BWW Interview: Cast and Crew of THE NORTH PLAN Talk Swearing, Spying, and Skynyrd

Tomorrow night, Street Corner Artists, one of Austin's newest theater companies, will close their production of the hilarious new comedy, The North Plan.

The North Plan tells the story of Carlton Berg, a bureaucrat for the U.S. State Department, who runs off with the top secret enemies list of a ruthless faction that has seized power in Washington creating a state of martial law. Unfortunately for Carlton, the chase has come to an end in a police station in the Ozarks town of Lodus, Missouri. With a pair of Department of Homeland Security agents on the way, Carlton's last hope arrives in the form of fellow prisoner Tanya Shepke, a motor-mouthed redneck who's turned herself in for drunk driving and has a penchant for raising hell.

BroadwayWorld had the pleasure of speaking with Artistic Director Benjamin Summers and cast members Joe Penrod and Indigo Rael about their latest production...

BWW: How would you describe The North Plan?

Benjamin Summers: It's kind of a mishmash of a lot of different things. There's definitely some kind of darker elements to it that are very relevant regarding the Government and the ways in which the Government spies on us. That's at the heart of the play, and I think that's one of the things that drew us to it. One of the things that we really loved about it is that it kind of takes that as its heart, and then it explodes from there. It has this farcical, slapsticky tone at times. It kind of fluctuates between this really funny comedy, and then you stop laughing for a second and you think, "Wait. I'm not sure that's quite as funny"--

Joe Penrod: --"Or whether I should be laughing at that." There's that dark, sinister quality, but then at the same time its got so much humor. It takes place in a time when Martial Law has been declared in the United States, the Government is in chaos, there's a guy on the run who has a secret database and a couple of Homeland Security agents are trying to track him down before that database can be made public.

BWW: Interesting. And of course the whole idea of the Government spying on people is a timely topic right now.

Benjamin Summers: That was one of the things that was so wonderfully ironic. We did the first reading of the script about a year and a half ago and were trying to figure out how to make this work, and then in the last year and a half there's been a lot of spying stuff coming out about the U.S. The character that Rommel [Sulit] plays is very Edward Snowden-esque. I wish that we could say that we had a crystal ball, but we had no idea that all that was going to go down.

BWW: Well it's certainly great timing. So I read up on the playwright, Jason Wells, and I know this is the second time you've done a production of one of his works, the first one being Men of Tortuga.

Benjamin Summers: That was our first show as a company. We launched with that. In fact, we weren't even a fully-fledged company at that point. Rommel and I were sipping whiskey at a wedding reception. I spent five years doing theater in Chicago and he's from Chicago, and we started talking about how much we loved this Chicago style theater if there is such a thing. You know, that kind of blue collar, dialogue heavy, rhythmic, character-based theater. And Rommel said that he had seen Men of Tortuga when he was back visiting his family a few years before that, and it kind of just went from there. We decided to give it a shot, and it went well, and we said, "I guess we should form a company and keep on doing this."

Joe Penrod: And in that production, A. Skola Summers directed, Benjamin was in it, Rommel was in it, I was in it, Gary Peters was in it, so we have a number of actors back again for The North Plan. We struck up an e-mail relationship with Jason Wells when we were doing Tortuga, and Tortuga was such a success that I think it was Rommel who e-mailed Jason and said, "This is going really well. What else do you have?" and the next thing we know, we've received a manuscript of, at that time, the unpublished The North Plan.

Benjamin Summers: We received an early version of it. At that time, it was still being workshopped in Chicago. We loved it, and just went from there. And Jason actually found out through his agent that we we're doing The North Plan now and we've called him and he's given us pep talks to get us ready for this.




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