New York hyphenate Daniel Talbott, a literary manager at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and co-founder of Rising Phoenix Repertory, has brought his storytelling skills with him to the Bay area, his home town. And he’s getting a little help from his friends.
Talbott will direct a free workshop presentation of his own new play, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait, at ACT’s The Costume Shop in San Francisco on Friday, August 31 at 7pm and Saturday, September 1 at 4pm. Presented by Encore Theatre Company and Rattlestick, the workshop will feature actors from Talbott’s stable of performers, including Liam Callister, Jimmy Davis, Brian Miskell, Seth Numrich, Jelena Stupljanin, and Wendy Vanden Heuvel.
“Getting to work on this play at home in California with some of my theater family has been one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had,” Talbott said. “I started at ACT when I was a kid and I can’t say how wonderful it’s been to be back there, running around, working, laughing, and playing – it’s just been amazing and I couldn’t be more thankful to my theater home Rattlestick and to Encore.”
AZAK, as the show is referred to, is still a work-in-progress, but provides a contemporary look at the effects of war off the battleground. And the subject matter seems to be reverberating with all the members of the ensemble.
“Trying to understand the experience of being a soldier in war is impossible unless experienced,” Davis said. “I had a very good dear friend I met doing theatre in high school. He was a casualty of war by the early age of 21 or 22. I dedicate this process of discovery and experimentation to him. Thinking of him, I know he’d think it was worthy.”
Miskell concurred about AZAK telling a dark but imperative story. “This play is taking me to the ugliest, most dangerous places I’ve ever gone as an actor, but I think it’s incredibly important to talk about how our wars and selfishness and hatred are destroying this planet.”
“I love that while Daniel’s play absolutely confronts that darkness, it’s actually about life,” he added. “And because of that, it celebrates everything we have to lose. I wouldn’t be able to approach that darkness or that joy without a director/ playwright and actors that I love and trust this much.”
Other members of the cast were equally effusive about the opportunity to work with Talbott. “I love Daniel’s writing, period,” Stupljanin enthused. “And watching all of his plays being produced all over the country before, I’ve always wanted to be part of it. Daniel told me one day that he wanted to write a part for me. I was beyond happy for the opportunity to work with him again and to work with all the incredible actors in this cast who are also my good friends!”
“Comfortability with each other allows us to work faster in this abbreviated rehearsal process without having to sacrifice the laughs that keep a rehearsal room buoyant and fun for all involved,” Davis said, enforcing how crucial a role camaraderie played in putting AZAK together. “Keeping the lightness is essential.”
“I think of this play as all of ours and I wrote it for these guys and I feel so much of all of us is buried in it,” Talbott added. For AZAK, is not just a homecoming of sorts, but also about giving back and giving thanks.
“The Bay Area theater community has always been one of my biggest inspirations and the theater artists here were my first heroes. This whole play has been about going home, friendship, family, and being thankful. Thankful for love, loyalty, compassion, family, friendship, and life.”
More information about Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait can be found at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/270586
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