why this? why here? why now?
the above three questions are ones that every director learns to ask about every play that they choose to produce or direct. it's kind of the universal test of "is this play really perfect, or is it just a thing i really, really want to do?" if a director's lucky, the play will be perfect and it will be a thing they really, really want to do.
i've been lucky enough to fall into this latter category with The Altruists.
now, don't worry: i'm not going to go all directing-professor-lecture on anyone here. i just say ^that to say that Nicky Silver has left us with a true gift with this play... kind of a gift-that-keeps-on-giving gift. & since the good folks at TheatreLAB have asked me to share a bit about the play, i thought maybe we might talk about - not what the play is, or it's summary, or some witty reflection on the text - but why people (meaning you, dear reader) should come see it.
why this? (like, why The Altruists & not some other play?)
...well, because Nicky Silver is a pretty brilliant writer. like most of his work, The Altruists is a dark, haunting play. but it's also a very physical farce, so we have this wonderful double-whammy of beautiful people running around half-naked and simultaneously spouting this very witty, very funny, heightened language. Silver has this delicious way of infusing lofty ideas -and lofty vocabulary words- with liberal use of the f-word and jokes about genitalia. (& i don't just mean that because i have a beautiful cast running around half-naked & spouting witty, funny, brilliant text -because i do- but also because honestly: the play itself demands it.) Silver is known for his anti-realistic works: those that are set in very realistic settings but which have people in those settings behaving in ways that are grossly exaggerated & rather off-the-wall. if you're familiar with TheatreLAB's other work, (which, if you're reading their blog, i assume you are) you'll know they are at their best when they choose works that push the social envelope while challenging their audiences & showcasing the best talents of their best artists. The Altruists is a perfect play for TheatreLAB and their new home, The Basement.
why here? (as in, like, why in richmond?)
while The Altruists is actually set in new york city (& we've done nothing to make changes to it's location) it could very easily be set here: in the fan, in jackson ward, in anywhere-near-vcu. the settings are familiar: old victorian houses turned into apartments, floor by floor, juxtaposed with luxury condos. & i think our audiences are going to choose not to see themselves on our stage, but to instead to see someone they know -or the types of someone they know- represented in these characters. & you will see people you recognize as characters that totally exist here in rva. our costumes (well, except for Sydney's) could easily have been taken off the backs of people hanging out at Lamplighter or the Village Diner or GWAR Bar. & maybe it's because i've cast actors who i know live nearby, but the whole play seems like it belongs here in rva.
&, most excitingly: why now?
i continue to argue that The Altruists is even more relevant now than it was when it was written. in fact, i realize that it is even more relevant than when TheatreLAB began choosing this season. the group of friends at the center of our story live in a world full of injustice and human cruelty... and they are angry about it. they believe in equal rights for everyone; they believe in fighting for what's right & using their wealth and comfort and privilege to stand up for the underdog. they earnestly & passionately hold these beliefs, but we're left to ponder what a difference they're really making. in our current climate of slacktivism & #hactivism & armchair activism, it's easy to recognize ways that we all talk the talk but don't always walk the walk. american citizens increasingly realize a growing need to speak up & speak out for equal rights - in all of it's forms. we are confronted daily with a choice: will we actually give up our comfort & happiness for the greater good, or do we just keep on shouting?
so, my internet reader-friends: obviously, The Altruists is a great piece of art worth seeing right now. i hope you'll join us: i promise you'll laugh out loud, chuckle over a few things you probably shouldn't (but it's totally okay if you do) & even probably groan a bit. & somewhere in the middle of all the funny, i trust we'll all find compassion and empathy.
[Photos by Birgitte Photography]
kb saine (Director) has been a director, author, educator, and theatre historian for over 15 years. kb served for six years as the Producing Artistic Director of Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg, VA; and has also worked with Greenbriar Valley Theatre in Lewisburg, WV; Richmond Triangle Players, Theatre IV/Theatre Gym, The Barksdale Theatre, Firehouse TheatreProject, TheatreVirginia, Dogwood Dell, Yellow House Productions, and SPARC - School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community in Richmond, VA (it's great to be back!); and the Dallas Theatre Center in Dallas, Texas. Favorite past productions under her direction include The Glass Menagerie, Tartuffe, Topdog/Underdog, The Odyssey, Art, The Crucible, Santaland Diaries and Season’s Greetings, Steal Away, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, and Stories I Ain’t Told Nobody Yet, among many others. Her professional service includes extensive work with theBlack Theatre Network (the national organization of Black Theatre Professionals, Academics, and Practitioners), where she currently serves as President. She will be directing The Dinosaur Musical at Davis & Elkins this spring, where her most recent productions include Harvey and Fair and Tender Ladies.
THE ALTRUISTS by Nicky Silver
July 24 - August 8 at The Basement
Tickets can be purchased at TheatreLABrva.org