APF produces ALVIE to benefit HopeLink

When Vegas shut down, it was devastating to everyone. However, no industry has been harder hit than the entertainment industry. While the casinos are opening, the showrooms are dark. Off-strip theaters are still shuttered. Thousands of actors, dancers, and acrobats are unemployed.  

But, art will always find a way. Theatre companies have turned to online readings and streaming past performances. APF’s Development Director, Gabriella Giocomo (Gaby), thought there must be a way to help all of our friends who are struggling. From that comes APF’s production of Alvie: A Nouveau Cirque Play, a reading of Gaby’s original script to benefit HopeLink of Southern Nevada (Hopelink).  

HopeLink provides wrap-around services for families in need, including rent and utility assistance, emergency food and housing assistance, and community referrals for additional services, like mental health, health care, and legal aid. For more information or to give to HopeLink.

Alvie: A Nouveau Cirque Play is a coming-of-age story set behind the scenes at a contemporary circus show in a Las Vegas resort, “Alvie” has heart, humor, and just a touch of fantasy. The reading was recorded entirely on Zoom and features two acts by artists seen on the stages of Cirque du Soleil. The cast features many of the APF family, including Marcus Weiss, Erik Amblad, Timothy Cummings, Jake Staley, Dina Emerson, and Graciela Strahan, as well as Casey Weems, Jorge Luis, Adriane McLean, and Cirque du Soleil performers Thomas Hanson and Ginger Ana Griep-Ruiz.

ALVIE will be available on YouTube on Thursday, September 17, until Sunday, September 20. While Alvie is free to view, a donation to HopeLink is appreciated to help our community during this difficult time.

APF, COVID, & Behind the Buzz

Let’s talk about the future.

To be honest, over here at APF headquarters we all thought that this would be over by now.  Nevada moved quickly and, as with most of the country, shut down nearly all business and industry back in mid-March.  We quarantined and isolated and worked together to “flatten the curve”, halt the spread and bring this pandemic to heel.  But the virus had other ideas and as of this writing the number of infections continues to rise, not just in Nevada but all across the nation.  And as some businesses have moved towards re-opening in the hope of some return to a type of normalcy, we in the arts community continue to remain in limbo, unsure of how to proceed in a manner consistent with guaranteeing the health and safety of our staff, our performers and, of course, our audiences.  For us, the future remains entirely uncertain.

So what’s happening?

Although the making of long-term plans remains an elusive goal, we do have a couple of announcements to make here at A Public Fit.  First, we have not been entirely idle during this down-time:  APF has been holding weekly Zoom readings of scripts from our long-list of plays under consideration for future seasons.  Hearing these works out-loud has been an immeasurable aid in helping us whittle down our choices for potential productions in up-coming seasons and we’ve all benefited from the practice.  Secondly, work has begun on Season One of Behind the Buzzz, a podcast exploring the behind-the-scenes processes that led up to the production of your favorite APF shows featuring interviews and stories from designers, performers, and even the occasional surprise guest.  We’re still very early in the development stage, but Behind the Buzzz promises to shed some light on what can often seem a very fascinating process:  exactly HOW does a play happen?  More info to come!

We know that in these unusual times, the last thing most of you are thinking about is attending a theatrical event.  That’s OK – the theatre has been around for literally thousands of years; we’re not going away anytime soon.  But until we can provide a safe, comfortable environment for everyone who shares a space with us, we’re going to have to remain on hold a little while longer.  Please stay healthy; wear the mask; keep your distance; help defeat this virus so that in the future we can all get back to a modicum of our usual lives.

Joe, Ann-Marie and the staff of A Public Fit

Remainder of the APF 2019-2020 season

To our APF friends, family and familiars:

Let’s talk about the pandemic.

Along with the rest of the world, we watched as global events encroached and slowly engulfed our everyday lives.  We struggled to accept the new vocabulary:  “social distancing,” “self-isolation,” “community spread.”  As none of these phrases are conducive to APF’s main mission in life – to unite the community with the shared experience of compelling stories and continuing conversation – it became very clear to us that business as usual at A Public Fit would necessarily be significantly altered.

So what’s happening?

In the interests of being responsible community partners and ensuring the continuing good health of our artists, staff and audiences, APF has canceled the remainder of our 2019/2020 season in its entirety.  Our final mainstage production, Sense and Sensibility, scheduled to open May 1, will instead serve as the opening production of our 2020/2021 season.  Performance dates will follow, as nothing in the current environment lends itself to making long-term plans with any degree of confidence.  The readings will be rescheduled, the Outburst will rise again, the Slapdashery will make it all up and playwrights will come together for the Tirade once a City-wide “all-clear” has been announced and we as a community can re-engage each other with our accustomed fearlessness.  By then, we’re sure we’ll all have a lot to talk about!

At A Public Fit, our aim has always been to encourage the conversation – about art, about drama, about life – sharing the stories that define ourselves and our community.  Towards that end, please feel free to reach out to any of us with any questions, concerns or comments as we all continue to navigate this new, if temporary, normal.  Joe can be reached at joe@apublicfit.org; Ann-Marie is annmarie@apublicfit.org; Lisa Lynn is lchapman@apublicfit.org and Gaby is ggiocomo@apublicfit.org.  Please don’t hesitate to contact any or all of us.

Most importantly, please take the warnings accompanying this pandemic seriously.  It turns out that “social distancing,” “self-isolation,” “community spread” are more than just trendy catch-phrases; they are behaviors vital to combating the spread of this very real, very dangerous viral threat.  Stay safe, stay healthy and join us to tell the tale when we all emerge on the other side together.

Joe, Ann-Marie and the staff of A Public Fit

 

New voices? Sure. New passion? Now you’re talking…

Adriana is an MFA physical/experimental theater director/visual artist, actor, hired ninja killer. As far as I’m concerned, she represents the future of theater. But that’s how we roll.

We asked Adriana to direct this months reading. No one has looked back since.

DCK

 

Death and Snacks

Mourning and snack cakes, in that order please.

 

Here’s Adriana:

 

Me, direct a staged reading?!

For A Public Fit? You mean me?  Wow!

Let me think about this.

What?!  Wow!  Wait, wait, wait.  Am I ready?

I have not directed anything in Vegas yet.

“Take a week and think about it,” says Ann Marie.

Ok.  A week.  A week to wallow in my thoughts?!  Oh god, the agony. Ok. I’ll think about it.

I took a week to sit with the fears, the I-don’t-know-how-to-do-this thoughts, the that-other-person-would-do-a-better-job-than-me thoughts, the I’m-going-to-make-a-fool-of-myself-in-front-of-the-theatre-community thoughts, the I-need-more-training thoughts.

Ah!

I was exhausted by the spinning and dread. But then I settled down, took a deep breath and re-read the play. A story based on the true disappearances and murders of young girls in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico?  A character called La Santa Muerte?  The protagonist is a female?  Elements of magical realism? More roles for Latinx actors?

Yes!  Sign me up!  I need to be a part of this project in any capacity!

It’s so good. Great characters, poignant, necessary, supernatural, Latinx. To top it all off, I looked on my image/vision board –the one I started last year and pasted various images and quotes about theatre and multidisciplinary pieces I wanted to devise.  Under “Topics”  there is written “The Femicides in Cuidad Juarez.”

Wow.

Is this a sign or what?!  I had forgotten that I had written that a while back. This is the kind of project I’ve been looking for!  Ready or not, it’s happening. The universe is bringing it to me.  And if I learned anything in grad school, (and I learned a lot of things in grad school about devising theatre in ensemble and about being an actor-creator), it was to dive into the abyss head first.

Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy.

That was ingrained in me now.  I have the tools, I have the passion, I have the support.  Let’s do this!  I don’t have to have all the answers.  That’s what having an ensemble is for.  The cast and I are going to discover the answers together!

This cast.

This cast has been a major motivator.  Every single one of them is bringing something so powerful.  They are equally as passionate, committed, empathetic and hungry to tell this story.  They are working so hard.  It’s beautiful and inspiring to witness and to be a part of. The rehearsal room is filled with discussions about characters, discoveries that give them chills, questions that make them want to dig deeper, and most importantly there is laughter and joy in the space. What more could I want?  And almost everyone in the room is Latinx!  We can speak in Spanglish and we understand it!  And there is something UNspoken that we get about each other too, I think.

At least that’s how I feel.  And on breaks or when we are chatting, we understand the references to El Chavo del Ocho, Tajin, Juana la Cubana, Cholas, El Diablo, Catholicism. It kind of feels like

 

home.

 

So, here we are, in the thick of it.  About to open in a week.  So many unanswered questions, so much work to keep mining. And we may not get there by Friday, but we ARE going to get somewhere close to it. I trust in this cast and crew. They want it.  And to think I came so close to saying NO to directing this project.

I’m glad I went with my gut, dove in and said Yes because the journey thus far has been amazing. I’ve learned so much.  The learning does not stop.  And to be real, the I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing fears have not gone away.  What’s different is that I don’t feel alone.  I’ve got a great cast of actors rising to the challenge with me.

Adriana Chavez

September, 2019

 

 

What do you do when you lose an actor after you’ve painstakingly built your cast? You take a deep breath, and take a big risk.

Don’t let the smile fool ya…

 

 

Coco Lane Rigbye is an Aussie studying theater at UNLV. She has a couple degrees already from CSN and is a staple in the local music and theater scene around town. I spoke with her about joining us for The Elephant Man. Here is what she had to say.

 

DCK

 

 

A few weeks into The Elephant Man’s rehearsal process, Ann-Marie called me saying she needed an actor. As a new actor, to have the opportunity to work with the company of such caliber as APF is exciting and I happily accepted.

Working on the show has been an extraordinary process of discovery, exploration, and self-actualization. We each took weeks to explore who each character is, though we constantly discovered new ideas about each one even still. We explore their class and location, how they speak, stand, and move. But also: who are they?

A candid shot from our last board meeting…

I play four roles that interact with Joseph “John” Merrick and/or Dr. Frederick Treves. What is important in playing multiple roles like this is to remember their job in terms of the play, but also the idiosyncrasies that make them wholly who they are. Are they air-headed, bird-like, weighted, strong, scared, childlike… Then, many would say one person can be all of these attributes at once sometimes. Just as Joseph Merrick can be hideous and beautiful, wise and naïve. We find ourselves by what’s around us.

 

My characters see part of themselves in John, and he is looking for himself in all of us.

 

I thank Ann-Marie and Joe for trusting me, and I thank the entire cast for welcoming me with open arms. I am very proud of this production and to be part of this company.

Buddy of mine is 21 and has never seen a play. I took him to his first. It did not go well.

 

We go to school together; he’s a 21 year old engineering major and I’m an old guy who needs help with his calculus homework. It’s an 80’s buddy-pic in the making.

 

(“Why are you in this class?” he asks me all the time. “You went to school already. What’s the point?”

“It’s part of my artistic process,” I tell him. “Some artists abuse themselves with violence or alcohol or tumultuous relationships, I do it with Craig’s Interpolation Theorem.”

“Yeah, but don’t you also abuse yourself with violence and alcohol and tumultuous relationships?” he says.

“Shut up,” I explain.)

 

The theater department of our tiny community college had posters up everywhere advertising their spring production and I’m a Support-Your-School kinda guy, plus I thought it would be fun to bring my buddy to his first ever play. And to make things even sweeter, it was Twelfth Night.

Perfect, I thought, little Shakespearean gravitas, but a raucous comedy… good first play.

He got all dressed up. “If I’m the only brown dude there, I gotta represent.” That’s a young person expression. I’m pretty sure it means, “I’m hoping to score some artsy chicks.”

“Why do you think you’ll be the only one?” I asked him.

“Theater is a white people thing,” he said completely without irony, something that still rattles the soft bits of my skeleton. I opened my mouth to argue with him because I’m also an Argue-With-Anyone-About-Anything kinda guy. Still, I knew right away that I’d lose this one, but that’s a different blog altogether. (I know, I know, I’ll get to it one of these days. Calculus, man. Cut me some slack.)

So we cruised into the campus theater on a sultry night. It was one of those ginormous theaters that exist only either in the high falutin world of fancy-pants subscribers and Broadway ticket prices like the Taper, or on a campus. 90 percent of the theaters I’ve worked in are two rats away from being bulldozed to the ground, but you walk into a university theater and it’s like you just got a job at the Palladium. Big, well-equipped, comfortable, like a gazillon seats, the whole bit. Even at about half full, there were more audience members that one night than saw my entire run of Coriolanus at Shakespeare Santa Monica and that’s a shame because I was the balls in that show. Just sayin. THE BALLS.

Anyway.

Lights out, hush falls, off we go.

And it was awful.

I mean staggeringly, mind-numbingly bad. This show was so god damn fetid that at one point I wanted to lean over and ask my buddy to punch my eyeballs squarely in the dick, because I deserved that for bringing him there.  Not just Undergraduate Theatre Bad (which I generally appreciate) this was “The Last Airbender” bad. It was Trump at Langley bad.

It’s not just that it wasn’t funny; it’s that it was the opposite of funny. Not dramatic, because it was the opposite of that, too. It was the opposite of theater, the opposite of storytelling. It was a non-thing. The actors were like fat southerners at a Vegas buffet, hungrily eyeballing the text that they were gonna gorge upon so they could vomit it back at us later. It was a fiasco of bad pacing, misunderstood text, mindless zombie direction and totally unrealized potential.

 

***WARNING: MASSIVE DIGRESSION AHEAD, BUCKLE UP, BEEYATCH***

Here’s the thing: I like bad theater, not gonna lie.

I like a little off-key singin, unglued mustache, too old ingénue and too young dad, inappropriate costuming and poorly constructed foam brick walls in the service of storytelling; the ambitious overreach of sophomoric don’t-tell-ME-how-to-play-Chekhov histrionics that serves for technique in this age of over-trained and under-experienced actors.

I love that stuff.

And honesty? Honesty is over-rated and trust me on this: that thoroughly modern notion that it all has to boil out from some cauldron of Stanislavskian veracity, as if earnestness is a sacrosanct virtue. What a bunch of hooey. I’ve never bought the long con of 60’s method-hounds that their real tears were any more effective than the ones Barrymore sprayed on before his entrance. (Twice as much for Hamlet, kid, let’s not be stingy with the glycerin; there’s paying customers out there!) Not for a second.

But there has to be a commitment to the storytelling, the deeply human shared joy that comes from traveling with an audience through a series of verbs that culminates in a couple of adjectives. If there isn’t at least some attachment to the clan-around-the-fire ecstasy of shared experience then I check out; when the actors are too involved in themselves and not enough in US. You know that guy at work who is so good at telling stories? What is it about that guy? He’s not wearing fancy costumes or using expensive magic tricks, but man alive does he spin a good yarn. That guy tells great stories, kid; not because the moment capstones in his own exultation, but because the story itself becomes elevated beyond the vocal gimmicks and wacky faces he makes. Maybe that’s it. I aint going to pretend that I know for sure.

We’re all in service. That’s what I’m saying. We’re all in service to the story, the image, whatever. We’re all scholars in the translation process that cyphers that cacophony through the brainpan of our writers or directors and rebuilds it into something discernible, something receivable and observable and watchable and ultimately, something fucking feel-able. (That should be a word: fucking feel-able. Fulable? Feeckable? Whatever.)

Simple really, take what’s in one person’s head, and put it in someone else’s. I’m pretty sure that at some point we’ll be able to do it with an HDMI cable, but for now we need artists.

More’s the pity.

But that’s what we are, we are scholars in service. In service to the story.

***WE NOW RETURN YOU TO THE RANT YOU ORIGINALLY SIGNED UP FOR***

 

After the play, without offering my opinion, I asked my friend what he thought.

“I liked it,” he lied. “It was cool.”

“No you didn’t!” I said. “You hated it! Know how I know? Because it was terrible. No one would like that show. The lead actor’s mom wouldn’t like that show. The guy who directed that show should be forced to watch “The Big Bang Theory” for ten hours a day until he beats himself to death with a copy of Aristotle’s Poetics. Don’t lie to me, ya ponce.” (I actually used “ponce.” I was feeling all Shakespeary.)

“Well, I don’t know…  What was it supposed to be like? What does a good play look like?” It’s a good question, actually. Mary Overlie could make an entire dance piece about that question. It would be boring.

“It doesn’t look like that,” I assured him.

He went on, “I don’t have anything to compare it to, I guess.”

Later, in the elevator, there were two freshmen girls who had sat near us during the show. I noticed them because they were conspicuously NOT on their phones and that gave me a spark of hope for humanity in the midst of that Shake-smear.

“What’d ya think?” I asked them.

“It was great!” one of them gushed. “Sooooo good.”

“Uh huh,” I said. “Who’s girlfriend are you?”

“Um, Manny.  The guy who played Orsino. Why?

“Nothing,” I said. “Glad you liked it.”

 

 

DCK

Early January 2019, we began our rehearsal process for Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl with a very unusual day of activities … unusual because they were all experienced in voluntary silence.

The premise of Small Mouth Sounds is this: six characters arrive at a retreat center to participate in a 5-day silent meditation workshop. All the characters are suffering and in pain; mental, emotional and/or physical, so they are looking for some kind of relief from their agony by leaving behind their normal lives and making the effort to enroll and participate in the retreat. The twist comes in the fact that since they have committed to practice silence during the workshop, there is almost no spoken dialog in the play. Instead, we (the audience) observe the characters reacting to the teaching sessions (we hear the lectures of the Teacher, another character, over a microphone) as well as interacting with each other intensely and intimately but mostly without spoken language. It’s a bit of a mind-exploding idea for a play, isn’t it?

Do I look like Smurfette in this pic? You’d tell me, right?

Our director, Anne-Marie, proposed a full-day optional experience of silence that she would program for us, to help with “cast bonding” (as it was right at the start of the rehearsal process) and to give us a taste of what keeping silent for a somewhat extended time period would feel like in today’s Las Vegas. We arrived and began with a yoga class, followed by a guided mindfulness meditation session.

Don’t worry, I’m a doctor.

After that, a very experienced hiker (and appropriately, also a doctor in theater) Dr. Ian Pugh arrived to be our guide on an outdoor hike that would take up the rest of the cold, beautiful winter afternoon. Ian made the inspired decision to keep silence along with us, but he had prepared some informational signs that he showed us to give us important background information about the hike, and along the way we learned some geological tidbits and were shown stunning and delicate fossils that I have no doubt we all would have missed had we been chatting in the usual manner of friends hiking together.

After the hike we returned back to the warmth of Anne-Marie & Joe’s house and had dinner all together as a group, still keeping silence, and then cleaned up according to our assignments that we had been given earlier.

Almost as old as Joe.

Only after the dishes were done, the food put away and the table wiped clean did we begin speaking again. At that point it had been somewhere around 7 hours of silence – not comparable to 5 days, but still a very unusual way to spend a day in 2019 with a group of 8 or 9 people!

Everyone had personal, unique things to share about their experience of not speaking for almost a full day. It was fascinating, and some people had very emotional responses, even shedding tears. The participants who have children seemed to experience a day of silence quite differently than those who do not, for example. I remember one person saying that if they were at home and the family wasn’t talking, it would immediately be interpreted as a “bad thing” or full of tension, but our planned voluntary experience was almost the opposite. So there was an emotional shift of perspective about the same circumstance (not speaking). This catapults right to the heart of the play itself, because one of the functions of mindfulness and especially a retreat situation is to take the experience and put intentional “brackets” around it, if you will, and when that is consciously chosen, a person may have an opportunity to change their perspective or their feelings about something that is causing them suffering.
Another way the “brackets” can facilitate change or relief is by taking away extraneous distractions (no speaking, no cell phones, no alcohol, etc are usual parameters for retreats of this kind). Often times, participants in multi-day silent retreats will experience their discomfort ramping up exponentially at first, to an almost unbearable amount, with none of the usual distractions available. Only after that does the chance for change, relief or peace appear. I think that even during an abbreviated day like we had together, we experienced a version of that progression! It was strange and uncomfortable at first, and yet by the end of the long & strenuous hike, I could feel everyone in the group sort of softened out and grounded in a way that was not present when we began.
My own experience of that day has a particular poignancy for me because of something I went through long ago, in the early 1990’s. I experienced a chronic vocal injury that required me to practice complete vocal rest for over 2 months, and limit use (no talking on the phone for example) for another 4 months, and I had to strictly observe this if I wanted any hope of recovery without surgery. That time was scary and traumatic for me, because I did not even know if the outcome would be a good one, but I had to try it if I even wanted a chance of success. It did turn out well in the end, but I got used to the idea of taking compete vocal rest (no talking whatsoever for a certain period of time) as a way of practicing radical self-care and taking control of my own health. So what had been associated with the worst time in my life, was consciously re-framed by me to represent taking the best care of myself, if you will. I thought about this almost constantly on the 3-hour hike, because it dovetailed perfectly with the subject matter of the play. None of the characters can experience any relief from their suffering unless they re-frame both their experiences AND their actions. Only then can change be possible.
And that is a deep and universal truth that both art and spiritual practice can help illuminate for us as human beings.
I hope you will join me at Small Mouth Sounds to experience the journey for yourself!
-Dina Emerson, February 2019
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  Small Mouth Sounds starts this Friday and runs through March 10 at The Usual Place. Call for info or to make reservations: 702-735-2114. Come join the conversation. -DK

“I’m not the same man I was, why can’t you let me be different?”

Branden Jacob-Jenkin’s play Appropriate is soon to be a new American Theater Classic. Like Long Day’s Journey into Night, Death of a Salesman, Buried Child or A Street Car Named Desire, its easily recognizable living room drama and authentic character dialogue eloquently encapsulates the American psyche of the time.

Set in 2018 on a former slave-owning plantation, three grown-up siblings sort out their late father’s estate as they metaphorically unpack each other’s troubled lives with quick-witted dialogue and laugh-out-loud conceits.

The Lafayette family is clearly the new theatrical American Gothic.  “Why can’t you let me be different?” Franz yells to his older sister Toni after a 10-year estrangement. The three Southern siblings, along with their children and romantic partners will struggle with this question throughout the night.  “Why can’t you let me be different?”

Their self-imposed metamorphoses, specifically shedding the exoskeleton of their respective childhoods, demands of the audience an investigation into the questions of potential and transformation; is such a thing even possible? Can one ever emerge as a respected and brilliant butterfly from the cocoons created by one’s family?

 

-Scottie Scott

 

 

Did you see the reading on Friday? What did you think? A new American classic? Tell us in the comments below.

-Daniel