|Thursday Sep 08, 2016 7:30 PM - Saturday Oct 08, 2016 7:30 PM | $18.00 - $36.00
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STRAWBERRY THEATRE WORKSHOP STAMPEDES THIS YEAR'S ELECTION WITH IONESCO'S "RHINOCEROS"
Absurdist play runs Sep 8-Oct 8 at 12th Ave Arts
There is a ferocious rhinoceros on the loose in a small village, and no one seems alarmed. In fact, by the time Eugène Ionesco's cast of citizens can agree on what they saw, it becomes possible for individuals to join the herd. Imagine a business leader, a prominent family, and a politician stampeding as wild rhinoceroses, while a town idly debates whether it is even possible...
Strawberry Theatre Workshop had been seeking to open 2016/17 with a theatrical conversation linked to the contemporary US Presidential Election. They found it in a French absurdist drama written in 1959. Directed by Jess K Smith ("We Remain Prepared" for ArtBarn/Satori Group), "Rhinoceros" will play Sep-8 through Oct-8 in the Mainstage at 12th Ave Arts. The company imagines a fall evening more politically relevant than the Trump/Clinton debates, which will be happening almost simultaneously.
Carol Louise Thompson is cast as Berenger, who gets advice about social conformity from Jean (Shawn Belyea) shortly before the latter transforms into a pachyderm before her eyes. Seeking sanity and refuge, Berenger corners Daisy (Amy Mayes) in a love-triangle with one of the few remaining human beings, Dudard (Conner Neddersen). Gazing from a window on a street full of rhinocerosesperhaps, like the view from the press box of the Republican National ConventionDaisy says:
"Those are the real people. They look happy. They are content to be what they are. They don't look insane. They look very natural."
In Rhinoceros, Ionesco portrays a stampede-like movement that appeals mostly for its forward thrust. Energy comes first; ideas (rationalizations, mostly) come later. Speaking of his experiences in Romania in the late 1930s, Ionesco said:
"From time to time, one of the group would come out and say 'I don't agree at all with them, to be sure, but on certain points, I must admit, for example the Jews...' And that kind of comment was a symptom. Three weeks later, that person would become a Nazi. He was caught in a mechanism, he accepted everything, he becomes a rhinoceros. Towards the end, it was only three or four of us who resisted."
The parallel to the current decade extends further than the aggressive style of modern political campaigns. Has Pokémon Go not led its players to temporarily abandon human awareness under a tide of mass activity? American passions routinely bounce between one rush of attention and another. For every genuine Seahawks or "Game of Thrones" fan, there is somebody else watching just in fear of being left out.
It is not a stretch to revisit Ionesco's ideas in a modern context. Casting a woman as Berenger (a role written for man, and played by both Laurence Olivier and Benedict Cumberbatch) is part of Strawshop's effort to make the character more modern. Her genderand the lifestyle choices she presents Daisy at the end of the playexpand on Ionesco's argument about what society deems natural and normal.
Thompson and Mayes are new to Strawshop, whereas Belyea ("The Birds") and Neddersen ("9 Circles") were featured in the recently completed season. The rest of the ensemble includes Lacy Campbell, Brandon Felker, Jéhan Òsanyìn, Shanna Allman, Christopher Wong, and John Wray. The production team includes Erin Bednarz (Sound), Ryan Dunn (Lighting), and Greg Carter (Scenery). The production is stage managed by Catherine Blake Smith.
12th Ave Arts (View)
1620 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|