BWW Interviews: Drake Simpson, Kevin Jones, and Logan Vaden Talk Horse Head Theater Company's production of THE ALIENS
Last week, I had the opportunity to drop in on the cast of Horse Head Theater Productions upcoming presentation of Annie Baker's THE ALIENS. Drake Simpson empathically said that the group is excited to present the Houston premiere of the play. Annie Baker is an up and coming and award winning playwright, who had her Houston premiere with Stark Naked Theatre Company's production of her first full length play BODY AWARENESS. Her second play CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION shared the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play with her third play THE ALIENS. Annie Baker's THE ALIENS was also a finalist for the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. In March 2013, Annie Baker was awarded the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize at Houston's Alley Theatre for her fifth play THE FLICK. Needless to say, the enthusiasm surrounding this Houston premiere is high, and the cast was thrilled to chat about Horse Head Theater Company's upcoming production of THE ALIENS.
BWW: Houston has just started to fall in love with playwright Annie Baker. Stark Naked Theatre's successful production of BODY AWARENESS at Studio 101 has put her on our radar. As Horse Head Theater Company explored her other works, what made THE ALIENS stand out?
Drake Simpson: Have we explored her other works? I was in BODY AWARENESS, and then I read CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION. We knew that had already been done and part of our mission is not to produce anything that has been produced here before. Actually, I knew I was going to like this play before we read it because I knew the situation, where it took place. [To Me] I read probably what you read about it. Then, I knew, having worked on her dialogue before, how great of a writer she is. So, before we even read it, I was excited about it. We got it, sat down and read it one time, and we were like "Yup. Okay!" I knew it was going to be good! Sometimes you just get a gut feeling, you know, like "This is gonna be good! I know this is gonna be good!" That's the extent that we've explored her other works.
Kevin Jones: Yeah. I was aware of her - she's a rising, new playwright - but I had not looked at all of her stuff to find a script to do. So, it was new to me when Drake [Simpson] brought it to us.
Logan Vaden: My background is more musical theatre, so she wasn't on my radar, really. But, I read the script and loved it. It's so interesting - the characters, the way they all mesh together. It's definitely something that afterwards, after I read the script, I got more into her and explored her stuff. She's amazing.
BWW: Many of the reviews of THE ALIENS point out the classical sensibilities that Annie Baker has worked into the play. What is it like preparing a modern piece that utilizes notions like the Aristotelian unities?
Kevin Jones: So, Jacey Little, who is working with us on the show, she had mentioned that too - that a lot of people had compared it to Aristotelian structure. At first glance, I didn't see that. So, I looked at it again to see what comparisons I could draw.
Drake Simpson: One place.
Kevin Jones: There is one place. It does take place in a compressed period of time. I mean, it's not dawn to dusk like a Greek play usually is, but the span of time is collapsed. The number of characters is collapsed. I think what people are referring to with that usually is that things take place off stage that are very important but that aren't necessarily staged. I think that's what people are reacting to with that. But we don't wanna say too much. (Laughs) There's a central theme. There are definitely comparisons to Greek unities.
In the modern sense, she's taking pretty human concerns - very basic human concerns - like the Greeks did, but applying this modern, or even post-modern, sensibility. She's being very subtle about it where a Greek play will come right out and tell you, "This is how we feel about this. The gods feel this way, and we feel this way." It's just so much subtler. Everything isn't stated flat out in that way, which I think might be a difference.