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.