Open Fist Theatre Company Celebrates 30 Years of Theater with RORSCHACH FEST
Perception is everything. Open Fist Theatre Company opens its 30th anniversary season with three programs of short works, performed in rotating repertory, by playwrights renowned for pushing the boundaries of theatrical invention. Rorschach Fest, featuring seminal work by John O'Keefe, Daniel MacIvor, Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill, opens Feb. 14 at Atwater Village Theatre, where performances continue through April 5. Pay-What-You-Want previews begin Feb. 11.The Rorschach test is a psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms or both.According to Open Fist artistic director Martha Demson, "Whether looking at an inkblot or watching a play from one of the iconic playwrights we are featuring, both reveal truths beneath the surface, truths that reflect the perspective of the viewer as much as the content provided by the playwrights.""These plays excite because they engage in unexpected ways and they only work live," says associate artistic director Amanda Weier. "They are quintessentially theater because the audience experience is the event. Everyone will experience the ride in their own way, and that's exactly the point and exactly why these plays are so much fun." Inkblot A, which opens the festival on Friday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m., then repeats on Saturday. Feb. 15 at 4 p.m., features Ghosts, written and directed by legendary new theater-maker/playwright/monologist John O'Keefe. An evocation of the afterlife, Ghosts premiered at San Francisco's Magic Theatre in 1981, followed by a five-month Los Angeles run in 1985 that the Los Angeles Times called "a skillful blend of old-fashioned horror show and newfangled experimental theater with a fluidity that suggests-often quite literally-poetry in motion... an unsparing yet ultimately compassionate view of the human condition." This marks Open Fist's third production of a John O'Keefe play: In 2017, the company presented Tina Preston in O'Keefe's Don't You Ever Call Me Anything But Mother, which Stage Raw called "astonishing... what seems simple is really deep and full of complex nuance and choice"; in 2018, Open Fist's Southern California premiere of All Night Long was called "magic... riotously funny in a dark, twisted way [while] also deeply moving and profound" by radio station KCRW, which named it to its year-end "Best of 2018" list. Ghosts stars Bryan Bertone, Cat Davis, Jan Munroe, Tina Preston, Elif Savas and Janine Venable. Joining the Festival on Saturday, Feb 15 at 8 p.m. and repeating on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 4 p.m., Inkblot B is made up of two one acts. Harold Pinter's Landscape, here directed by Christopher Cappiello, was first performed 50 years ago. A compact, hypnotic portrait of loneliness and the damaged terrain of a long-term marriage in which the two spouses (Laura James and Tom Noga) are locked in a motionless chase for each other's attention, Landscape poetically and powerfully reveals the degrees to which one can remain hopelessly unknown to his or her life partner. Never Swim Alone is a slyly witty, unexpectedly suspenseful landmark of the Canadian theater, written by Daniel MacIvor and directed by Amanda Weier. Two men, Frank and Bill (Bryan Bertone and Dylan Maddalena) compete for the title of "first man" under the watchful eye of the Referee (Ann Marie Wilding) - a young woman with a secret connection to the boys these men used to be. According to Variety, "Daniel MacIvor's plays have been labeled everything from postmodern to metatheatrical, but these are cold terms that do nothing to capture the warm, accessible soul of a writer whose honesty and compassion for both audiences and his characters is at the heart of all his work." Finally, Inkblot C, which begins performances on Sunday Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. and repeats on Monday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m., includes two plays by Caryl Churchill. This Is A Chair, directed by Open Fist artistic director Martha Demson, juxtaposes momentous news headlines with scenes of everyday life to sometimes funny, sometimes chilling effect. Churchill's short play about the surreal nature of modern life was first performed at The Royal Court Theatre in 1997 as part of the London International Festival of Theatre. Here We Go, directed by Son of Semele artistic director Matthew McCray, is an unsentimental exploration of the final stages of life and the mysterious moments that follow in the great unknown. As a small group of acquaintances assemble at a funeral to recount what they remember about the deceased, he has already begun a new chapter in the after-life. The two plays utilize the same cast: Megan Brotherton, Emma Bruno, Carmella Jenkins, Schuyler Mastain, Debba Rofheart, David Shofner, Casey Sullivan, Alexander Wells and AlgeRita Wynn - with the addition of Neil Oktay and Steven Rosenbaum in This Is A Chair, and Alberto Isaac in Here We Go. The Rorschach Fest creative team includes scenic designers Jan Munroe (Inkblots A and B) and Jim Spencer (Inkblot C); lighting designer Matt Richter; sound designer Tim Labor; and prop master Bruce Dickinson.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, signified by a fist, is necessary if the theater is to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness.Rorschach Fest opens on Feb. 14 and continues through April 5, with performances on Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Mondays at 8 p.m. Inkblots A, B and C will each perform twice per week on a rotating schedule; scroll down for a detailed performance schedule, or check the website at www.openfist.org. There will be three preview performances, on Monday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. (Inkblot A); Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. (Inkblot B); and Wednesday, Feb, 12 at 8 p.m. (Inkblot C). Tickets to a single Inkblot performance are $25 with advance purchase and $30 at the door. A two-Inkblot package is available for $40, and all three Inkblots can be seen for $50; packages are available online only. Tickets to previews 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.