1812 Productions to Stage Jennifer Childs' New Comedy I WILL NOT GO GENTLY
A rock 'n' roll queen returns for her crown in I WILL NOT GO GENTLY, a world premiere comedy written and performed by Jennifer Childs, running April 21 - May 15, 2016 from 1812 Productions. This play with music tells the story of fictional '80s rock icon Sierra Mist and the spirit of rebellion embodied in her music. Sierra has gone from top of the charts to middle aged obscurity, leaving behind a legion of fans for whom her songs were the anthems of their adolescence.
I WILL NOT GO GENTLY opens at a rehearsal for Sierra's comeback tour. It's been 30 years since she topped the charts with her sexually charged debut track Jack in My Box and Sierra wants to get back in the spotlight. We soon meet Abby, Sierra's number one fan, who spent her youth idolizing the free-spirited rock star but who is now a mother living in suburbia, hosting a nightly podcast, and trying to find the right yoga class. We meet Abby's daughter Tabitha, a tech-obsessed teen, self-confident, and self-assured that she'll never turn out like her mother. When Abby hears of Sierra's comeback tour, she's ready to rock once more, but finds she may be looking for a rush that only exists in her memory. Sierra hits the road with her catalogue of classics, encountering nothing but roadblocks from journalists, business managers, and younger musicians who are all doubtful about this middle-aged woman in black leather and combat boots -- an LP rocker going for broke in an iTunes world.
As Sierra's tour grinds on, we join Abby at her high school reunion, where we meet her friends -- more of the parents, professionals, and suburbanites who, in their youth, worshipped at Sierra's feet. We meet Abby's grandmother, who's over the hill and over the nonsense of being anybody's Nana. We meet another faded star, Daphne Thundergrass, who turned one season as a 1970s TV superhero into a lifetime career as a self-help guru. I WILL NOT GO GENTLY holds aloft a cast of characters who are in the middle of their lives. Some are kicking and screaming, some are asking for directions, and some are questioning every life choice, fighting the world and their own self-doubt as they each try for a comeback of their own. Throughout the story, Sierra Mist's music is their soundtrack.
To create the show's soundtrack, Jennifer Childs partnered with Barrymore Award-winning sound designer and composer Christopher Colucci. Together they dove into their own musical memories, drawing inspiration from musicians like Liz Phair, Patti Smith, Ramones, and Joan Jett to create a soundtrack that would propel the story of I WILL NOT GO GENTLY, as well as stand on its own as a greatest hits package from Jen Childs' fictional rock heroine. Colucci says of their collaboration, "Jen's original impulse was to be thinking about Liz Phair and I got really excited about that as, when I started making music years ago, I was influenced by her as well-that kind of artful, punk, lo-fi energy. Then she threw Joan Jett into the mix and we were off. This is the first time I've ever written music in this style, but it brings me back to my days of doing live gigs and it's super exciting to be playing it again."
All of the songs soundtracked or performed live in I WILL NOT GO GENTLY will be available on 1812 Productions' first-ever album release, I WILL NOT GO GENTLY: The Soundtrack, available for purchase on CD at each performance, and available for download on iTunes, Amazon.com, and CDBaby. The CD release will include liner notes with full lyrics and personal notes on each track by Jennifer Childs. Songs will be available for preview mid-April on 1812 Productions' website, www.1812productions.org, and social media pages. The album will be available for download on April 21st.
Barrymore Award-winner Harriet Power returns to 1812 to take the director's seat for I WILL NOT GO GENTLY after a six-month workshop and development process, working one on one with Jennifer Childs. I WILL NOT GO GENTLY also welcomes the powerful design team of Lance Kniskern (set designer), Jorge Cousineau (video designer), Shelley Hicklin (lighting designer), and Rosemarie McKelvey (costume designer). These four artists have worked collaboratively on more than a dozen 1812 Productions shows and have once again brought their talents to bear on a production that ranges in aesthetic from rock concert to suburban living room, from backstage tour to high school cafeteria.
Written in sections, character by character and song by song, over the course of a year, I WILL NOT GO GENTLY brings the much maligned, and surprisingly revolutionary, process of aging to the stage in a group of voices that are deadly sincere and unstoppably hopeful. On her inspiration for I WILL NOT GO GENTLY, Childs says, "I remember watching American Idol one night and the rap group Salt-n-Pepa was performing as a part of a throwback '80s Night.' I was a huge fan of theirs growing up and was shocked when they came on screen looking like middle aged women. Not that they shouldn't look like middle aged women, as they certainly are, but in that brief moment they no longer aligned with this powerful memory I have of them. I had this split-second thought, 'Oh my goodness, if they are old, then I must be old.' That was my first step into the creation of the Sierra Mist character."
Childs continues, "Finding myself at the doorstep of middle age really surprised me. I had all these assumptions about who I'd be, how together my life would be, and how I'd handle the aging process with wit and grace. None of these assumptions turned out to be true. The truth is far more complicated, richer, juicier. I think so often that popular comedy about aging is simplified-reduced to jokes about Viagra or sagging cleavage. I listen to friends who are in this middle time of their lives and they speak alternately about feeling more powerful than ever, more confused than ever, more creative than ever and more invisible than ever. I WILL NOT GO GENTLY explores that place of liminality."
I WILL NOT GO GENTLY will be performed from April 21st through May 15th at Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Street in Center City. Opening night will be Wednesday, April 27th at 7:00pm. Tickets range from $28-$42 and are available at 215-592-9560 or at www.1812productions.org.
I WILL NOT GO GENTLY welcomes honorary producers Sharon and Jeff Weiss. I WILL NOT GO GENTLY is produced as part of The Phoebe and Otto Premiere Series with support from The Wyncote Foundation. Additional production support has been provided by The Charlotte Cushman Foundation, The Independence Foundation, and Pat's King of Steaks. I WILL NOT GO GENTLY also welcomes media sponsor Where Magazine.
Jennifer Childs (Writer/ Performer): Jennifer Childs is the Producing Artistic Director and Co-Founder of 1812 Productions. For 1812 she has created over a dozen original works of theater including To The Moon, This Is The Week That Is, Always a Lady, Our Show of Shows, Cherry Bomb, and It's My Party: The Women and Comedy Project. Her one-woman show Why I'm Scared of Dance by Jen Childs premiered at 1812 and has since been performed at Delaware Theatre Company, the Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, Act II Playhouse, and City Theatre in Pittsburgh. Favorite performances outside of 1812 include The Happiness Lecture with Bill Irwin at Philadelphia Theater Company, Spin at the Wilma Theater, Red Herring and Dex and Julie Sittin' in a Tree at the Arden Theatre Company.
Christopher Colucci (Composer/ Sound Designer): Recent projects: Metamorphoses (Arden Theatre Company); Disgraced (Philadelphia Theatre Company); #TheRevolution (InterAct Theatre Company); Smoke (Theatre Exile); and Peter and the Starcatcher (Walnut Street Theatre). Christopher has received seven Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Original Music and Sound Design as well as an Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts in 2012. MA, Philosophy; Western Kentucky University. For more sounds please visit http://soundcloud.com/cmsound and https://www.youtube.com/user/cmsound.
Harriet Power (Director): Harriet is thrilled to return to 1812 where she's also directed Why I'm Scared of Dance by Jen Childs and dramaturged It's My Party: The Women and Comedy Project. She's worked extensively with new plays and playwrights at RADA (London), New Dramatists (NYC), Philadelphia's PlayPenn, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, West Coast Playwrights, Iowa Playwrights Festival, and the International Women Playwrights Festival. Her seven-actor adaptation of The Tempest garnered critical acclaim and extended its run at Act II Playhouse (Ambler, PA), and she is deep into co-writing a musical with composer/musician Jeff Thomas. She was Artistic Director of Venture Theatre from 1994-98, and Associate Artistic Director of Act II Playhouse, 2008-12. She has received three Barrymore Award nominations for Outstanding Direction, winning for Angels in America: Perestroika; her productions have earned scores of other Barrymore honors. Internationally, she directed Dinner With Friends at Teatro L'Arciliuto (Rome, Italy, 2004, named Best of Rome in Trova Roma), at the International Women's Theatre Festival (Galway), and at the Royal Conservatoire in Liege, Belgium. Recent freelance directing includes the Michael Hollinger/Vance Lemkuhl musical A Wonderful Noise (New Dramatistis, NYC & Villanova); Three Sisters (Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, 2012, Best Theatre Experience of the Year), In a Dark Dark House at Simpatico (four Barrymore Award nominations including Outstanding Production), world premieres by Seth Rozin (Missing Link & Reinventing Eden) at InterAct Theatre Company, and readings of Sam Henderson's The Brownings (Philadelphia Theatre Company & InterAct Theatre Company). She is a Professor of Theatre and Graduate Theatre Thesis Director at Villanova University. MFA Directing, U. of Iowa/ Best Director, Iowa Playwrights Festival.
1812 Productions was founded in 1997 and is the only professional theater company in the country dedicated to comedy. Their education program, 1812 Outreach, has received multiple nominations and been awarded the Barrymore Award for Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service. 1812 Productions is the recipient of an honorary citation from the City of Philadelphia for outstanding work and commitment to the Philadelphia arts community. In 2010, they were honored as one of only 10 theaters in the country to receive a National Theatre Company grant from the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. 1812 Productions, while continually on the search for a permanent home, continues to perform at various locations in Philadelphia.