Search Results

Keyword: ‘Again and Against’

Springboard — Again and Against — CPT

October 7th, 2011 2 comments

Went last night and saw the Springboard reading of Again and Against by Betty Shamieh. Being that it was a 2 character play that ran for 100 minutes, I would say that Shamieh did a good job holding attention and creating intriguing characters. It also is worth seeing for the mere fact that Beth Wood directs Raymond Bobgan and Chris Seibert. That said, **Spoiler Alert coming at you so don’t read on** the transition of Omar the Arab FBI agent from a “translator” bumbler to the “head of the department” mastermind at the end was a bit unbelievable, as were a host of traits he exhibited: anger, physical violence, language, and certain phrases (such as the use of “kid”—“don’t throw your life away, kid”), that I just didn’t buy.

I learned in discussion after the play that this play by Shamieh has been staged before, on the continent. That surprised me. The play felt unfinished and unfocused and as if it were searching for what it meant. It is a play in which truth is the actively sought-after goal and the “truth” of these characters is never clear. I thought this was a flaw in the play and a part of the reading/development process. After learning that this play has been staged before, it is likely that the inability to establish truth is intentional on Shamieh’s part. That is what I must conclude about the play. Almost like the inability to establish meaning in Waiting for Godot, there is a fundamental inability to find out what is true—for the audience, for the characters, and perhaps for the actors.

The play covers a lot of volatile turf from Arab American treatment to 9/11, to terrorism and the ideas of what that means—from both the “American” perspective and the perspective of others toward or about Americans. Sometimes the play got a bit preachy and journalistic, trying to report facts—for instance about the U.S. policy (unstated but enacted) of handing over terror suspects to Syria for “debriefment”. With Syria having more flexibility in its approaches to detainees than the U.S., which is “hamstrung” by a thing called the Constitution.

There is a great amount of humor in the play, which is important, again, as the thing would be depressing and possibly didactic if left un-interrupted or if the rhythm didn’t alter in the playing. There are some surprisingly strong moments, one of which comes from Omar the Arab FBI agent describing the murder by an Arab father of his daughter for disobeying him. That moment alone is worth seeing the piece and makes me think one very personal concern of Shamieh is the treatment of Arab women by Arab men. A sad fact of this play is that this amazing story from Omar is later “taken away” in a brief moment where Omar says that he made it up. That is part of the confusion of this play, and perhaps the disappointment. I understand that there is much to be gained by playing with the nature of truth and that this has been successfully done in other genres—think The Usual Suspects [Blu-ray] for instance. I just don’t know if it is effective here, as there is nothing for me to hang my hat on or walk away with except a strange vague suspicion about something. And the thought that maybe, maybe this was her point… but I can’t be sure.

The big draw for this reading was seeing Chris Seibert and Raymond Bobgan acting together. It was worth it. If you’re on the fence about Springboard or this piece in particular: go and see it. With Beth Wood directing and Raymond and Chris starring it is something to see and be a part of.

Patterns, Mock-ups, and Identity

March 15th, 2011 No comments

View of the Patterns set from the Front

Wanted to quickly throw up some mock-ups that Michael Roesch, CPT’s designer, created using Google Sketch-up for Patterns. These are pretty much spot on for what you would have seen had you been in the space (for those of you who were not). I thought Roesch did a fantastic job, even staying one day for 14 hours to get the lights correct–using myself, Jarod, and Beth Wood as the cast had gotten antsy and left hours before.


There are slight differences, of course. Looking at the slightly elevated view below: there were four chairs upstage on either side.

Slight eleveation of viewpoint

These were for the cast members who were inactive at any given moment; or the chairs were moved down center when a scene required. Up left there was an additional clothing rack which held the costumes for the women actors, while the men used the up right rack. The dress form or figure was down left and, of course, had a dress that was being constructed on it. There were three cameras on tripods at left, up-center, and right which were displayed on the TVs at right (there were three).

Ground Plan


The use of the cyc for silhouettes was the solution used given that the triptych called for in the script was not constructed, but it was yet highly effective to the same purpose and Michael did some fantastic lighting at the back which added a certain something to the overall effect. The pictures painted against the cyc were those of the king/queen and Frau Holda as well as those of the Mom/Ed characters, and used by the “model” when Harry Collins was on stage. That is to say, they weren’t quite as ‘disco’ as portrayed in the sketches. I’m also including Michael’s ground plan for the set as well.


Earlier today I was asked by Gilbert Doho to come and talk with his theater class. That was a first for me. Doho is teaching a course on Theater and Identity and wanted me to speak to my identity in theater and in this particular play. I was quite surprised by how much I could speak to that topic, having not quite considered the play in that way. For instance, the main character Aisa, who is, throughout, constructing or reconstructing, her identity: with the dress and play aspects serving as a metaphor for that process. Throughout she is resistant to the past that she has been dealt: alcoholics, dysfunctionals, etc. So, besides actively resisting on the one hand, she is actively constructing on the other.


I talked quite a bit about my own family background, which, interestingly, I have not explicitly explored in theater. It was curious to listen to the students in the class who understood my conundrum and articulated it clearly themselves: that as an x # of generations in American the ethnic and cultural identity that we possess is American and not anything else. I framed this against possibilities, for instance, my father’s side of the family came over from Ireland in the late 1800’s. It would be easy for me to be a Catholic who joins the Ancient Order of Hibernians and insists that my children learn to dance and speak Gaelic. Yet I have avoided that path as being something that, to my mind, is “put on” and not an organic extension of my own true American identity. I also explored the well-publicized tiff that occurred several years ago between August Wilson and Robert Brustein. This was used to frame the conversation, as Wilson was very entrenched in his opinions regarding his own ethnicity, race, and identity; something that I don’t share. To what extent this is because I represent the “dominant” culture and race in this country (for now) I do not know, but assume that this has something to do with it.

A very interesting day that has lent itself to some possible routes for new play creation.

%d bloggers like this: