BWW Interview: Director Jacey Little of FEATHERS AND TEETH at Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company
Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company is getting set to open Charise Castro Smith's comical and thrilling FEATHERS AND TEETH on October 19th in the height of the Halloween season. Described by Director Jacey Little as "fun, quirky, and 1970's vintage", this engaging, entertaining, and unexpectedly heartfelt performance will be the perfect pre-game event for an evening of Halloween antics.
Jacey Little will be returning to the Mildred's Umbrella stage as Director after her appearance last year as guest director and developer for a new play, Katherine Sherman's Dollface, which earned the honor of "Best New Play" by the Houston Press. "Feathers and Teeth will by my first show directing as a company artist" said Little, "[It] is hilarious - it's been a while since I've worked on a comedy and I'm loving it!". Little described the style of Feathers and Teeth as "bloody (but not gory!), fantastical, and heartfelt". Though it is worth noting that the show is rated PG-13, this performance will appeal to audiences of all ages, especially those "in the mood for a Halloween-related event without getting drowned in decorations, bad cocktails and costume contests", says Little. The show will be scary and enjoyably surprising, but not a nightmare-inducing sight.
Below, Little discusses the difference between her past show as Director with Mildred's Umbrella, what audiences should-and maybe won't-expect from Feathers and Teeth, and how she and Mildred's designers worked with the fantastical elements of Halloween to bring spirit and excitement to this slap-stick comedy, heartfelt show.
How has the directing of Feathers and Teeth been different from other shows you've directed for Mildred's Umbrella?
Dollface looked at rape culture through the lens of contemporary high school-age slut shaming & pop culture mashed up with Medusa mythology. It was a serious show, a real kick in the uterus. Feathers and Teeth is a little on the lighter side, compared to Dollface. My favorite thing about the script is although it begs for a sitcom-stylization, including slap-stick comedy, larger than life characters, and absurd situations, it also has heart and substance.
"Chris" or "Christine" (portrayed by Maddie Calais) is a 13-year-old girl who is grieving the loss of her mother. Her mother passed away after battling cancer just two months before the start of our play, but before Chris is able to cope with this loss, her father "Arthur" (Jeff Miller) starts a new relationship. "Carol" (Danielle Bunch), dad's new girlfriend, was also Chris' mother's in-home nurse. Normal step-mom problems aside, Chris is convinced that Carol is evil. Like most plays I enjoy directing, the main characters are female (which is consistent for Mildred's Umbrella!). Feathers and Teeth centers primarily on Chris and Carol's battle over the household and Arthur's love. This struggle is weighted in reality - even if the circumstances of Charise Castro Smith's play are fantastical.
This spooky and mysterious show will be running in the heart of the Halloween season. Is there anything you've done as a director to enhance the Halloween spirit and tone of the show?
The spooky side of Feathers and Teeth begins with the mysterious creature in the pot... brought to life by Sound Designer and Composer Anthony Barilla, this delightfully blood-thirsty creature baffles the characters. What is it? A turkey? A fox? A possum? Where did it come from? Beyond the grave? And what the hell are they going to do about it?
Anthony sampled a number of sound sources to create this creature's voice and wrote us a sitcom-like theme song for the production! Feathers and Teeth will be a feast of sound. There will also be video animations provided by Tim Thomson & lighting by Greg Starbird, illuminating Torsten Louis' scenic design. Jodie Daniels has unearthed many vintage gems for costumes.
To tap into the stylization, I encouraged the cast to refresh themselves on a variety of sitcoms - The Brady Bunch, Family Matters, and even modern shows like Parks & Recreation. For that Halloween vibe, I pointed them to Young Frankenstein, a personal favorite of mine.
I had the pleasure of speaking to playwright Charise Castro Smith a few weeks ago - when asked about her influences, Charise surprised me by saying that although Feathers and Teeth plays on the 1970s-horror genre mashed up with a Brady Bunch-like sitcom, her primary source of inspiration was Hamlet. She sees Chris as a 13-year-old female version of Hamlet. What happens when a child loses a parent and that parent is replaced too quickly? Hence, the heart of Feathers and Teeth.
According to Little, "Audiences should expect a good laugh-some blood splatter-and an unexpected tug on their heartstrings. Feathers and Teeth is a great live experience and could well be the most fun they've had in a theatre this year". As if that isn't intriguing enough, Little adds that audiences should look forward to surprises that can only be made possible in a theatrical setting.
FEATHERS AND TEETH opens on October 19th and will run through the Halloween season, closing on November 4th. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00pm. There will be a matinee performance Sunday, October 29th at 3:00pm, and there will be a Pay What You Can performance on Monday, October 30th at 8:00pm. General admission is $25, with $15 discount tickets available for students, seniors (65 and over), and arts industry. To purchase tickets for FEATHERS AND TEETH, visit Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company's website at mildredsumbrella.com or call the Box Office at 832.463.0409.
Photo by Gentle Bear Photography