Open Fist Presents Shattering Comedy WALKING TO BUCHENWALD
Two couples learn what it means to be American in a world that no longer admires the U.S. Open Fist Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Walking To Buchenwald, a protean comedy with shocking consequences by Tom Jacobson. Roderick Menzies directs for a Sept. 15 opening at Atwater Village Theatre.Cultural, national and gender identity; politics; marriage; death; and the mutability of theater are some of the many motifs that run through Jacobson's deceptively sweet story in which a soon-to-be-married couple, Schiller and Arjay, take Schiller's parents on their first trip to Europe.Using his personal experience as a jumping off point (like Schiller, Jacobson works at L.A.'s Natural History Museum, and he and his partner did take his parents to Europe for their 50th anniversary), Jacobson takes the audience on an ominously comic journey during which guinea pigs play cricket, dead bodies talk and an unexpected trip to a concentration camp leads to a shocking yet poignant conclusion. Laura James (Gertrude Stein's Ms Furr and Ms Skeene at the John Anson Ford, Murray Mednick's The Destruction of the 4th World at Art Share L.A.) and Ben Martin (over 150 recorded books and 200 stage productions, on faculty at American Academy of Dramatic Arts) star as Midwesterners Mildred and Roger, she a retired schoolteacher, he a former theater professor.Will Bradley (Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at A Noise Within, Stupid F*cking Bird at Boston Court) plays multiple roles including a bus driver in Weimer, Germany, the charming tourist town that is famous as Goethe's birthplace - and locale of the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp.In a stroke of non-gender specific casting that dramatically illustrates the extent to which acting can change a story, two women, Mandy Schneider (The Avengers, House, multiple theater credits in Chicago) and Amielynn Abellera (Captain of the Bible Quiz Team at Rogue Machine), alternate with two men, Christopher Cappiello (Death Trap at Sierra Madre Playhouse) and Justin Huen (Farragut North at the Geffen Playhouse, Electricidad at Mark Taper Forum) in the roles of Schiller and Arjay. "Theater is a mutable thing, which is what makes it living and unique," explains Jacobson. "Every night of a production is different, and every production of the same play is different. I love the idea that who you cast changes the way you feel about both the character and the situation. That's something I always like to play with in my work."Tom Jacobson is one of L.A.'s most acclaimed writers. His plays include The Devil's Wife (currently running at the Skylight Theatre), Sperm at Circle X Theatre Company, The Orange Grove at Playwrights Arena, and the award-winning Bunbury, Tainted Blood, Ouroboros and The Friendly Hour at the Road Theatre Company. The Twentieth-Century Way premiered at The Theatre @ Boston Court and The New York International Fringe Festival (five Ovation Award nominations, four Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle nominations, one GLAAD Award nomination, Fringe Festival Award for Outstanding Production of a Play, PEN Center Award for Drama) and moved off-Broadway to Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. Making Paradise: The West Hollywood Musical was produced by Cornerstone Theater Company (Back Stage Critic's Pick). Most receNT Productions include the world premieres of The Chinese Massacre (Annotated) at Circle X and House of the Rising Son at Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA (Los Angeles Times "Critic's Choice," winner of two LADCC Awards, GLAAD Award nomination). Rogue Machine Theatre Company produced Captain of the Bible Quiz Team (LADCC Award, Stage Raw Top Ten). Film: PrairieSonata (based on The Friendly Hour). Opera: Hopscotch, commissioned by The Industry. Roderick Menzies has collaborated frequently with playwright Tom Jacobson over the past decade, including a critically acclaimed performance as Bowen Varro in Jacobson's The House of the Rising Son for Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA where Mr. Menzies is producing co-artistic director. As a director, he has helmed over 60 theater productions, including four world premieres for EST/LA: Tempted, by Jennifer Maisel; The Marriage Suite by Susan Merson; The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King by Andrew Dolan (Ovation nomination for Best New Play); and the upcoming Mice by Schaeffer Nelson, which opens this October. As adept with classics as he is with new plays, Mr. Menzies directed The Duchess of Malfi, The Maid's Tragedy and Pericles as a guest director with the Shakespeare Theatre's Academy for Classical Acting in Washington DC. Additional directing credits include Nora (Pico Playhouse); Twelfth Night (USC's Bing Theatre); White Birches (American Arts Festival, NY); It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Penobscot Theatre Company, Bangor ME); and more than a dozen solo shows, including the comedy hit Bitch Trouble, written and performed by Alice Johnson, which enjoyed sold out runs in L.A. at Atwater Village Theatre and in NYC at The Duplex. As an actor, he has performed leading roles at A Noise Within, the Odyssey, Pico Playhouse, Getty Villa, Chalk Rep and EST/LA. This is his directorial debut for Open Fist, where he recently appeared as DaddyO in the company's epic production of Murray Mednick's The Gary Plays. The Open Fist Theatre Company is a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members. The company's name combines the notion that an open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas, is essential, with the idea that determination and even force, signified by a fist, is necessary if the theater is to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness.The creative team for Walking To Buchenwald includes scenic designer Richard Hoover, lighting designer Ellen Monocroussos, sound designer Peter Carlstedt and costume designer Kharen Zeunert. Deena Tovar is the production stage manager, and Martha Demson produces for Open Fist Theatre Company.Walking To Buchenwald runs Sept. 15 through Oct. 21 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. Preview performances take place Sept. 9 through Sept. 14 on the same schedule, with an additional preview on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 for all performances, except previews which are Pay-What-You-Want. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.