Author Archives: forumtheatre

Waiting for Lefty Reading THIS SUNDAY! (Venue has changed)

This Sunday, Forum Theatre is proud to participate in Amnesty International’s first annual Human Rights Art Festival with a staged reading of Waiting for Lefty, by Clifford Odets.  The reading will be held at 3pm at Taste of Morrocco, 8661 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD—it’s FREE and open to the public.

Based on a 1934 strike of unionized New York cab drivers, Waiting for Lefty is a spirited and vigorous one-act play and a classic example of agit-prop theatre.  A series of vignettes framed by two union meetings leading up to the strike, its 1935 opening at the height of the Great Depression was a critical and popular sensation, which soon led to many productions across the country.  But the play is more than mere theatre history; with its backdrop of economic uncertainty and political strife, Waiting for Lefty has an uncanny relevance today.  Running time: 1 hour.

Directed by Forum company member Patrick Bussink, the reading will feature a fantastic cast, including both Forum alumns and some new faces:  Rachel Beauregard, Rex Daugherty, Josh Drew, Danny Gavigan, Kimberly Gilbert, Brian Hemmingsen, Scott McCormick, Dylan Myers, Kevin O’Reilly, Joe Palka, Jesse Terrill, and Andy Wassenich.



3/26 MARISOL OpenForum Recap

Thanks to all who came out in the rain for last night’s show and a really great OpenForum talkback afterwards—I think we just about had the entire audience join us for the discussion.  And a special thanks to Colin Hovde for bringing in a group of designers from the Kennedy Center’s foreign exchange program who made up most of the crowd.

Naturally a lot of the conversation covered the technical side of the show, from the fact that we had our sound designer playing tracks with us in rehearsals, to the number of cues in the show (over 300, according to super SM Jenn, 100 of which happen in the 1st 10 minutes of the play!) and the seamless collaboration between lights & sound, as well as our fantastic costumes.  We also touched on the aggressive nature of the play and the production as a whole, from Rivera’s arresting words, to the enveloping design and the heightened performances.  It was a fantastic conversation and thanks again to all who made it out.

OpenForum: An Unusual Talkback

So we’ve been super excited to be able to expand our OpenForum discussion series for Drunk Enough, adding a discussion after every performance of the show.  Because it has a short running time and it’s such an enigmatic and provocative piece that begs for analysis, we figured it was a perfect opportunity.

In case you’re new to OpenForum or need a refresher, here’s how it works:  we gather some chairs in a circle in the lobby and have a very informal conversation about the piece in which we focus on your thoughts about the play and what it meant to you. Other theatres do a great job of holding the standard panel discussions and Q & A sessions, but we wanted to create a new experience, something akin to a book club discussion, but for theatre.

After 2 weekends of shows, we’ve had some really exciting conversations going on in the lobby and we wanted to share some of that with you here and also set up an online space to continue the discussion.  So if you have any thoughts in response to the show or what you read below, please post a comment.

Here’s 2 questions we’ve used to get us started:

How did you respond to this play, knowing or not knowing that it is a piece of political theatre?

What does the play say to you about how we as individuals relate to another country?

Other stuff we’ve talked about:

–All the foreign policy references in the text lead to some confusion; and the need for the rather heavy research that was done during rehearsal by the director and cast.

–The different ways countries use charm and persuasion to secure devoted allies to support their cause.

–The disparity between the intentions and beliefs of a people and the government that leads them.

An Epilogue from Veronica del Cerro

Photo Credit: Melissa Blackall Photography

Our final Notes from the Cast come from Veronica del Cerro who played Santa Monica, the sassy force of nature who really got our story rolling when she got on the phone to the Big Guy upstairs. Though Veronica had sent the piece in over a week ago, it got held up in the shuffle with all the box office madness that comes with sold out houses. But the timing actually couldn’t be better, as her words serve as a perfect reflection on one Hell of a journey…

“What is God?”
“Sit properly in you chair. If you want to break it, I’ll get you an ax. It will be easier.”
With my chair’s four legs safely on the ground, I repeated the question.
“What is God?”
“God. God is everything you see and everything you are.”
“So this chair is God?”
“Yes. The chair, the table, the food, and you.”
With not a clue as to what that meant I continued to eat my tongue. (Yes, I was made to eat cow tongue with cream sauce when I was 6).

Now, although I am a pescatarian and still do love to swing on chairs, I cherish my father’s words like gold (or silver?). They have become the root of my belief system and I am ever awed at how each day sheds new light on this fundamental idea. I was raised to question, but have found that I actually only have one truth; the answers are not mine to have.

The spirituality, for lack of a better and less popular term, that I have cultivated has been crafted out of experience and necessity. From listening to political and familial stories that have trickled down through the generations, exploring the variety of reading material my parents had available, from my own journeys into the depths of the underworld, and from my family’s love, I have gathered a notion of acceptance.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot examines the reality of our existance through theatre by allowing these iconic characters to identify with audiences of today. I find that Saint Monica’s pride grows from seeing her underdog loved ones persevere and by holding them, or high-fiving them, while they continue to confront the prejudices that have exploded in their self-schemas. If one is willing to come clean with their own selves, then Saint Monica is willing to provide a tear, a prayer, and some hope.

We are reminded that Judas is one constant: the guilt, shame, and remorse for mixed identities, alcoholism, lust, love, for truth, confusion, poverty, difference, ignorance… Jesus is the other constant: our hope, our will to accept ourselves for who we are and might become. Whether we chose to remain in the purgatory of our own perception, or to be free by embracing uncertainty is the inner trial we all face. Ultimately, your reality is what you make it to be.

“Ms. Veronica, you are in stage-play again, aren’t you?” my 7 year old student asked me as the fractions worksheets were handed out.
“Yes, I am. That’s why I am looking a little tired today. Please get your pencil box.”
“Ms.Veronica, what is your new stage-play called?”
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Now, put your name on your paper.”
“What’s it about?”

Since I was a little surprised and excited about his newfound interest in my theatrical adventures, I decided to answer as quickly and honestly as I could.
“It is about…ummm..a group of people who had a friend hurt their feelings. Now, they are trying to decide whether or not to forgive him.”
“Oh, so it’s a Feeling Play.”
“Well..uh..” As I began to give a more precise explanation, I saw that he had already moved on from the subject and was writing his initials on his sheet.

“Yes. If that is what it means to you, then that is exactly what it is.”

Notes from the Cast: Patrick Bussink

Photo Credit: Melissa Blackall Photography

Patrick is a company member here at Forum and is playing our Lord and Savior Himself, Jesus of Nazareth.

I figured since it takes me about 2 1/2 hours to mosey out and join the cast onstage, I’d take a couple of weeks to make my entrance to these here cyber-procedings. Better late than never…

So please the court, my name is Patrick and I too am a Catho-hol-ic. Yes, like Guirgis himself and almost half the cast, I also hail from the mothership. I went to Catholic school, did all the sacraments, went to church every week, went to youth group meetings and summer camps building houses for the poor, and I worked in the parish rectory for a couple of years in High School before heading off to College, where all good Catholics go to fall away from the flock.

But despite my pious youth, there were always those pesky questions to wrestle. Questions which got me into trouble in grade school. Questions like: if God is all powerful and merciful and He gave me the capacity for sin and a mind to question his existence, then how could he burn me eternally for acting as He created me (or however I said it when I was 10)? Saint Thomas doubted and he was there. Now 2,000 years later, aren’t I allowed the same measure of doubt, if not more? A LOT more? And one other question: would god strike me down if I didn’t capitalize his name?

Owning my doubt and skepticism has been a huge part of deepening my faith—even though I rarely use the words “my faith”; it’s an ongoing challenge of reconciling what’s been passed down with what actually resonates deep down. Somewhere early on I heard that “faith is not faith unless it’s questioned,” which became my motto. And yet despite my beef with all the dogma, the core teachings of Christ have always been a guiding force: Love thy neighbor as thyself…Judge not lest ye be judged…Blessed are the peacemakers. Those are the big 3 as far as I’m concerned—they’re also the 3 that so many “Christians” seem to forget, which is one of the reasons people get turned off walk away.

As I grew away from the Church in my early 20’s, I went off on a sort of spiritual shopping spree and like a lot of people, I dabbled in eastern traditions—I got into Taoism, Buddhism, meditation & yoga and devoured a slew of new-agey books that rocked my world. All this searching continued to challenge the hogwash of institutional Christianity, while deepening my belief in all the good stuff that stuck with me. And it raised even more questions: is there really a difference between: prayer and meditation? salvation and enlightenment? the holy spirit and the Dharma? Do Jesus and Buddha hang out?

What I’ve come around to is that regardless of country or culture, the real point of religion is to raise our consciousness and bring us into the presence of the eternal, the divine, the universal mind, God, whatever you want to call it. That’s why I’m always drawn to the mystical traditions of any faith—the Sufi poets of Islam, Francis of Assisi and the Jesuits, the Gnostics, and even some pagan traditions. Every religion has its mystics and saints and every religion has its fundamentalists for whom their faith is no more than a battleground and a weapon of fear. Because religion is ultimately a language to communicate with God, and just as no language can rid the world of miscommunication and confusion, no religion is a direct and perfect channel to the divine.

And religion is definitely not the only channel we have. The arts—storytelling, poetry, music, painting, dance—all share the goal of reaching a higher consciousness. That’s why religion has always incorporated the arts, because they help us communicate with the intangible and what’s more intangible than this thing we call God? In our modern culture, we often separate art and religion—there’s a mutual contempt that’s sadly grown between the two. This show has been a beautiful meeting of those two worlds for me, a place where storytelling, poetry and a little music come together in a room to wrestle with some really big questions.

Notes on Antigone

From the Antigone playbill by Forum Theatre Dramaturg Hannah Hessel.

The memory is very clear: me at maybe 15 years old, sitting on my bedroom floor reading Antigone. It was not the Sophocles version I was reading, though I had studied that at school. It was a version of Antigone that spoke directly to me. It pulled me, as an American teenager, into a tragedy that seemed close. I read Jean Anouilh’s adaptation over and over until Antigone’s words were in my head. I was caught.

Antigone was, to my teenage mind, everything I wanted to be. She was smart, quirky, and she got the boy even though she wasn’t the prettiest. And she was strong, so strong that she put her life second to her beliefs. So strong that she would stand and fight, and yet she was human—I could feel her pain. In Simone Fraisse’s book Le Mythe d’Antigone, she is called “the daughter of the Revolution.” Antigone is the ultimate rebel with a cause. Continue reading

Iphigenia 2.0 Reading

Charles Mee

By Charles Mee
Directed by Hannah Hessel

Monday, December 17th 8pm
H Street Playhouse
1365 H Street NE, Washington DC

FREE ADMISSION, Donations accepted.

Featuring Forum company members Patrick Bussink, Alexander Strain, Brent Lowder, Michael Dove and Fiona Blackshaw,
Also with Lee Liebeskind, Helen Pafumi, Nigel Reed, Gwen Grastorf, Jonathan Church, Simone Zvi and more.

As a part of Forum’s new OpenForum program we are excited to present a reading of Charles Mee’s Iphigenia 2.0 this Monday, December 17. This reading is a part of a series that expands on our current production of ANTIGONE, and along with post show discussions help to create an inclusive theatrical experience. The play by Euripides, set in the world today, in which a great imperial power steps into the world to go to war–taking an action so wrong that it sets the empire on the road to complete self-destruction. Proving, as Agamemnon himself says on the brink of the Trojan war, “we see from the histories of empires that none will last forever and all are brought down finally not by others but by themselves.”

For an interview with Charles Mee about the play, visit Studio 360.