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DJANGO IN PAIN to be Presented Online as Part of 59E59 Theaters Plays In Place Program

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Django in Pain uses puppets and found objects to explore the timeless question of how to create in moments of inner turmoil.

DJANGO IN PAIN to be Presented Online as Part of 59E59 Theaters Plays In Place Program

PlayCo and Por Piedad Teatro's filmed theatrical version of Django in Pain, a new play written by Antonio Vega and created by Ana Graham & Vega, with original music by Cristóbal MarYán, will run October 5-19, on-demand, as part of 59E59 Theaters Plays In Place program. For this "table top theater" work, shot on an iPhone in Graham and Vega's apartment, the artists use hand-made puppets and found objects to create a whimsically melancholy world the size of a drafting desk. Django in Pain is offered in both English and Spanish, with options for closed captioning in both languages and audio descriptions in English. The Spanish language version, Django con la soga al cuello, was created with support from TEATRO UNAM / Cultura UNAM.

The narrative begins with playwright Antonio Vega opening up about his depression while attempting to pen a new work-Django, A Happy Story. Unfortunately, his main character wants to die. Django in Pain chronicles the misfortunes and adventures of this character, Django, and a three-legged dog, in a multi-layered tale of despair, loyalty and hope.

Though the idea behind it-to create an uplifting play about depression surrounding a puppet loosely inspired by Django Reinhardt-had been sitting with the artists for a while before, they fully embarked on creating it at the crest of the pandemic in New York, when PlayCo extended the offer of a mini-commission. Initially crafted in a moment when solitude was a given, this work's creation-using the household objects available to the artists to build a meticulous and surprisingly magical reflection of inner turmoil-acutely reflects its unprecedented times, yet speaks to any moment. It explores timeless questions about creativity and collaboration within the constraints of depression and isolation.

Early parts of Django in Pain were first presented within PlayCo's Mini-Commission series of digital experiments, which were initiated in April 2020, with the goal of keeping financial and creative support flowing to artists and generating work for audiences shortly after the New York theater industry's shutdown. Offered virtually to audiences in Summer 2020, the Mini-Commissions highlighted the scope of artists' abilities to offer both clarity and complexity to our understandings of the world, even as they worked within exceptional constraints.

Helen Shaw recommended the "lovely," "small-but-mighty" Mini-Commission preview of the eventual longer work in New York Magazine, noting Django in Pain's "buoyant" approach to themes of depression and suicidal ideation. "Perhaps," she speculated, "it's because we always see Django [the puppet] held up by Graham and Vega's four hands - the stunned and unhappy puppet can't see them, but we can. All that invisible support! It gives the viewer a sympathetic sensation, as if hands are just above our arms, holding us up too."

Kate Loewald says of the project, "Django in Pain is ultimately envisioned as a live theatre piece, but its first incarnation is as a film, handcrafted. They shot about half of the story in their apartment during lockdown for the mini-commission, and thanks to generous support from 59E59Theaters/The Elysabeth Kleinhans Foundation, they were able to complete it this past summer. Ana and Antonio always inspire me so much, as artists, as producers with their company Por Piedad Teatro, and as people. Django is an astonishing and beautiful piece about depression, creativity, and love. It's both deeply personal and universal. This is the fourth project we've produced together since 2012, and they never cease to amaze me with their sense of humor, invention and compassion."

Important trigger advisory: This story is about a character who is dealing with depression, and contains strong images and language associated with suicidal thoughts and actions. There are also images of injured animals in distress (not photographic).

Resources are listed at the end of the film.

For this production, PlayCo is partnering with iD Theater's Bilingual Healing Arts Initiative, which intends to improve the emotional and mental well-being of the Mott Haven and Melrose community by providing participants with artistic outlets of expression and a space for community empowerment. This is particularly vital for addressing mental health challenges for immigrant, Black, and Latino populations, who often encounter stigma against seeking mental health services. PlayCo will present a series of free screenings of Django in Pain to members of iD Theater's community throughout October, as well as providing facilitated opportunities for audiences to explore their individual and communal mental health and well-being. iD Theater previously partnered with PlayCo as a performance venue and conversation space for Oh My Sweet Land (2017).

Ticketing Information

Tickets cost $15 per household. PlayCo is committed to maintaining affordable access as part of our mission. We always maintain modest ticket prices, and our OpenHouse Program advances our efforts to remove price as a barrier. Accessible pricing options are available for our community partners. Please email cdo@playco.org for more information.

Buy tickets at 59E59's website.


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