The Brown Box Theatre Project, will be back in Ocean City this weekend for their Second Annual Evening of Short Plays entitled Boxer Shorts II: From Water To Dust (Del Agua Al Polvo), an international collaboration with Brown Box’s sister company,Ícaro Teatro, based in Querétaro, Mexico, and featuring four plays written by playwrights of Latin American descent; Tape written by Jose Rivera, Capricho written by Nilo Cruz, Springtime written by Maria Irene Fornes, and Bliss written by Caridad Svich. Boxer Shorts II premiered at the Atlantic Wharf in Boston February 26 and, after seven shows in Boston, appeared at Headquarters LIVE! Thursday, March 10 and will be taking place at the Ocean City Center for the Arts Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday as well with all shows starting at 7:30 pm.
Kyler Taustin, the founding Artistic Director of Brown Box Theatre Project and director of Capricho, expressed pride and enthusiasm when speaking with him about what it was liking bringing the production to life in both Spanish and English,
“This is an international collaboration where all of our actors are bilingual, they are either Mexican or American, and we are creating pieces that will be in both English and Spanish, so in America they will all be in English and in Mexico they will all be in Spanish, but it’s been a very unique process to explore these scripts in both English and Spanish.”
There is a certain danger in translating a script written in Spanish to English or English to Spanish because something may be lost in that transfer. The simplest of misunderstandings could potentially lead to a scene being off and consequently the entire performance being slightly off, but this collaboration allowed for the details of the performance to be finely groomed.
“We found the opportunity to explore these texts in two different languages to be a very advantageous part of our process, so we were able to use the language in a way that a Spanish speaker would use that, and we were able to discover certain things in Spanish that we weren’t able to find in English and what that did was allow us to further understand the usage and what we were trying to communicate to our audience,” Kyler explained of the benefits to the bilingual collaboration.
Miguel Septién, founding director ofÍcaro, will be playing the roles of Lolò in Capricho and Ray in Springtime, was very pleased with his company’s third collaboration with Brown Box and felt that another big advantage between the two companies was the similiar vision they shared,
“We really love working with each other because we speak the same language and have the same goals; we both are striving to do high quality theatre in places where you wouldn’t see that kind of theater and also we really enjoy playing and we really enjoy the human connection in the world, We think that’s the primary purpose in theatre and that’s why we clicked so well for this collaboration.”
The four plays, Tape, Capricho, Springtime, and Bliss are all tied together by the themes of memory, reflection, and repentance, however are very much so individual plays which presented a bit of a challenge for Talia Curtin, debuting for the first time with Brown Box, and director of Tape, Springtime, and Bliss who explained,
“This production is inherently collaborative, as it requires much more ‘assembly’ than a standard full-length play, Multiple directors must work together with designers and actors to meld these individual plays into a cohesive, one-of-a-kind experience.”
The first play in the series is Tape, a play written by critically acclaimed and awarded José Rivera. Tape will feature Rachel Belleman as Person and Johnny Quinones as the Attendant and is a play taking place in one room, with two people, and a tape recorder that contains every lie Person has ever told. The Attendant instructs the Person of what the tape machine is, what it contains, and that it is too late for repentence.
“Tape proved to be the framework for the entire production, the idea that someone is being forced into a room to listen to every lie they told during their lifetime is something that ultimatley had formed the rest of the entire cycle of plays and really, schematically how we tied them all together. We all have different stories being told, and different tapes being played,” Kyler said of the opener, “In terms of the short itself it is a frigid piece, you there is an element of this Attendant that has next to no humanity versus a person who has been forced into this situation to hear every lie she has ever told for eternity, or you know for a really long time, and hearing those lies over and over again, it is something that sets us up for finding the humanity versus this sort of robotic need to how we approach our flaws. It has formed very much how the audience will see the plays.”
Tape is a scenerio that not only do we all fear, but it is a scenerio that we as a society should be more aware of taking place. To quote and expand on Maximus in Gladiator ‘What we do in life echoes in eternity,’ but not only does that echo in eternity, but it echoes throughout our lifespan, some being consumed by the guilt and shame more than others, but all being affected in someway by our lies and deciet. We often put that guilt and shame on layaway and promise to restore justice further on down the line, but doing that is gambling that there is a further on down the line. Some in this world ignore this burden of self-incrimmination while others, whether through faith or karma, take this responsibility very seriously in the hopes it will all someday come back around to benefit them.
“There is absolutely nothing in the script that implies any sense of God or religion in that play but, that being said, I think people comig from that perspective or truthfully anyone coming from any theology understands this afterlife element of this punishment of being faced with your sins, and confronting them and being put into a situaiton to relive and carry that burden and being forced to sit in the guilt, “ Kyler added about the theme of Tape, “In that wait there is definetley something in that that forms all the plays and that the audience will come and they will each bring their own individual perspective on that and with their own indivual sins, whether they look at them from a religous perspective or not it just asks us to recognize where we go astray.”
If Tape teaches us to always strive to do the right thing and lead a noble life, Capricho teaches us how to maintain that pious lifestyle and sends us a message of hope in a situation that appears to be utterly hopeless. Capricho, written by world renowned playwright Nilo Cruz, is a tale of an actor, Lolò, played by Miguel, who has been left in his dressing room and is anxiously awaiting his turn to take the stage. Lolò has been forgotten however, and no one is coming to get him, and his only companionship comes from his former screen partner turned skeleton.
“Lolò has been forgotten in his dressing room and has been sitting there for years, “ Kyler, who directed Capricho explained and continued, “ and he is in there with his screen partner and she has died, she is a skeleton on stage and he is still talking to her and relating to her and coming to terms with the fact that he is an actor with no stage. It is an element of being turned to dust. And that’s where the names comes from for him. He is forced into a situation where he has very little control over his own future, and the only thing he has control over is his hope and i think that piece speaks to our audience in a different way within this framework of reflecting on your life.”
At first glance it may seem that this being a one man show may not be the hardest part of playing Lolò, it seems as though his circumstances are insurmountable and his hope should be as grim as the reaper itself, but Miguel explained it was actually the exact opposite of a saddened, down-troddened role,
“It is a very heart-breaking and depressing situation but what makes it really attractive, as an actor, is the fact that Lolo is a character that is full of hope and that is driven by hope and driven by the desire to rise above his situation and that is something that is extremely positive. Of course there is a constant struggle and fight because you are under overwhelming odds and you’re not going to get where you want to be but you fight, and the stage for Lolò is where he want’s to be. It is incredibly attractive to be able to embody a person who will not relent to fear or sadness or tragedy or overwhelming circumstance. It is cathartic and liberating to sort of give over to that kind of openness and hope. From an audience perspective it is definitely a hopeless situation, a very deep hole that he is stuck in but for the character, that can’t be it otherwise there is no play there is no conflict and the conflict is that Lolò is constantly trying to think himself out of the hole that he has been put in and that is a very active, very physical and very emotional journey but I would definitely describe him as a positive character.”
Capricho delivers a message of eternal hope to the audience, despite such circumstances, and is made all the more impressive that Miguel does the entire play by himself, well physically that is. For Lolo Margarita is very much a real person and Miguel described what it was like being a one-man/one skeleton show,
“Margarita, who has Kyler said, is Lolò’s screen partner but she died and Lolo still talks with her and Lolò still interacts with her and has conversations with her. I am not alone up there I have her, she is an actual physical being in the room. She’s not technically a skeleton. She is a beautiful prop that Brown Box made and I interact with her, I dance with her, I moved her around, I have conversations with her and it’s really interesting too because even though Lolò is by himself he truly believes he is talking to someone and that person is reacting to what he says and is saying things to him, it’s a very interesting exercise. I have never done anything like this, I’ve done two person shows, being the only actor in the show it is a kind of responsibility and I’ve been lucky enough to be directed by Kyler who has always taken care of making sure I am being specific enough and making sure that I am diving deep enough into everything, that it’s not just me being up on stage, and making sure I relate to my screen partner who is very much there,I t’s a very difficult exercise in some regard because you’re dealing with stuff like 25 minute monologues. If I didn’t have Kyler I’m not sure how I’d be dealing with this but it’s been fun, it’s been really fun. It’s a more physical role, which I’ve always enjoyed and it’s been quite a journey.”
The third installment of the four play series is entitled Springtime and is a play written by María Irene Fornés, originally from Havana, Cuba, and features Olivia Caputo as Rainbow, Rachel Belleman as Greta, and Miguel Septien as Ray. Springtime is another universal dilemma that we all face every day and highlights just how powerful that “outside prescense” can be on our internal and personal lives.
“Springtime is probably the most traditional in its structure, the element of trying to fit a traditional structure inside of 20 minutes, automatically is unique, it’s not typical but it has multiple scenes, as oppose to the other, which is just one scene.” Kyler noted of the play,” We see this progression, this timeline of these two women who have fallen in love but are dealing with the elements of the outside world and how they are viewed by society. More importantly it’s not so much about their relationship that they’re two woman, it’s more in the fact that they had fought for the love they had found and then it begins to decay. That is a word that i will keep returning to its decay. As the outside world passes judgement and the force of the man and he comes in and enters the room and the idea that how we view ourselves and the force of this outsider. You see this force who for the majority of the play is not present, but you see how much impact this outside force has on our relationships, even when they are not in the room.”
In Springtime Greta gets sick and Rainbow revisits her own criminal past as a way to provide treatment to Greta, however Ray corners her and Rainbow’s “sacrificial journey inensifies, and questions of obligation, loyalty, sexuality, and eternity permeate their relationships”. Ray, despite having a small visual role, towers over the play and begins to intensify the conflict, despite not even being physically on stage.
“Ray is a huge presence in the play, definitely one of if not the main actor that ends up destroying the relationship between these two woman. His role, it’s pretty small, he’s only there for one scene.” Miguel spoke of his second role in Boxer Shorts II, “It is a very different character from Lolo but I always try to approach the character from a positive perspective, even though I am the bad guy in this story, I’m not going to behave as such, I think as actors we always just want to get to get something from that, so Ray wants something specific from these two woman and he’s just trying his damn hardest to keep that and get that and I am trying to get what I want and I will do anything to achieve that. It’s really not that different from Lolo who is trying to get the same thing, granite, two different circumstances, and two totally different characters.”
Springtime, being a traditional style play presented a unique set of challenges that Kyler felt Talia handled very well and praised her by saying,
“Its a matter of maintaining the arc in the story and keeping it going without having to feel like it’s rushed. When you have 15 minutes for scenes it’s ok to take a deep breathe, but when you are taking a deep breath every 2 minutes, that was the challenge, because by doing that, it’s not flowing. Talia did a good job with that and finding the pattern and the ebb and flow and the waves of the piece to go in and out of these moments, these kinds of flashes of their life, of their relationship as the outside world starts to take away from it and mess with the fabric that they have created together.”
The fourth and final play is entitled Bliss and was written by 2012 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement winner Caridad Svich and features Olivia Caputo as Lori and Johnny Quionones as Jim. Bliss is a play about two people arriving on an abandoned Florida beach by way of oily water and “they are exhausted, invigorated, and rapturous. As time expands and contracts they are transported beyond memory and suspended in eternity….if only for a moment”.
“Bliss does stand slightly separate, it is the beginning of this process but also the end of this cycle that these characters are going through. It is much more theory and much more abstract in the way that it works,” Kyler detailed the encore play and explained, “It is about this woman who is seeing the world from different perspectives and different reincarnations, and Jim,the man in the play and how they rely on each other and looking at memory and looking at their past and how they can take a hopeful step forward. I think it is the cleanest of the plays in that it’s not putting us in the eyes of another person but it is welcoming us into the experience that they are having in coming to terms with their past and what they’ve seen and their different reincarnations and how they relate to the world. It still has a link to the memory and the thought and the cycle that we have created here and it gives us a nice button for the audience to reflect on what they are and who they are for better or worse.”
Bliss neatly wraps up Boxer Shorts II: From Water To Dust (Del Agua Al Polvo) and allows the audience to step away and observe these circumstances through and with the eyes of another. It allows us to view and examine ourselves as deeply and emotionally as possible, while re-surfacing and seeing that we are not the only one who faces the dilemmas of the human race. Everyone of us faces trials and tribulations, but it is imperative to live with integrity, hope, confidence, and with a proper perspective.
I will personally be seeing the play tonight, at the Center for the Arts on 94th street and look forward to seeing a packed house tonight, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I will be reviewing the play as well and look forward to meeting the people that bring fine arts to our fine area. Without the following people working in the name of art we would not be able to enjoy our second year of Boxer Shorts. Stage manager Molly Burman, director Talia Curtin, sound designer Nicholas Kelley, scenic designer Megan F. Kinneen, producer Alex Lonati, lighting designer Daisy Long, assistant stage manager Ellie Moonan, properties designer Kelly Smith, director Kyler Taustin, costume designer Lila West, lighting designer Gifford Williams, actress Rachel Belleman, actor Johnny Quinones, actor Miguel Septién, actress Olivia Caputo. Special thanks to Rebecca Bradshaw for arranging my interviews with Kyler Taustin and Miguel Septién and special thanks to Kyler and Miguel for giving great interviews.