Writer, Jennifer Rowland, Talks About Her Psychological Thriller, “The Lost Child”

As a fan of fairy tales, writer Jennifer Rowland has created an emotional thriller for adults, particularly harrowing for those who have parented teenagers. Writing in metaphor can be tricky, and yet the type of theatre audiences that frequent the Skylight Theatre don’t seem to mind checking their expectations, for literary realism, at the door.

An adventurous undertaking, which Rowland describes as an “allegory about parenting,” the gist of the family tale describes two perspectives of a possible abduction as a couple (now separated) meets to pack up the old cabin the woods, and to rehash old wounds. It would be the 18th birthday for the child that is now lost to them. Might she show up to blow out the candles on the cake?

The Lost Child is one of two fairy tale-like world premiere productions now running at the Skylight Theatre, a place known for developing new works. The other production, The Devil’s Wife, by Tom Jacobson, is described as a “steampunk fable of Gothic proportions.”

Jennifer Rowland says that “parenthood is harrowing – but it’s also humbling, and I think that people will laugh (and maybe scream!), in recognition of that paradoxical situation. Both of these plays at the Skylight live at the intersection of the real and the supernatural.”

 During an interview, Jennifer explained more about the inspiration for her production.

 How did the idea for this play come about?

The Lost Child is an allegory about parenting. I love fairy tales and magic realism and I’ve always been fascinated by changeling stories, where a person is taken and a magical imposter put in its place. I was doing research on child kidnapping stories and what happens to the parents whose children never come back. I know a number of parents who have children that are dealing with very serious mental health issues or substance abuse. A mother said to me, “the child I knew is gone,” and that stuck with me. As I was writing the play, I realized that every parent loses their child, that’s normal and healthy, but it’s still a loss. The adorable, charming creature of 5 is never coming back and you as a parent have to accept that.

What do you want The Lost Child to communicate, and what do you hope that audiences gain from seeing your play?

Parenting is a roller coaster ride that brings out unimaginably profound and contradictory emotions. You are shocked at the depth of love you have for your child but there are times when you want to wring her neck! Doesn’t mean that you do (most of us don’t of course) but it doesn’t mean you don’t have those feelings. When your child grows up and leaves home, that’s a good and natural thing, but both the parents and the child have to metaphorically kill each other off so that the child can become an adult and the parents can regain their own lives. I hope that The Lost Child makes you feel like you’ve been on a scary, funny, thrilling ride but that its cathartic at the end. Go home, give your kids a big hug and tell them you love them!

Do you have a consistent approach for the way you begin a new work?

I don’t think so… but my husband says I am remarkably consistent. I skulk about for a month or two claiming I am “written out” and “will never have another idea!” Then something sparks or I hear dialogue and I start writing. At a certain point, pretty early on, I figure out the tent poles of the story and then its all about structure and dialogue.

Where do you find the best material for building your characters? Are any characters in this play based on people that you know?

I suppose like most writers, I start with who and what I know. But, at certain point, a wonderful thing happens…the characters start speaking for themselves and you just write down what they say. I live for that moment!

Can you describe your development process at the Skylight theatre? Any unexpected surprises?

Working at the Skylight Theatre has been a wonderful experience! I hope I get to do it again. There are not many theaters that take chances on new work, but that is Skylight’s mission. Gary Grossman and Tony Abatemarco are experienced, smart producers who want the best for the work and work tirelessly to bring about an excellent production. The whole team, from the staff to the technical people and designers are first rate. I felt very lucky to be premiering a play there.

Writers who have influenced your career the most?

Conor McPherson, Martin McDonagh, David Grieg, Alan Ayckbourn… and I reread Death of a Salesman once a year.

What are you working on next, and when can audiences expect to see it?

I am working on a play about a political family. The father is about to announce his run for the Senate when his daughter tells him her ex-boyfriend has posted a sex tape of them. When she goes to seek solace from an old friend she hasn’t seen in a long time, the girl tells her she was raped by the would be Senator. No magic in this story, but it’s a drama about difficult choices between family ties and personal integrity. It’s called Dignity. I haven’t finished it yet so I can’t tell you where it might land! In the meantime, I have a couple other plays floating around that I hope will find a home soon.

Directed by Denise Blasor, The Lost Child stars Addie Daddio, Marilyn Fitoria, and Peter James Smith. It runs on Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7:00pm through September 3, 2017. The Devil’s Wife by Tom Jacobson, runs in rep on Saturdays at 8:30pm, Sundays 3pm through August 27, 2017. Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $15 – $39. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://SkylightTix.com

The Lost Child videohttps://youtu.be/_IMtm5LsvQY

 

 

“Shades Of Disclosure” Celebrates Life

Review by: Peter Foldy

Heartbreaking, but ultimately positive and powerful, the World Premiere of SHADES OF DISCLOSURE, reminds us of the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that still continues to pose a host of social injustices such as homophobia, racism, immigration rights, healthcare discrimination, and the rights of transpersons.

Created and performed by the revolutionary QueerWise, a Los Angeles based group of LGBTQ writers and spoken word artists, Shades of Disclosure introduces us to a a number of HIV/AIDS survivors, and a few that were spared. Their deep and personal stories illuminate not only what they went through when the plague hit some thirty years earlier but how it still impacts their lives today.

The cast members on stage are not actors playing roles. They are real people sharing remembrances of heartbreak and loss, of good luck and bad. Some on stage were infected early while others, though promiscuous and care-free, escaped the epidemic.

Wrapped in an atmosphere of the current political climate, QueerWise tell their stories in well staged production that encourages others to do the same. “Who Are You?” they ask.

The outpouring of truthfulness on stage soon becomes contagious and one cannot help but feel a deep empathy.

Ultimately, we know that honesty about ones self is a beautiful, unifying and galvanizing force that we need to carry into 2017 if we are to survive, thrive, and maintain, says director, Michael Kearns.

Though it may sound like this performance piece is a downer, it is actually a celebration of being alive. Something we can all relate to.

Featuring Albert Auben, Gil Feroli, Cheri Gaulke, Randy (Joe) Gravelle, John Glenn Harding, Jessie Jacobson, Sophie Kim, Darrell Larson, Timothy Mack, Mason Mahoney, Jen O’Connor, Roland Palencia, Christine Papalexis, Jim Pentecost, Ken Pienkos and David Trudel, Shades of Disclosure plays at 8:00pm Saturdays, and 3:00pm on Sundays through February 25, 2017.

Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027.

Tickets are $15 – $40. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://SkylightTix.com

“The End Times” Extended at the Skylight Theatre

Reviewed by: Peter Foldy

Before you pass judgement on people who are sucked into cult like religions such as Scientology, do yourself a favor and check out the powerful new play, “The End Times” by talented first-time playwright, Jesse Mu-En Shao.

Now extended at the Skylight Theatre, The End Times” is based on Mu-En Shao’s personal experiences and his ultimate escape from the clutches of a religion that for a time controlled his life.

Christian T. Chan (Joe Spano in video projection)

Christian T. Chan (Joe Spano in video projection)

His play deals with Tim (Christian T. Chan), a young, loyal follower of the Lord’s Restoration, a dogmatic religion that keeps it’s flock in a vacuum while promising them eternal salvation.

Tim is a true believer, the church the only family he knows, but when his childhood friend, Evan (Matt Pascua), is cast out for “living in his mind,” Tim’s life slowly unravels as he begins to question the foundations of his faith.

Christian T. Chan and Nick Cimiluca (Mariah Robinson and Alexander Pimentel in background)

Christian T. Chan and Nick Cimiluca (Mariah Robinson and Alexander Pimentel in background)

Skillfully directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera “The End Times” is a compelling 90 minutes of thought provoking theater with a talented young cast that shine in their respective roles.

Christian T. Chan’s anguish as the ugly truth becomes apparent, and Matt Pascua’s metamorphosis from a boy living the “church life” to becoming a beer guzzling, f-bomb dropping teenager feels painfully real.

Nick Cimiluca is suitable creepy as the deceptive and manipulative church counselor, “Jaime” while Alexander Pimentel is solid in the role of “Seth,” whose ultimate betrayal lights the spark for “Tim’s” undoing.

Matt Pascua and Christian T. Chan

Matt Pascua and Christian T. Chan

Mariah Robinson is believable as “Ruthanne,” the girl whose attention Tim so badly wants, while Joe Spano as “Nelson,” ( appearing only on video), ably reveals the grip this cult like church has over it’s blindly naive followers.

“The End Times” now plays through May 29, 2016.

Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://skylighttix.com

Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027.

Tickets:$34.

 

“Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea” Brings a New Perspective to Hollywood

The Skylight Theatre Company first heard Nathan Alan Davis’ play, DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA read last season and set out to launch it in Los Angeles during the celebration of Black History Month.

Last year, The National New Play Network, an alliance of non-profit theaters that champions the development and continued life of new plays, announced that Davis’ play had been chosen to receive their support for a 2015 rolling world premiere. NathanAlanDavis It premieres at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles on February 20th before moving to the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, IN; Theater Alliance in Washington, DC; the Cleveland Public Theatre; and finally the Oregon Contemporary Theatre.

“Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea” is being co-produced by Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble, whose founders were equally stunned by the beauty of the language and the importance of the play’s theme…yearning for lost knowledge of ancestral truths.

The story concerns eighteen-year old Dontrell whose dreams have never been more fantastic or more harrowing. Nightly, he sees a captive African—the spitting image of his own father—thrown overboard during the Middle Passage. As visions of this man’s last fateful hours continue, Dont_326 copyDontrell makes a decision: He will dive into the ocean and retrieve the drowned captive from the deep.

Like all great explorers, whether of land, sea, or the human heart, Dontrell’s journey has the makings of a classic adventure. It’s a tale that resonates for our time.

Playwright Nathan Alan Davis says he is “compelled by transcendence. By our ability to reframe, re-imagine and re-define the world as we move through it.” Indeed a refreshing new young perspective in Hollywood…and beyond. Influenced by Hip-Hop and the spirit that animates it, Davis is a writer of mixed race.  The African Diaspora and the Western tradition are both essential parts of his identity. He works for “an ever advancing, united world civilization.”

We had a chance to discuss his work recently:

Hollywood Revealed: Was “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea” inspired by your personal journey of self-discovery and ancestral history?

Nathan Alan Davis: Yes and no. In many ways it was inspired by what I do not know about my ancestral history. The play is a dream, a fantasy, a hope, a prayer. It is a fable that I believe the world needs.

HR: What was your mindset when you began work on this play, and did you start with an outline or was it more of a streaming of consciousness?

NAD: I started working on it in the spring of 2012. The idea snuck up on me and the story formed kind of gradually. I don’t have a clear recollection of a single moment that sparked it. My mindset was: this play is going to be produced (at Indiana University, as part of my MFA program) and I need to tell a good and entertaining story that comes from the heart.  Ken Weitzman was heading up the program at the time and he established a wonderful system: MFA students in their 2nd and 3rd years get full productions of their brand new plays as part of the department’s main stage season. You learn about your play (and the playwriting craft) by bringing it through the production process. That really made all the difference in the world.  Knowing that the play was going to be staged the following spring added a natural sense of urgency, excitement and danger to the writing process.

HR: In the Skylight Theatre production, the play is infused with drumming, dance, and poetry. Is that unique to this performance, or a style experienced in all the incarnations of the play?

NAD: The poetry is all from the script. Dance is mentioned in the script as well, though of course I did not write choreography. Rhythm and percussion is also present in the script and I think the drumming in this production is a natural outgrowth of that. I’m sure each incarnation of the play will be somewhat unique, but movement and rhythm are key elements in this piece.

HR: What are your greatest influences in life, and how have they informed your work as a writer?

NAD:  I am a Baha’i and have been all of my life. The Baha’i teachings are by far my greatest influence and it’s impossible to quantify how they have informed my work. One thing I can say related to this play is that Dontrell sees his quest as his “contribution to civilization.” I would like to see my life and my writing that way: as an important contribution to a story much greater than myself and more wonderful than I can imagine.

HR: Why do you think this play is important for people to see, and what do you hope that they will come away with after attending?

NAD: I hope they come away wanting to come back again. That may sound glib, but it’s very sincere. Plays are so ephemeral. I hope this one is so compelling and funny and truthful and entertaining that you want to spend more time with it. That you drag your friends and loved ones out to see it before it disappears. I really think I have to let the audience’s experience of the play speak for itself when it comes to things like lessons and takeaways.

HR: How did this happen to come to Los Angeles during the celebration of Black History Month?

NAD: It came to Los Angeles because Skylight Theatre Company and Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble were both excited about the script and wanted to produce the play–so they came together and made it happen. Gary Grossman (Producing Artistic Director of STC) engineered the timing by carving out a spot in his season so it would launch during the February BHM celebration. This is the first of five productions of Dontrell around the county this year. The others will be in April, May and June.

HR: Do you have a vision for this story to become a film?

NAD:  I think the story could make an excellent film. If that opportunity presents itself, I’d certainly be open to adapting it. For now I’m focused on making the play as strong as it can be.

DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA opens at 8:30pm on Friday, February 20th and runs 8:30pm Fridays, 8pm Saturdays, and 3pm Sundays through March 29, 2015 (12pm on Sunday, February 22nd, only, with added matinees at 4pm on Saturday March 7th and 14th).

The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $30. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://skylighttix.com

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