Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jigsaw Nation

I realize some of us think that theatre should be a hammer of leftist thought, but I don't. In fact, I think it's one of the reasons most people are not interested in theatre - they expect that it will not only be boring, but that it will lecture them on what to think while simultaneously telling them that they're dumb if they don't understand what they're seeing.

Unfortunately, these expectations are all too often fulfilled.

And since there's very little in theatre right now -- {at the always unnamed "institutions" of "homogeny" (someone else's idea, not mine) or in the churches that are apparently now considered theatre in the same sense that the Lincoln Center is (again, someone else's idea, not mine)} -- with truly revelatory, revolutionary or even mildly incisive weight on it, there's almost no reward for going to theatre at all.

Worse, theatre seems to have lost its status as a place to explore, fail, explore again. Shows are now considered products that are either digestable and likeable and ready to be forgotten -- or they're tossed aside, where they're also forgotten.

Which is why I got involved in JIGSAW NATION. I saw it as an honest process-oriented effort to bring new voices to the stage - not just the one's we're used to hearing in shows like STUFF HAPPENS.

If you're around, check it out. Even if stylistically it isn't for you, you might still get something out of meeting people who name their kids after conservative presidents while others work coffee carts at 50th and 3rd after fleeing Iraq.

The pr clip is below.


What does "American" mean to you? Relentless Theatre Company sets out to document the thoughts and feelings of citizens across the U.S. in a new, traveling theater piece, "Jigsaw Nation." A series of overlapping monologues culled from hours of man-on-the-street interviews, Jigsaw Nation comes to Costa Mesa, California at the invitation of South Coast Repertory for two free performances on March 16 and 17 at 8 pm.

In Costa Mesa, the writers and actors continue their quest to craft a rich tapestry of stories that reflects the American experience. Originally produced in 2005 as a workshop for the New York International Fringe Festival, "Jigsaw Nation" re-opened for a series of performances on New York's Ellis Island, and recently completed a stop at Minneapolis's Mixed Blood Theatre. Each step of the way, the company brings on local actors and spends two-to-three weeks in the community conducting new interviews to add to the already-existing script. Next destination after Costa Mesa: Louisville, Kentucky as the guest of Actors' Theatre of Louisville.

The New York Sun wrote, "Jigsaw Nation draws its considerable power from the startling immediacy of real people's speech. As the five simply dressed actors turn from veteran to teenager, immigrant to red stater, the script's uncanny ability to deliver the original voices intact makes the characters crackle with life."

The Relentless Theatre Company (RTC) founded in Los Angeles in 1994 by Honegger and Rachel Malkenhorst is committed to exploring various characteristics of the American experience. From 1996 -2003, RTC presented critically acclaimed productions, and was hailed as "L.A.'s most relentlessly gritty company" by the Los Angeles Times, "A group of first-rate artists" by Drama-Logue, "Always adventurous" by Back Stage West, and "One of the finest and most committed theatrical companies in all of Los Angeles" by Entertainment Today. In 2003, RTC relocated to New York where it has since presented Shelia Callaghan's The Hunger Waltz at the Manhattan Ensemble Theatre, Malachy Walsh's The Chair as part of the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival (Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting) and Suzanne Bradbeer's The Sleeping Girl at The Peter Jay Sharp Theatre on Theatre Row.

Two performances of Jigsaw Nation take place on Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17 at 8 pm. Admission is free to the public; reservations are not necessary.

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