FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2022
Paul Marengo, Community Engagement Director
Spooky Action Theater
The Board of Spooky Action Theater has placed Artistic Director Richard Henrich on leave of absence. Richard’s artistic duties will be shared among the current staff along with our new Production Manager. As part of its ongoing Strategic Planning, the Board will conduct a performance review of our Artistic Director, our staff and our productions. We believe this Strategic Planning review will create and put in place effective policies, procedures and staffing that will ensure a welcoming environment for all.
The upcoming production of Maple and Vine, originally scheduled for spring 2020, and postponed several times due to the pandemic, will go ahead during this time with a cast, design team and crew that has been contracted since well before the current concerns became public. The Maple and Vine team’s desire is to see this exciting project through to fruition after so many disruptions and to do so in the creative and cooperative environment that is at the heart of our work as theater makers.
Tennessee Williams wrote over 30 full-length plays and more than 35 one-act plays that were published or performed by the time of his death in 1983. Since then, 36 of his plays have received posthumous premieres, 12 of them at the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown. This year is no exception. Produced by Spooky Action Theater and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, Williams' short play The Lady from the Village from Falling Flowers has its World Premiere at the festival between September 26-29. Beforehand, this one-act play, never been staged or even published before, will have three preview performances at Spooky Action on September 21.
"The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers shares with an audience that an illusion becomes real whenever and wherever a story is convincingly told, says David Kaplan, Curator, and co-founder of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. "How such illusions work preoccupied Williams for the next forty-five years. It’s helpful to see the magic (and charm) of story-telling set out so clearly, without the obscuring bravura of a sophisticated writer’s craft."
It seems that the play was written in the spring of 1935 when Williams was a student a the University of Missouri, but there is no record of The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers being submitted for class. The manuscript cover page states, “The title is suggested by the name of a character in Lad Murasaki’s ‘Tale of Genji.’” The source material, written by Murasaki around 1020 in archaic Japanese and popularized in the 1930s by Arthur Waley’s English version, prompted Williams’ imagination to soar. The story of the Lady is Williams' own, graced with quick-witted humor and a true flirt’s love for a dramatic reversal.
"When I read it for the first time, I tried to imagine what would frame the text as a folk play, thinking this would set off its silliness enough that a performance could pass on a serious idea: the illusion of beauty becomes a transient reality when a good story is told," remembers Kaplan. "The Japanese kamishibai, storytellers with pictures, seemed a good match for the material. When I mentioned this to our publicist, Hunter Styles, who had worked in Washington theater, he said 'I know THE person who can make this happen'. And he did: Natsu."
On Natsu's hands, The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers becomes an innovative event that mixes Japanese kamishibai style street theater with storytelling performers.
"This play is a playful study of, or homage to, Japanese Heian-era literature with William’s own added flavor," describes Natsu, who is working with Spooky Action after receiving two Helen Hayes Awards for The Lathe of Heaven. "We have created an intimate spectacle (designed for small audiences) borrowing vocabularies and conventions from kamishibai (Japanese street storytelling performance with illustrated placards), puppetry, and comics/graphic novels."
Definitely, an event not to be missed!
Reality is something we make up as we go along, and this season laughter lights the way.
"Our modern American plays show characters unmoored from the habits of convention -- characters whose simple acts of daily life become deft improvisations," says Artistic Director Richard Henrich. "We follow their daring exploration, guided by humor and by heart. And at the end of the day, we realize now is always the right moment to reinvent the world."
Spooky Action opens its season with two preview performances of The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers, a recently discovered and never before produced or published play by Tennessee Williams. We present this one-act before it travels to Provincetown for a world premiere at this year's Tennessee Williams Theater Festival (September 26-29). Falling Flowers is directed by Natsu Onoda Power, winner of two Helen Hayes Awards for The Lathe of Heaven at Spooky Action last year. This innovative event mixes Japanese kami-shibai style street theater with storytelling performers. Subtitled “A Japanese fantasy,” The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers has its head in the stars and both feet on the ground. It’s a punchy send-up of love, the perils of first impressions, and our earthly attempts to touch something eternal.
In November, we proudly host the DC premiere of Life and Death with Washington Improv Theater. The show stages a fully improvised funeral based on the final wishes of a member of the audience. Life and Death with Washington Improv Theater uses comedy and drama to explore the human experience of death and our desire to see how others will remember us after we shuffle off this mortal coil.
"Plays as funny and moving, as wonderful and weird as The Realistic Joneses, by Will Eno, do not appear often on Broadway. Or ever, really."
The New York Times
2020 begins with the Washington premiere of The Realistic Joneses, by critically acclaimed playwright Will Eno, directed by Gillian Drake, Spooky Action Theater’s New Works in Action Program Director. In this "humane, literate and slyly hilarious" play (New York Times), two couples find they share a lot more than their last names. Ever stumbling towards meaningful relationships, humor caps their encounter with an unsettling truth that lies just below the surface
"I have wanted for a long time to write a play about mortality and how we grapple with that. What I hope is that through these four characters, who have very different responses to the big, big things in life, people will find something recognizable as they go through their days," says Will Eno.
"Maple and Vine is piquantly funny, cleverly executed
and darkly playful."
The New York Times
Spooky Action's 2019-2020 season concludes in the Spring with Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison, directed by Stevie Zimmerman. Big City dwellers Katha and Ryu have become disenchanted with their 21st-century lives. The harder they try to figure out what happiness looks like, the more elusive it becomes. Then they meet Dean, from a idealistic community that exists in a permanent state of 1955. They forsake cell phones and sushi for cigarettes and Chicken a la King, taking on new identities that challenge who they thought they were and who they might become. How far will they go -- how far would you go to alter your life in the pursuit of happiness?
Speaking about his fictional Society for Dynamic Obsolescence, Harrison says, “The notion that less freedom could make you happy is a morally problematic idea... I’m hoping that the audience thinks, ‘I would never do something like that... Or would I?"
Spooky Action gives playwright Sarah Ruhl's powerful play The Oldest Boy its first DC production
The Oldest Boy was the first script playwright Sarah Ruhl wrote after she had twins. At the time – her son and daughter are now nine – she had to deal with the question of separation every day.
"Every day they take a new leap and do something slightly dangerous, so you’re wrestling with your sense of wanting to protect and keep them and your sense that they need to grow and develop and become their own person,” said Sarah Ruhl in a 2014 interview for American Theatre magazine, when the play had its premiere in New York.
The Oldest Boy was inspired by this question of separation and by a story her babysitter once told Ruhl, the story of a friend whose child was recognized as a reincarnated lama. In the play, staged for the first time in DC by Spooky Action Theater, the nuclear family and the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism come into conflict when an American mother and Tibetan father learn their little son may be much, much more than he first might seem. From the family living room, Buddhist monks guide the way through story, dream, dance and ceremony to Dharamsala, India. There, in a monastery courtyard, we step beyond past, beyond the present – to be touched by the soul of The Oldest Boy.
"I have long been an admirer of Sarah Ruhl's work and feel very fortunate to work on this play about life, death, what it means to be a parent, to lose a parent, to be a child, and to gain greater enlightenment on the knowledge that our children belong not to us but to the world," says director Kathryn Chase Bryer, recipient of a 2018 Helen Hayes Award.
In the Washington DC premiere of The Oldest Boy, the cast will feature Franklin Dam, Steve Lee Matthew Marcus, Stefany Pesta, Jenna Sokolowski, Al Twanmo and Rafael Untalan. On stage, the Oldest Boy will be a puppet designed by Matthew Pauli.
"There are big ideas in this play, and exploring them with this fantastic cast and with Spooky Action's Artistic Director Richard Henrich is a wonderful opportunity," celebrates the director. "Spooky Action produces plays that explore life through a lens of magic and abstract realism, and I am happy to say that The Oldest Boy is the perfect example of this mission. This play is the perfect blend of people who are grappling with the human condition that we all recognize and identify with, but Sarah Ruhl chooses to tell her story with a sense of theatricality and magic that will thrill and delight audiences."
The production design team includes Vicki R. Davis (Set Design), David Crandall (Sound Design), Julie Cray Leong (Costume Design) and Max Doolittle (Lighting Design). Tuyet Thi Pham, who received a Helen Hayes Award for her performance in The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, will be working with Kathryn Chase Bryer as Movement Director and Music and Cultural Consultant.
THE OLDEST BOY
A Play in Three Ceremonies
by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
Featuring Franklin Dam, Steve Lee, Matthew Marcus,
Stefany Pesta, Jenna Sokolowski*, Al Twanmo* and Rafael Untalan*
*member of Actor's Equity Association
Spooky Action brings to DC for the first time Korean playwright Hansol Jung's masterful Among the Dead
In a recent interview for American Theatre magazine, South Korean playwright Hansol Jung confesses that everything she has written so far has been inspired by three well-known plays: Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith, How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel, and Ruined by Lynn Nottage. The inspired writing of her play Among the Dead opened the doors of the playwriting program at the Yale School of Drama for Hansol Jung, and this same inspired play will now be staged for the first time in Washington DC by Spooky Action Theater.
“I am excited to introduce our Washington audience to this exceptional young Korean playwright, whose work is now being recognized on a national scale," says Spooky Action Artistic Director Richard Henrich. "The play carries us through perilous memories on a spirit quest to a final homecoming that is heart melting in its simplicity and depth of feeling. I hope our audience will be surprised, delighted and moved by this story as much as I am!"
Described by The New York Times as an “outraged, deeply compassionate play” and “a smart and stinging new play that delves into painful business,” Among the Dead is a dark comedy about a family broken apart by betrayed promises, and finding each other through the unlikely intercession of canned SPAM, a wartime journal and Jesus. Scenes and settings interweave between widely separated places and times (a hotel room in Seoul, South Korea in 1975, the WWII jungle battleground of Myitkyina, Burma in 1944, and Hangang Bridge in Seoul, 1950), as four characters are carried through encounters they never dreamed of and finally touch the core of who they are.
Number Four is a Korean sex-slave fleeing the Imperial Japanese army in WWII. Luke Woods is a stranded American soldier. The two form an unlikely alliance to survive, and they end up with more than they bargained for – a baby, Ana. Now a 30-year-old woman in 1975, Ana finds herself in a hotel room in Seoul, plunging into the story of Luke and Number Four through the medium of Luke's wartime journal – and some help from a bell boy named Jesus. Let’s say a lot of help from Jesus.
In the Washington DC premiere of Among the Dead, the cast will feature Kyosin Kang, Julie M*, Chris Stinson* and Nahm Darr. Kyosin and Julie have Korean backgrounds. Kyosin's parents are both Korean. She was born in South Korea and came to the United States at the age of 2.
"Even though I grew up in the States, my parents put me in Korean school on weekends when I was younger, so that I could learn the language and culture," remembers the actress. "I know bits and pieces of my Korean heritage, but stepping into Among the Dead has really brought it home for me."
The production design team includes AJ Vester (set design), Navid Azeez (sound design), Amy MacDonald (costume design) and Hailey LaRoe (lighting design).
AMONG THE DEADby Hansol Jung
Directed by Richard Henrich
Featuring Kyosin Kang, Julie M*, Chris Stinson* and Nahm Darr*member of Actor's Equity Association
Spooky Action Theater opens 2018-2019 Season with US Premiere about the power of theater
“Não." This is probably one of the most difficult words to pronounce in the Portuguese language. It is also one of the very few Portuguese words that Washington DC audiences will hear in Spooky Action Theater's upcoming production, the US premiere of New Guidelines for Peaceful Times by Brazilian playwright Bosco Brasil. Written in 2001 and made into a movie in 2009, after being performed in several countries around the world, New Guidelines is a high-stakes confrontation between an immigration official with a troubled history and a Polish refugee from a devastated post-WWII Europe, who is seeking a new life in Brazil.
"I wrote New Guidelines inspired by the true experience of a very well-known director who fled to Brazil from Poland after WWII. I was interested in finding out how somebody can leave everything behind and start over,” remembers Bosco Brasil, who is donating his royalties to AVSI-USA, an international NGO that supports refugees and migrants around the world. “But New Guidelines is not just about one man's struggle, it's about the struggle that all refugees and migrants experience nowadays.”
Directed by Roberta Alves (Gimme a Band, Gimme a Banana - A musical about Carmen Miranda), with Assistant Director Vivian Allvin, New Guidelines for Peaceful Times brings to the stage Helen Hayes nominated actors, Michael Kevin Darnall and Carlos Saldaña.
Returning to Spooky Action after the recent The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, Darnall is Clausewitz, a Polish refugee. Clausewitz arrives in Brazil in 1945 after fleeing war-ravaged Europe hoping to start over. At his arrival, he must face Segismundo (Carlos Saldaña), a former secret police officer who is not convinced Clausewitz is really a farmer, as he claims, and hasn’t decided yet if he will let him stay in the country, or not. In a surprising turn of events, Segismundo proposes a deal: if Clausewitz can make him cry with his memories, the refugee will be allowed to stay.
The play caught the attention of one of the most celebrated Brazilian theater critics, the late Barbara Heliodora: “With the confrontation of those who 'always obey' against a 'so-called farmer,' Bosco Brasil writes a must-see play. New Guidelines for Peaceful Times shows how powerful the theater is
during war, peace or terrorism.”
The production design team includes artists who have collaborated on many previous SAT productions like David Crandall (sound design) along with new local and international designers like Teca Fichinski (set and costume design) and Kyle Grant (lighting design).
NEW GUIDELINES FOR PEACEFUL TIMES
by Bosco Brasil, translated by Luciana Kez
Directed by Roberta Alves with Assistant Director Vivian Allvin
Featuring Michael Kevin Darnall and Carlos Saldaña
A few years back, Canadian playwright Carole Fréchette stood at a turning point. She had reached a place in her personal and professional life where she could choose many different paths, but the only path she wanted to pursue was forbidden. The struggle reminded her of the French folk tale “Bluebeard", written over 300 years ago by Charles Perrault, in which a young lady is warned by her husband that she can open all the doors in the castle, except one.
“As soon as I read ‘Bluebeard’ again, I knew I wanted to write a play based on this simple story, and I knew that it was going to begin with a woman standing in front of a closed door,” remembers Carole. “Yes, of course, ‘Bluebeard’ was an inspiration, but what attracted me was the beauty of this tale, its simplicity. It brings us characters that we find inside ourselves, that speak of our anguish, fears and buried desires.
The play Carole Fréchette wrote inspired by her own anguish, fear and desire is The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs. Described by The Globe and Mail as a “Little Gem”, the play will be staged for the first time in Washington DC at Spooky Action Theater, directed by Helen Murray, Artistic Director of The Hub Theatre. On stage, five Washington actors, Michael Kevin Darnall, Carolyn Kashner, Tuyet Thi Pham, Casie Platt and Mindy Shaw, tell the tale of Grace, a young woman named after a princess who finds herself irresistibly drawn to a mysterious and forbidden room. She has everything—a mansion filled with lavish rooms, a maid servant, an adoring husband who makes no demands except one … she cannot go into the small room at the top of the stairs.
"Certainly, we can see Grace as a woman oppressed by her domineering husband, but this is not all that interested me. What I was drawn to from the beginning is the 'forbidden', represented by the closed door, and the desire to enter it," says Carole. "The conflict I wanted to explore was not so much the conflict between Grace and her husband, but the more painful one, her own conflict. Grace is divided between her desire to live in the comfort offered by the man she loves and her need to put herself in danger to confront a mystery and the truth.
Carole Fréchette has written fifteen plays, which have been translated into twenty languages and staged all over the world, from Montréal to Reykjavik, and Paris to Tokyo. Fréchette was awarded the Governor General’s Award twice and also received the Chalmers Award. She is the 2002 winner of the Siminovitch Prize, a prestigious award that celebrates each year an acknowledged leader in Canadian theatre whose work is transformative and influential. Despite her international recognition, she is seldom staged in the US, which makes Spooky Action's production a unique opportunity for Washington audiences.
"My plays are often presented in Europe, Latin America, Canada, even in Asia, but rarely in the US, " says Carole. "It is a mystery why that happens, because I still feel that my writing belongs to North America, to a style of life, a reality, a view of the world which is closer to those living in Boston or Washington DC than to people in Ushuaia, in the Land of Fire (!), where one of my plays is being presented now."
THE SMALL ROOM AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS
by Carole Fréchette, translated by John Murrell
Directed by Helen Murray, artistic director of The Hub Theatre
Featuring Michael Kevin Darnall, Carolyn Kashner, Tuyet Thi Pham, Casie Platt and Mindy Shaw
Set Design - Jonathan Dahm Robertson
Lighting Design - Brittany Shemuga
Costume Design - Amy MacDonald
Sound Design - David Crandall
Props Design - Amy Kellett
May 17 - June 10, 2018
Spooky Action Theater and the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program present The Lathe of Heaven, based on the 1971 award-winning science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, as part of Washington’s 2018 Women’s Voices Theater Festival.
Adapted and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, Associate Professor of Theater and Performance Studies and Artistic Director of the Davis Performing Arts Center at Georgetown University, the production features a blended cast of Washington professionals and GU student actors. The production previews for one weekend at Georgetown (Jan. 25-27, 2018), followed by a four week run at Spooky Action Theater (Feb. 15 –March 11, 2018).
Author Ursula K Le Guin has received a host of awards for her work, including Hugo, Nebula and National Book Awards, PEN-Malamud, and the National Book Foundation Medal. Her recently published book “No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters” is a set of engaging personal essays that has won over a wide range of readers.
The Boston Globe calls the work of “singular playwright-director” Natsu Onoda Power “bracingly original and head-spinning,” and The Washington Post applauds her style as “breathtakingly imaginative, eye-delighting.”
Onoda Power’s projects as director have been seen in the Washington region at Studio Theatre, Mosaic Theater, Theatre J and Center Stage Baltimore, in addition to many productions at Georgetown University. Spooky Action Artistic Director Richard Henrich is excited by Onoda Power’s “unique style, which includes hands-on contributions in set, props and puppetry design in addition to directorial oversight. Natsu brings a thoroughly integrated artistic vision to a complex, highly imaginative story.”
The Lathe of Heaven takes place in a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophe, in which George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams, over which he has no control, effectively alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a dream psychologist who immediately grasps the potential power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself, as Dr. Haber warms to the task of manipulating George’s dreams to transform the world.
Director Onoda Power says, “The book is deeply resonant now when all of our nightmares are becoming reality, every day. Though written over forty years ago, the fundamental hopes and fears of the characters land right on target. Working on this project is a great opportunity for us to explore how the past imagined the ‘future’ – and how that future is our present today.”
The Cast is led by veteran Washington actors Matthew Marcus, Erica Chamblee and Matthew Vaky, supported by an ensemble of Georgetown University theater students – Mark Camilli, Vanessa Chapoy, Jonathan Compo, Michaela Farrell, Kate Ginna, Maddy Rice and Adrian Iglesias.
The Lathe of Heaven Production Team includes Lighting Designer Adam Bacigalupo, Sound Designer Roc Lee, Costume Designer Debra Kim Sivigny, Props Designer Caolan Overman Eder and Projection Designer Danny Carr.
THE LATHE OF HEAVEN
Adapted and Directed by Natsu Onoda Power
based on the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin
Previews Jan 25 – 27, 2018
Davis Performing Arts Center
37th and O Streets, NW in Washington, DC 20057.
Purchase tickets online or call 202-687-ARTS (2787)
Continuing Feb 15 – Mar 11, 2018
Spooky Action Theater
The Universalist National Memorial Church
1810 16th St. NW. Washington, DC 20009
Purchase tickets online or call 202-248-0301
Presented with generous support from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities,
The Share Fund, The Paul M Angell Foundation and the JR & VW Oishei Foundation
Spooky Action opens its 2016-2017 Season with Rameau's Nephew, a play that was too hot to put into print when it was written (1761-1776), and author Denis Diderot allowed it to circulate only in manuscript. Musician, maniac, madcap, mimic… and genius all in one, the destitute nephew of the famous Rameau trades witticisms with a logical Philosopher, deconstructing his perfectly rationalized and orderly world with wildly antic energy. The Nephew transforms into an entire cast of hilarious characters as he sets each scene of his argument. Laughably witty, wise and thought-provoking, this physical comedy is a delight for the eyes and the mind.
“Why Rameau? Because it makes me laugh,” says director Henrich, “and because it’s about genius. I laugh at Rameau the mimic, who can’t describe a character without slipping into his skin and exuberantly becoming him – or her. The play tickles me beyond all reason and makes me feel the demon genius of Rameau has slipped under my own skin as well.”
The production design team includes Giorgos Tsappas (set design), nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Set Design for Jarry Inside Out (a Spooky Action Production); Erik Teague (costume design), who also received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Last of the Whyos (another SAT production); Brittany Shemuga (lighting design); and David Crandall (sound design).
*Member Actors' Equity Association
In 1992, the English director Peter Brook and the French writer Marie-Hélène Estienne decided to seek inspiration in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by the eminent neurologist Oliver Sacks to create a new performance for their troupe at The Bouffes du Nord Theatre, in Paris. One year later, after an extensive period of research, improvisation and exploration, Brook finally opened The Man Who. Already described as "the most magically effective exploration of the mind (also possibly the soul) ever attempted on the stage," The Man Who will be staged for the first time in Washington DC by Spooky Action Theater Artistic Director Richard Henrich and Associate Director Elena Day.
We all have a brain and we think we know it. But the moment we go inside, we find we are on another planet. In the words of the Persian poem The Conference of the Birds, "this is the valley of astonishment." - Peter Brook
On stage, four actors (David Gaines, Tuyet Thi Pham, Carlos Saldana and Eva Wilhelm) move seamlessly between their roles as both patients and doctors. As in Sacks' book, The Man Who patients suffer from deeply peculiar, sometimes tragic, neurological conditions. The traumas responsible for their conditions are sometimes mentioned, but it is their personal stories that are arresting and compelling. One patient is convinced she is living a continuous dream and plots a desperate strategy to wake herself up. Another patient's memory stopped working 27 years ago, and he now uses humor and imagination to shape an everchanging present unlinked from the past. And of course, there is the man who mistook his wife for a hat, who replaces his loss of visual recognition with a special music to engage each task and reclaim his life.
" 'What is reality?' asks a doctor in The Man Who. Oliver Sacks saw his patients as heroes endowed with great courage and tenacity, moving through realities stunningly altered by neurological quirks. If, like Sacks, we step for a moment into the patients’ shoes, we see our human mind has vast and surprising possibilities," says Henrich. "Conventional reality is simply the starting point in an astonishing universe just waiting for us to explore in The Man Who."
THE MAN WHO
by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne
inspired by The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Directed by Richard Henrich and Associate Director Elena Day
Featuring David Gaines, Tuyet Thi Pham, Carlos Saldana and Eva Wilhelm
May 11 - June 4, 2017
Thu - Sat @ 8:00 PM
Sun @ 3:00 PM - Running time: 90 min
Tickets $30-40 - Special discounts for students and seniors
Group rates available
Purchase tickets online or at the theater one hour before performances.
For more information, or to purchase by phone call 202-248-0301.
Presented with generous support from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, The Share Fund,
The Paul M Angell Foundation and The JR & VW Oishei Foundation
Get more information about our shows.