as many people as possible.

5) Write and receive more handwritten letters. You want in? Let me know in the comments below if you want to be my pen pal. (Or on Facebook or Twitter or email…)

6) Accumulate many hugs. Do we ever really get enough hugs?! I would like more hugging in my life.

7) Write a comic book. I am totally in Alison Bechdel fangirl mode right now because of Fun Home. This WILL HAPPEN.

8) Direct Fun Home: The Musical. With Amy Wheeler as Alison Bechdel. I have shivers just from typing this.

9) Publish my poetry manuscript. It’s called Whiskey & Blood. And it’s badass.

10) Finish my first full-length play. It’s about female video game designers. I have an outline and six pages so far…

11) Produce my first full-length play. 

12) Record an album of jazz standards. Do you play an instrument? Have a recording studio? Let’s do this.

13) Start writing songs again. I’ve been doing a little bit of this, but I’d like to do more and get out there and perform them.

14) Sing more karaoke with friends. Because it’s the best and funnest.

15) Play the piano more. Seriously, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

16) Get new headshots. Calling all friends with cameras!

17) Do a pin-up photo shoot. Again, calling all friends with cameras!

18) Hang out with more kids and babies and dogs and puppies.

19) Start in on my acting bucket list. Roles include, but are not limited to: Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, The Witch in Into the Woods, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar, Florence in Chess and Nancy in Oliver.

20) Do more theatre in Seattle. Whidbey, I love you. I love acting and directing here. But I’d like to hop over the water at least once a year to play in another creative sandbox.

21) Perform in drag.

22) Perform a burlesque routine. 

23) (Keep) falling in love with myself and my body. 

24) Travel to the Midwest and reconnect with old friends.

25) Start writing a musical. 

26) Sing at a wedding.

27) Establish a regular meditation practice.

28) Take a boxing class.

29) Dance more and learn how to tango.

30) Practice gratitude daily.

 

Bitter Trip

Wanderlust was like bleeding.

I never liked to sever skin:
content to decompress
in the current vignette
indefinitely.

I would go places with you.
You would be the exception.

Every conversation an adventure:
never knowing what subject
will trip your hair trigger,
catapulting us into contention.

I would follow you
into the whiskey depths
of your soul.

But I would never tell you.

Friendship and Storytelling

image

#NationalBestFriendsDay is trending on social media today. I smiled when I first saw the hashtag, because it reminded me of my best friend growing up: Julia Hanaway.

Julia and I were backyard neighbors. We would often hop the fence to play with each other after school. Julia was a year and eleven days older than me (she had my grandmother’s birthday.) I am a naturally gullible person–that, paired with our difference in age, made me a prime target for Julia to scare me with stories.

She once told me that my duplex was built on a graveyard and that the ghosts were going to come and kill me in my sleep if I didn’t do exactly what she said.(I would have done exactly what she said with or without the threat of the ghosts.) The scary story that she had crafted just for me bonded us together with an otherworldly secret.

We weren’t into playing dress up or tea parties or Barbies. The one time we played with Barbies, it was to cut off their hair and transform them into superheroes. We pretended we were Power Rangers and Mutant Ninja Turtles, pretending to fight with nunchucks and swords (made of sticks and duct tape.) We memorized and acted out Disney songs, but we focused on portraying the villains and comedic relief instead of the princesses.

We would play video games together. And by that, I mean that Julia would maneuver the character through the world of the game and I would shoot and monsters that came our way. We sat close together at the computer, terrorizing the villains that dared to cross our path.

One summer afternoon, we saw a squirrel fall from a tree. Her dog, Trixie, ran over and claimed it as prey. We shooed the dog away, ran into the house to find kitchen gloves and a 2 x 4. We pushed the dead squirrel onto the plank of wood and ran it around the backyard pretending we were paramedics before dumping the body into the sizeable hole we had been using to dig for gold. Covering up the squirrel in the gold hole/grave, we felt triumphant in the day’s escapade. We didn’t even need to use our imaginations to create a grizzly scene: a corpse had fallen from the sky.

Months later, Julia had a dream that the squirrel (which she had named Chucky) became zombified and attacked her in her bed at night. As she recounted the tale, it became clear that she concerned that she had angered the ghosts that she had told me were living under my house. The folklore of her own story had come back to haunt her. Needless to say, we had a much more even friendship after that.

Julia still writes stories. She’s working on a graphic novel, which I cannot wait to read. She reminds me of the character of Katurian in The Pillowman.

Katurian is a young man who has devoted his life to being a storyteller. Of the 400 stories he has written, only one has been published. When a string of crimes in town start to mimic his dark stories, he is brought in for questioning.

Katurian’s best friend is his brother, Michal. Max Cole-Takanikos and Aaron Simpson play the two brothers. Just like Julia and I grew up together, Max and Aaron grew up together, as their mothers are close friends. When two actors know each other as well as Max and Aaron do, it creates a short-hand for interacting with each other.

image

Just as Julia told me stories and I believed every word, Katrurian tells his stories to his brother. It is their ritual. And from that ritual springs the drama central to the play.

Stories connect us: friend to friend, brother to brother and actors to audience members. I hope you’ll come to OutCast’s production of The Pillowman, so you can watch me and my cast tell you a darkly comedic story that you’ll remember for some time to come.

The Pillowman runs July 10-25. Tickets go onsale the second week of June. Learn more at http://www.outcastproductions.net/

Opening Night, Illuminated

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

On Friday, May 8th, at 6:25 PM, I was backstage at the fairgrounds black box theatre, getting ready to open In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play.)

I had taken the day off of work, sleeping in until 11:00 AM and having a relaxing day. I had spent the afternoon having my hair dyed, cut, primped and styled by Chava at 2nd Street Hair Boutique.

image

At 6:25 PM, the lights in the dressing room went out suddenly. It’s an old building, so our first thought was to check the fuse box and see if a breaker had tripped. But we soon realized that we had a bigger problem on our hands.

It wasn’t just that the breaker had tripped–there had been an issue re-wiring a telephone pole on Langley Road that had caused a fire UNDER THE ROAD. Our lighting board operator hopped on his motorcycle to find out what had happened. He reported seeing scorch marks on the road, which was closed.

The cast stood backstage in varying states of undress. Those of us wearing corsets had already started the intricate process of being laced in. 30 minutes, they had told our messenger. 30 minutes, 45 five minutes tops and the power would be restored.

We waited eagerly for updates as the audience started pouring into the darkened theatre. We thought the worst case scenario would be delaying the start of the play by half an hour. We were wrong.

At 7:35 PM, our motorcycled messenger scurried down Langley Road again to see what progress had been made. The crew informed him that it would be until 10:00 PM before the power was restored.

There is a saying in theatre that the show must go on. The cast stood backstage in disbelief as one of our volunteers suggested bringing lanterns into the theatre.

“It’s a play ABOUT ELECTRICITY,” exclaimed one of the actors. “We can’t do it with lanterns.”

image

Like troops admitting defeat on the battlefield, we slowly took our corsets and other Victorian underthings off in the dimming backstage light. We would have to cancel opening night.

I’ve never had a show cancelled before. I’ve performed to audiences of ten or fewer and had wished the show had been cancelled. We were so ready to share our world of the play with the audience. We felt lost and betrayed by Thomas Edison’s creation, which is arguably a leading character in the play.

Since the power was on in the rest of Langley, most cast members decided to go to Mo’s and drown our sorrows. We took over a corner of the bar, some of us watching the Mariner’s game. And we talked. And we laughed. And we invited our other theatrical friends who we haven’t seen in weeks because we’ve been rehearsing the show.

At its best, theatre creates community and helps us discover more about what it means to be human. As we felt the very human emotions of disappointment and frustration, we were feeling them in tandem with a community of actors. We bonded.

I left the bar a little after midnight, feeling grateful for my theatre geek friends who lift me up, tease me, hug me, make me laugh and keep me sane. These people are why I live on Whidbey Island.

The next night, we opened the show to a nearly sold-out house that couldn’t stop laughing. They gave us a standing ovation. With the illumination of restored electricity came redemption. And we were ready for it!

This piece originally appeared on OutCast Productions’ blog and can be accessed here.

In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) runs through May 23. Get your tickets!

image

In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) runs through May 23. >>Purchase tickets.

Pumpkin, by Kate Lebo

Tags

, , , ,

 

>>Learn more about A Commonplace Book of Pie.

Kate Lebo is the author of Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter (Sasquatch Books), A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press), and The Pie Lady’s Manifesto, a zine republished by The Rumpus in 2014. Her poems, essays, commentary, and recipes have appeared in Best New Poets, New England Review, Gastronomica, Willow Springs, AGNI, The Washington Post, City Arts Magazine, 94.9 KUOW, Poetry Northwest and other places. She teaches poetry and food writing workshops across the nation, but especially at Richard Hugo House and The Pantry at Delancey. A graduate of the University of Washington’s MFA program, she’s the recipient of a Nelson Bentley Fellowship, the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize, and a grant from 4Culture.

Kate has judged the Iowa State Fair Pie Contest, baked at the American Gothic House, and won Best in Show at the first annual Cake vs. Pie Competition. At Pie Stand she taps into the social magic of pie to create conversations across communities and give people a taste of her original baked creations.

A devotee of book art, she’s an editor for the handmade literary journal Filter and has a long history of zine-making. Her video installation for Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, Bliss, asks viewers to eat a book and read their food.

Kate was raised in the Pacific Northwest by Iowans and now lives in Spokane, Washington. She has ambivalent feelings about pie a la mode. She adores rhubarb.

Basket, by Jennifer Nöel Klouse

Tags

, , , ,

I take a moment
I listen to the noises around me.
The living violins of the forest I traverse.
The yellow wind is in my hair
And I gallop down the red lane to the meter of hooves.
They dig in the soil, iron rich. A blood red road.
Blood red road.
I say it out loud with relish.I enjoy the sensation of phonetics dancing across my white teeth like thick, delicious pasta.

I play with the idea.

Dentals:
Taper
Slavery
Lackadaisical

Bi-Labials:
Pride
Misogyny
Brevity

Fricatives:
Thankful
Delta
Fuck

Triplets trip over my tongue
Trapezoid
Null and void
Caucasoid

This meal tastes better than the last one I had.
The one I forced down my throat,
It was so vile, I had to wash it down with the bitter tang of my ex lover.
Sex like chewing a raw leek.
Afterglow that requires palate cleansing.

He made my tongue big and awkward.
A lumbering dullard
Rolling oddly into consonants
Trying to right itself by overcompensation.
Like a clumsy person walking on ice.

Well.

Attempting.

I’m drawn from my reverie.
I’m a bit lost in the woods by now.
The violins have grown silent with the condensation of trees.
I try to choose a specific path, but I am unable to turn down the way I wish.

It’s not me. It’s my horse.

“When the time comes, you’ll know your way,” he declares.
What a miserable douche.

There are children alongside this undesirable road.
They reach for me

And in their hands, a basket full of promises.
In their hands, a basket empty of everything else.
I am unable to reach from my saddle.I screech phonetics at the basket in frustration.
The children back away wide-eyed and shocked

God damn it!
(Glottal dental)I want the basket

It’s mine. 
It belongs to me.
 
I start to move.
Headed once again down the road.
It’s not me. It’s my horse.
I strain my neck back
Try to spy the basket
Keep it in my sights
It’s mine.
It belongs to me
I want the basket
I can no longer see it.
I just keep moving down the road.
My neck hurts.
The actualization of words like food no longer feels like such a delight.
My mouth might as well be empty
Like the basket
Might as well be quiet
Like the forest
Might as well be blood red
Like the road
Like marinara sauce
Like my frustrationMaybe my horse will let me turn off this road soon.
Maybe I will make the decision.
Maybe I will stay on this horse forever.

A miserable douche.

Jennifer Nöel Klouse is a Seattle writer, director, actor, singer and producer. Her work includes venues such as Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center NYC, the American Cemetery in Normandy, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the Vatican in Rome. Locally she’s worked with Seattle Rep, Copious Love Productions, StageRight: DSR and runs her own small theater company Rogue Theatrics. She loves, and is loved by many. She has cats. She gets excited by meter and she’ll eat anything that is flavored with lime. If that’s not enough for you, she showers. Daily.
Her favorite poet by far is Alexander Pope.

LOUISIANA or THE CASE AGAINST HAVING CHILDREN, by Brenda Perrott Williamson

Tags

, , , ,

The Case Against Having Children
Is summed up by Huey P. Long’s
Son Russell being owned by the oil companies
His father had fought for so long.
Brenda Perrott Williamson lives with her husband, Civil War author David Williamson, and their cats, including Wilde Oscar (a Katrina-rescue cat who is working on his memoirs.) Brenda’s blog is http://Brendaperrottwilliamson.wordpress.com. You can also follow Brenda and Wilde Oscar on Twitter @BrendaPerrott and @WildeOscarCat.

Favorite poets: “My favorite poets include Thomas Gray (of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard fame), Thomas Hardy (Christmas 1914 & so much more), Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. (Everyone needs the Complete Works of Robert Burns.)Calvin Trillin is my favorite modern poet.”

Jayne Mansfield, by Amber Tamblyn

Tags

, , , ,

Order Amber Tamblyn’s new book of poetry: Dark Sparkler.

Amber Tamblyn is a contributing writer for the Poetry Foundation and the author of two previous works of poetry, Free Stallion and Band Ditto. As an actress, she has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and an Independent Spirit Award. Her writing has appeared in Bust, Interview, Cosmopolitan, the San Francisco Chronicle, Poets & Writers, Pank, and elsewhere.

Wilderness, by Rose Woods

Tags

, , , ,

the light will cut through this terrain of darkness soon.
the moon, suddenly out of itself, disappeared behind some trees. or perhaps a
mountain. or an owl’s cry.
I have navigated the thickness of night’s forest in each minute.
each one.
(not always with delicacy. which was perhaps what was needed)
nevertheless, there will be light soon. it will open its
unreadable pages. without knowing.
slowly.
billowing.
incidentally.
and the day will dawn (as they say) too bright for seeing
(though the ever-wound in my heart might actually hear if my hands
can quiet themselves of their keening secrets)
in the meantime I will unravel. carefully.
touching with eyes stretched. body pulled from the debris of another
collapsible night.
and continue. (undone by the smallest bird pushing his thin knife
of song between my ribs)
seeking that place from whence breath arrives.
only the trees know how thin the skin is behind the ears.

 

 

Rose Woods is the Founding Artistic Director of Island Shakespeare Festival. She has been the Artistic Director of three theatre companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and has worked across the country with both professional and youth theatre companies, most recently with Seven Stages Shakespeare Company in New Hampshire. She is a professional screenwriter and playwright as well as a published poet. She was awarded a commendation from Senator Barbara Boxer for her work with youth theatre and is the recipient of a number of awards for both her writing and directing, including the Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, Humanitarian Teacher of the Year Award, the Bay Area Critics Award and a variety of national and international awards for her screenwriting.

 

Favorite poets:

William Shakespeare
e.e. cummings
Mary Oliver
Anne Carson
Maya Angelou
Edna St. Vincent Millay
T.S.Eliot
Elizabeth Bishop
Kevin Dyer
Alice Anderson
Wislawa Szymborska
so many poets… so little time…”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers