Apr 23 2015
We want to know! What did you think of Outside Mullingar?
The following post was written by Artistic Literary Intern Eric Werner. At intermission or after the show, the lobbies are abuzz with audience feedback: “I never knew…” from younger patrons; “I rememb...Read more
Last Tuesday we hosted Stage Voices, the only cast talkback of the All the Way and The Great Society run. If you missed the event, here are the top six things the actors told us that you may not alrea...Read more
Apr 21 2015
Our current Leo K. offering, Lizard Boy, was written, composed and performed by Justin Huertas. Literary Director Kristin Leahey sat down with two talented performers of this world premiere, fellow “Lizards” Kirsten deLohr Helland (Siren) and Bill Williams (Cary). What follows is a conversation about the extensive and diverse instrumentation in the show.
KL: What instruments do you play in Lizard Boy?
KDH: All of the instruments. All of them. And Justin is literally the reason why. He was like, “You’re gonna probably play piano. Also guitar. Probably ukulele.”
KL: You learned all these instruments for Lizard Boy? That’s amazing! Bill, what experience did you have with playing prior to this show?
BW: A little piano because my dad played – I think I took lessons for like a year when I was 8.
KL: What are all the instruments that you use in the show?
BW: We play kazoos, guitars, glockenspiel, melodica, some egg shakers, and beat box…
KDH: You start with guitar, shaker, beat boxing, piano, kazoo and glockenspiel. Do you do anything else? I know everybody’s track.
BW: I think it’s just guitar and piano after that.
KDH: Bill, I think you play the most music in the show – maybe not the most instruments but the most music – full length songs. Without Bill, no one would be singing with music. Justin plays the cello throughout, but he’s picked very specific places in the show where he does that. He plays the guitar once and the uke once but the story revolves around him, so he doesn’t really have a lot of opportunity to support people. On the other hand, I’m like a sound machine over in the corner. Everything that is not beat boxing or guitar or cello – I play.
KL: You don’t play guitar in the show? I thought you did!
KDH: Not really. There was a time when I did and now I don’t. I pluck on the guitar.
KL: How do you remember all that? It’s usually a simple question, but for this show it’s not.
BW: Its one of those things that once you start, everything just clicks.
KDH: There was a day right before we started tech when Mike Egan, our stage manager, said, “Before you guys perform, I just have to run through all of the instruments and things you play in each number for sound.”
And we’re like, cool. It was at that moment that he listed off the GINORMOUS amount of things we do in each song. And we thought, “Oh, we’re busy – no wonder we’re tired everyday.” We’re always singing, we’re always talking, and we’re always playing instruments.
Experience the music for yourself! Lizard Boy plays through May 2.
Apr 16 2015
Our current Leo K. offering, Lizard Boy, was written, composed and performed by Justin Huertas. But PLEASE…don’t mistake it for a one-man show. Literary Director Kristin Leahey found a moment to sit down with the other two talented performers of this world premiere, fellow “Lizards” Kirsten deLohr Helland (Siren) and Bill Williams (Cary). What follows is an impromptu conversation about all things new play development.
KL: How long have you two known each other and where did you meet?
BW: Kirsten and I met about a year and a half before Spring Awakening (produced in 2012 by Balagan Theatre) through just knowing the same people in the theatre. I came and saw her in The Yellow Wood (produced by Contemporary Classics in 2010, directed by Brandon Ivie – also Artistic Director of the company) and she saw me in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (produced by Contemporary Classics and RK Productions in 2010).
KDH: Yeah, we’ve seen each other in a bunch of shows. It’s sort of the nature of the community; you may not have ever worked or actually met someone but you know everyone.
BW: And then we officially worked together on Spring Awakening with myself as a musician and Kirsten as an actress. And then around that time was when Justin (Huertas), was putting together the cast for Lizard Boy and he asked both of us to be in it.
KL: What was the play development process for Lizard Boy?
BW: Justin came in with the idea that he and Jerry (Manning, the late Seattle Rep Artistic Director) had figured out about the character Lizard Boy, but as far as the show, there was really not much written at all.
KDH: He had one scene written.
BW: (laughs) And we were like, “Cool, great…alright.”
KDH: We asked, “What are our characters; who are we?” With Lizard Boy, the whole entire process from day one, even until opening night when we were still making changes, has been the most collaborative – like, scary/wonderful collaborative.
BW: I give so many props to Jerry Manning because at the beginning, all three of us, and especially Justin, were kind of freaking, just sitting there wide-eyed like “huhh? What….okay?” And Jerry just said, “We’re going to put these papers up” and he tacked butcher paper to the wall and started jotting things down.
KDH: It was essentially like being in college again. It felt like we were in a really intimate classroom setting with our mentor professor saying, “How do you write a play? I’ll tell you how to write a play” (laughs) but at the same time, he didn’t tell us to do anything, he was sort of just like watching over us. Watching the kids play make- believe, make up a story, completely cushioning our imagination and not saying that anything was bad. He never said that anything was wrong; he would just ask questions like, “What are Trevor’s powers? What’s Siren’s power? What does Siren want? What does Cary want?”
BW: He always wanted clarity.
KDH: Clarity, the journey, the struggles, things like that. And then musically, he was just unaware, nothing really to say except “I liked it, I didn’t like it.”
BW: Justin would come in with a whole song, which still blows my mind –
KDH: Just a lyric sheet, which he wrote overnight –
BW: He would just come in with two or three songs sometimes and be like, “okay, let’s try these, guys.”
KDH: So much of the time we spent in the room together was music because when Justin writes a song, it takes us a few hours to figure out how we’re actually going to do it. So Jerry would just leave. He’d be like, “Okay, cool, I’ll come back at the end of the day and see what you have.”
BW: And he would come back and we would play the song again for him and he would say, “Justin, I want to be honest. I didn’t like that song when you first played it. I hated it. But now, I think I like it. Keep working on it.” And it’s the one song in the show that hasn’t changed throughout the process.
KDH: Justin as a playwright is so gracious and loving; he is so willing to listen. As of now, I’ve been playing Siren for over two years. Sometimes, I’ll get a text from him in the middle of the night that says, “How would Siren say this? Here are the big words, how would she use them in a sentence?” or, “Does Siren feel this or does she feel that? How does Siren feel today?” He wants us to have opinions. Justin’s writing it. but a lot of the things in the script are things that have come out of our mouths –
BW: Every single person in the rehearsal room –
KDH: Has added to the script –
BW: From our stage manager to the director, assistant director, all of us.
KDH: There are things that Bill would say jokingly and then the next day those lines would be in the fight scene. Sometimes I’ll text Justin things such as…“But what if her monologue was like this,” just spouting off a bunch of sentences that make no sense, and then the next day, my random spouting of words is actually a monologue. It’s awesome. He’s so smart. He listens to us.
KL: How would you describe the genre? What is this thing that you’re creating?
BW: I think it’s a hybrid; it’s not allowing itself to be set in anything. It’s borrowing all of the good stuff from what’s already out there, and then elbowing someone and being like “Hey, what do you think this is?”
KDH: Siren doesn’t really speak or do anything much for the first 30 minutes. I stand and I watch. And every time I learn something new about what this show is. I think that it is part sitcom, part comic book, part Cartoon Network, part Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark, part musical – but a musical like Once or Spring Awakening, part rock show, part naturalism.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously but the characters are very serious about what’s going on, so it’s not a spoof on itself. We’re not trying to make fun of any genre. We’re taking all of those genres very seriously and just doing them all together at the same time. I feel like he’s created a new genre because it is a play, it’s a serious play, it’s a scary play, it’s a comedy, it’s a musical, it’s a love story, it’s a villain and a superhero, it’s a movie, it’s theatre.
Lizard Boy is now playing in the Leo K. Theatre through May 2.
Apr 10 2015
Last week, we heard the first part of Justin Huertas’ original source material for Lizard Boy. Miss Part I? Read it here! Now find out what happens when the reptilian high school student becomes a hero—with a little help from his friends.
Anytime I had a crush on a boy, I told Annelih about it. I got to be a normal horny teenager FINALLY – I remember feeling like I missed the boat on being able to share real crushes with friends. Being able to say, that boy is cute, I liked Robin in Batman & Robin, my TYPE is this, etc. It was liberating. As time went on, I feel like everyone could guess what my deal was but they didn’t want to force anything – all my friends respected me in that way. They wanted to let me come to them. And I did eventually. I came out to Kristina in my junior year of high school while we were driving home from an orchestra concert. She was happy about it. Not surprising to her. Kristina and I have known each other since 4th grade, so she had to have known. (She and I are still best friends – we lived together in college and will be living together again when this tour is over.)
I went on a couple dates with a boy! My first for dating. And boys. It was Doug, a classmate, and he was shy as hell. We were talking on the phone and he kept asking me if I was Canadian, saying that he had to think about it but he realized he definitely was Canadian. I kept saying, “No, Doug, I was born in Tacoma.” Took me a while to realize he was using “Canadian” in place of “gay”. Once I figured it out, I said that I WAS Canadian and that we should date. It was only like 2 dates though, he was nervous to take me anywhere because he was paranoid his brother would show up, see us, and tell his parents.
At that point I went through that phase of wearing bracelets and wristbands almost up to my elbows. It was this skater look that I was trying to emulate. I probably wanted to be Avril Lavigne. But it all served a purpose – those green rashes started lasting for longer – and it was no longer tough skin. It was scaly. Reptilian. I covered it all up by accessorizing.
By senior year, I had joined choir and it started trickling out that I was gay. I only assumed that because on choir tours or retreats, girls would ask me without hesitation whether or not I thought whatever boy that we’re talking about was cute. I wouldn’t be in the conversation but Jill would turn around and say, “Andy’s cute, right? You think Andy’s cute?” I’d say, “Um, yeah I guess.” Truth, of course, being that I thought Andy was dreamy. Andy was the boy who would become my first boyfriend. I was starting to become comfortable in my scaly skin and he actually liked it. He thought I was hot with the green scales, which had started to spread up my arms and across my chest. And he liked the fire a lot. As it turned out, he had an ability too. He was like an Ice Man. He could change the temperature in the room to freezing and use the moisture to make snow and ice. The catch was that he had to look at himself in a mirror to recharge whenever his powers grew weak. So, he was looking in a lot of mirrors. I think he’s a model now.
The time came when I sat my parents down to tell them I was turning into a lizard. By then, the scales covered my hands – I had claws that I had to trim daily so I could keep playing cello. My dad’s response seemed almost rehearsed, “Well, we love ya no matter what, so…” My mom, on the other hand, looking at my claws: “It’ll probably go away. You just need to see a doctor.”
I tried to explain that I didn’t want it to go away, that I started to like it, and that it might prove useful. She just shook her head and asked how Andy was doing. Well, I dumped him. Thanks, Mom.
By the end of senior year, I was an out gay man and a full-blown dragon-lizard-person-humanoid thing. I didn’t have that many friends but I couldn’t decide which thing was the reason why. Lizard or gay? Then I saw my locker had been vandalized. In red Sharpie, someone wrote, “Now, figure out how to blend in like a chameleon so we don’t have to look at your ugly face.” I think it was the lizard thing. High school is hard enough (Hello? Has anyone seen Glee?) but try being a fire-breathing dragon person. No, really. Try it.
I was getting ready to run away. I had a few true and wonderful friends but having people not just treat you as invisible but WISH you WERE invisible was tough tough tough. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for The Day of the Lock-Down. That’s the name of it. They called it that in the Mukilteo Beacon. It makes me think of Snick on Nickelodeon – the show “Are you Afraid of the Dark?” and the kids around a campfire with the storyteller throwing some flammable dust stuff into the fire while saying, “Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story ‘The Day of the Lock-Down’….” That show was awesome.
So the entire school was in lock-down because there were some scary people on campus with guns – people said they were students or former students looking for revenge on… something – I don’t know, I’d never seen them before. I was locked in my European History cla–oh, excuse me–my A.P. European History class (suck on that) on the 3rd floor and I saw these three guys from the window. They were outside in a stand-off against the police. So these scary people – they were Marvels too (my new word that I’ve adopted from Marvel comics to describe people with powers). They could move things with their minds – they took all the cops’ weapons and dropped them in a pile between them. Just then, I saw Annelih rocking out to her headphones walking outside having no idea that there was even a lock-down. I saw the bad guys see her. I saw her see them seeing her. I had to do something I didn’t know what. My instincts said to jump out of the window to her rescue, but that seemed dumb because I was on the third floor.
So I jumped out the window, not knowing what was going to happen or what I would do next. This was nuts: so, I flew. I didn’t know I could do that. But I should have guessed, right? I mean, I was bitten by an ancient Chinese dragon. Of course, I can fly. I landed in front of Annelih to shield her – I landed pretty hard, but my feet were dragon claws, so it’s safe to say I was good. The bad guys saw me as a threat because I was all green and scaly and I had superpowers too, so they each grabbed a gun and started walking slowly in our direction. (I remember the detail about them walking slowly because it reminded me of a movie and how, even though the villains were walking slowly toward me, I still felt that I was in immediate danger.) I lit my hands on fire to show I wasn’t afraid – kind of like the spitting dinosaur in Jurassic Park. That just made them stop walking and cock their guns. (Where are the police during this? No idea. They probably got freaked out by this Marvel-versus-Marvel situation.) They were going to shoot, and I could shoot fire at them first if I wanted to but not before a bullet hits me in the head. “Follow my lead,” I hear Annelih say from right behind me. Uh, wha?? What lead? You’re just a normal–she reaches her arms forward under my arms so her hands are in front of me, palms facing the bad guys, and her hands in an instant emit this bright flash. Like BLINDING. The bad guys turn away, a couple guns hit the ground and one shoots the roof. As they’re disoriented, Annelih pushes me to the ground.
Holy whatthewhat. Annelih has powers too.
One of the bad guys says, “Pick up another gun.” They all three start B-lining to the pile of guns they’ve accumulated and, in almost a Tazmanian Devil whirlwind, the guns are shredded. Things are moving so fast that I can’t see what’s shredding them. The commotion settles and Kristina is standing in the middle, waving hello with these Hands – from the tips of all of her fingers were thin metal blades, like sharp sharp long long sharp claws. Holy crap. My best friends were Marvels too, and I had no idea. Annelih slipped on some sunglasses and her hands began to glow. Kristina rubbed her claws together, making that “shing!” sound. And I growled as I levitated into the air. The entire school was watching out the windows as we took down these telekinetic tools. (Ah! Like that? Alliteration.) Annelih shot bursts of light to disorient them, Kristina threw them up in the air but not before giving them a few scratches, and I POOMED them to the ground. Pooming is like a comic-book punch that goes downward. POOM!
They were all hospitalized (some scratches and burns) and put in jail. And us? Well, we had detention for like two weeks, grounded for longer because we were fined for all the property we destroyed (including the police weapons Kristina shattered), and everyone loved us for saving the day. We made front page news on the Mukilteo Beacon. Famous. And I’m perfectly content with my scales. There are men out there that I’ve found who think I’m beautiful. And I’ve met several more Marvels, but that’s another story.
THE END. Cue the credits with the Nickelback song.
The superhero thing was a tribute to the late Perry Moore who wrote a sweet novel about a gay teen superhero. The first of its kind. And an inspiration to many young gay people.
And even though this is a “coming out story,” this story wasn’t really about being gay. But that’s probably because My Life isn’t really about being gay. I just Am.
Lizard Boy is playing on the Leo K stage until May 2, 2015.
Apr 8 2015
Four years ago, after performing in Speech and Debate at the Rep and revealing his unique musical abilities, Justin Huertas was commissioned by the late Jerry Manning to create a show for the Leo K stage. But Justin had never written a play. To warm up the creative process, he kept diaries while on the National Tour of Spring Awakening and share those musings with the late Andrea Allen (Director of Education at the time). It was out of these journals that the source material for Lizard Boy was born. See what Justin wrote when he was asked about his coming out experience and he felt the story deserved a little… embellishment.
February 19, 2011
JUSTIN’S COMING OUT STORY (with superheroes and dragons)
I’ve probably known all my life that I was different. I was also bitten by a dragon.
I don’t know the exact story but in like 1990, something happened in China where a horde of dragons had escaped from a volcano or something. No one knows why or how, but they were all shapes, sizes, ad colors, they breathed fire, and they flew across the Pacific to the states. They ended up flying across the country only stopping to rest on the highest buildings in the metropolitan, highly populated cities, but before that a few of them were in Tacoma. It was recess at Point Defiance Elementary School and a smaller of the dragons flew in and landed in the middle of the playground while we were playing wall ball. It was green, spiky, scaly, about the size of a car. This was only the beginning, so no one knew how to deal with them or fend them off or reason with them. So everyone flipped out, ran in every direction, but I was frozen in fear and probably wonder, next to the wall. It saw me and approached and I must have tried to pet it or something. It freaked out thinking I was trying to attack it and now I have this scar on my left forearm. The bite seemed like a huge deal at the time, it swelled and it was really red but after a few weeks it went down.
As life went on, it became more apparent to me that I was attracted to dudes. Probably in middle school. I was into the tall athletic dudes. That was the time guys my age started becoming more sexually aware – joking around with each other, calling each other “gay” not understanding really how heavy that word could be to someone who thought he might be. They would “play gay” to make each other feel uncomfortable, like a game of chicken. My friend Michael and I would be in PE sitting on the grass in our Olympic View Middle School gym clothes and he would say, “Wow” and I would say “I know blah blah blah got way tall” or something and he would look straight into my eyes and say “HE’s not who I’m looking at” and while he was probably thinking “Haha Justin will think this is HILARIOUS,” I’m actually thinking “Michael has blue eyes. Pretty blue eyes.”
I would wake up and there would be a tiny fire on my bed. And like, I had learned in 6th grade about wet dreams, but I would wake up with flames on my bed, so it seemed a little backwards. And I would pat them and put them out but they didn’t feel hot or anything. I WAS INVULNERABLE TO FIRE. What?
So time went on and I started noticing other stuff about guys I liked. Like how Richard’s back had more muscles in it than I knew were in backs. And like how Sean’s perfect collarbones were visible when he wore that one shirt that was a little too big for him. And like how I wanted to marry a guy.
The scar on my forearm would break out every once in a while. And it wasn’t like hives – well it WAS like hives, except the hives were green. Like, it was like a rash where my skin would be tough but instead of being red, it was a green rash. And it wasn’t itchy. It was just green. And that happened like once or twice a week and I would where a long-sleeved shirt that day until it was gone again.
I remember trying to come out to Tim (before I understood what “coming out” meant). It was a sleepover in his living room and he found some rated-R thing on a movie channel and I remember asking him if he’s ever had a dream where instead of being with a girl he was with a guy. He said, “What? I don’t know, why–?”
“I can make fire in my hand–” I flicked my hand and set it ablaze. I kept the flame relatively small (I’d only done this in my bathroom in front of a mirror, so this was a big deal). I was still trying to understand how I suddenly had the power to summon fire from any part of my body. But I thought it would be a good save to avoid talking about gay stuff.
“Holy shit,” Tim was more scared than impressed. So we stopped being friends because he thought I was a freak.
Come 9th grade/Freshman year, I was full-on having crushes on men. Not just sexual fantasies, but the fantasies with a wedding on the beach and a puppydog (but not a lapdog, like, a Real dog). And with the power of internet access and AOL forums and MSN groups, I was learning that other people my age have had these same feelings. I was learning that being gay was a very okay thing but there were people not okay with it. Also, I hadn’t ever met someone who was gay so, to my knowledge, I was the only one in Mukilteo. I had gone through a thing in middle school where, to cloak the gay, I told everyone I had a crush on Annelih, the nicest sweetest cutest girl in my grade. That rumor continued through High School and though I never professed my fake love to Annelih, she totally knew what people were saying. Well, over the years, Annelih and I ended up becoming very good friends – like, I felt comfortable telling her stuff. Cut to:
Sophomore year. I like guys. That’s not a question anymore. (Was it ever? I can’t remember that part.) I call up Annelih from my kitchen and we’re sharing and bonding and (oh gad here it comes) I’m tip-toeing (ah jeez) and I bring up the rumors about me having a crush on her (am I about to tell her this?) and my voice is getting quieter (oh meh gad) and I start leaning on the counter (eek) and sinking to the floor (bah) and curling up in a ball (bamf) and (zip) I (pow) say (snikt), “I think I might be gay.” (Almost all of those parantheticals are sounds that can be found in an X-Men comic book.)
Annelih’s response was sensitive and sweet and supportive and the thing she said that I remember most was “I was scared you were going to tell me you were in love with me.” I laughed. After that awesome moment, I kind of did fall in love with her. I told her I wasn’t ready to tell anyone else yet, and she kept my secret For Ever. She’s wonderful – we’re still best friends. I can trust her with anything. I’m seeing her in Gainesville, FL, when we tour to her school (she’s picking up a Master’s Degree in Theatre). No, but literally, I didn’t tell anyone else for a YEAR. And she was the greatest friend I could have had at the time.
I also told her I might be turning into a dragon. She said I should hold off on coming out with that one.
Stay tuned for the next installment and find out what happens when the family finds out and the high school is under attack!
Mar 31 2015
The following post was written by Marketing Intern Amelia Peacock.
Still dreaming about that cream blazer Bette wore, or Iris’s patent, spikey black heels? We know we are! The Comparables may be over, but the costumes are still fresh in our minds. I checked in with The Comparables costume designer, Frances Kenny, to find out more about her costuming process.
ASP: What is your initial approach to costuming a show?
FK: I always start by reading the script to get my first interpretations for each character. From this script, I knew the play was set in a major city, what I imagined to be New York. I also knew that the women in the show were constantly meeting with major, metropolitan clients and must always be professionally dressed.
I also talked to Braden Abraham [director for The Comparables], to gain his insights and to make sure we were always on the same page. This time I also knew the actors I was working with so I could source pictures off the Internet to use in my research as well. Finally, I made a collage of concept images for each character.
ASP: Where there any new costuming challenges you faced during this process?
FK: The fast-paced nature of this show and the fact that there was no intermission brought some unique challenges. Costumes had to evolve from one look to another without a complete costume change. For example, Bette wears one skirt for three scenes with a different top each time. That minor change totally altered her look without derailing the flow of the play.
Contemporary shows are always the most difficult to costume. When you put an actor in 18th century period costume, they don’t necessarily know what it is supposed to look like. In contemporary shows the actor might wear similar pieces in real life, so you must fit each costume to the actor as well as the character to see what is most appropriate.
ASP: What was your approach to the specific characters in The Comparables?
FK: I was so fortunate that I had three gorgeous women to dress! Because this show is contemporary, I shopped 90% of the costume pieces. I combed local stores for hundreds of pieces that I thought fit the look for each character.
I brought these piles of shopped pieces back to each costume fitting and they became mini experiments. Both the actor and I knew instantly what worked and what didn’t the moment they tried something on, but every fitting was a surprise.
We learned quickly that soft pieces did not work for Bette’s character. She needed structured looks to highlight her authority. Most of Monica’s wardrobe came from Ann Taylor, very simple and traditional. With Iris, I wanted a very edgy, Soho vibe. I even considered adding a tattoo to Keiko’s leg, but the stiletto heels and tight-fitting clothes communicated the character perfectly.
ASP: Did you have a favorite character to dress?
FK: I loved dressing them all! It was really fascinating to hear the feedback from Seattle Rep staff and patrons. Everyone identified with different characters and costumes. One woman said, “If I could, I would dress like Monica every day.” I also heard, “I love everything Iris wears,” and “I adore that jacket on Bette!”
For me, the real heroes behind these costumes were my tailors in the Seattle Rep costume shop. You just don’t buy clothes off the rack anymore to wear as-is. The tailors made me and those girls look great onstage!