Paternus - Keeping "the Edge" in LA Theatre

Who says Los Angeles isn’t a theatre town? Any given week averages over twenty offerings from plays to spoken word, and poetry. It’s the perfect place for developing new works because our smaller theaters are able to bring together the best of talent known to the industry.

Actor-Director-Writers have opportunities to strengthen their craft at places like Rogue Machine where they believe theatre to be an integral part of community life, a place where audiences gather to be challenged, inspired, provoked, and entertained. The current offerings at this company include Gruesome Playground Injuries by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, Penelope by multi-Tony Award winner Enda Walsh, and now a new play in their “Off The Clock” 10:30pm spot directed by one of LA theatre’s noted hyphened talents, Mark St. Amant.

 

While a student at Texas Tech University, Mark had the distinction of being the only student in the history of theAmerican College Theater Festival to become a two-time national finalist in the Irene Ryan Acting competition, held at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. From there, his talent has lead him to work at some of the most respected theaters around the country including The Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens, Dallas Theatre Center, Drury Lane Theatre, and Rogue Machine.

Now, his career as a director seems to be taking on a similar momentum. Mark helmed the critically acclaimed West Coast premiere of The Bird and Mr. Banks, as well as The Butcher of Baraboo for The Road Theatre. Accolades still spew from the mouths of LA’s inner circle of theatre followers as they discuss Mark’s direction of Broadsword: A Heavy Metal Play (West Coast Premiere) at Black Dahlia.

Taking on the latest project at Rogue Machine, he goes deep, and delights in directing the world premiere of Daphne Malfitano’s Paternus, a dark tale about a father and son who become trapped during a snowstorm. This show opens the company’s “Off The Clock” series of late night entertainment for this season, offering an edgier fare for those who prefer a little something more “out of the ordinary” in plot. They’ll get it here.

 

You can’t help but wonder how projects like Paternuscome about and how a director connects to them? Written by a woman, a librettist named Daphne Malfitano who has at least two full operas under her belt, with composer Thomas Pasatieri, this seems to be a step in a new direction for her and for the director, who talks about the play.

Q: Without having to include a spoiler alert, what drew you to this type of piece?

Mark: I was compelled to direct Paternus for a few reasons. The obvious one is the story itself: A father and son, snowbound in an RV, without food and no hope of rescue, and how their struggle to survive changes their relationship...it’s a great campfire story! The script is not only beautifully written, but the relationship between the two of them is honest and universal. In addition, the playwright has chosen to tell the story in backwards fashion, going from the “end” of the story, and working backwards, scene by scene, taking us to the start of their journey. That opportunity was just too intriguing to decline.

 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in getting the play ready for its world premiere in Los Angeles?

Mark: To make sure that audiences would not only be able to keep track of the story as it moved backwards, but to also show how the relationship between the two devolves from one of acceptance, understanding and love to one of distance, apathy, and buried emotions. I think this was also the biggest challenge for the actors. It’s quite tricky to move forward in the telling of a story while time is moving backwards. As a late-night production, we had no designers, no budget, and not a ton of time to rehearse. Yet, I am as proud of this production as anything I have directed, maybe more for the same reasons.

 

Q: Were you often in touch with the playwright, and can you talk a little about the casting process?

Mark: We had the luxury of having the playwright here from New York for four days, at the start of our rehearsal process. We broke the play down, going from the end to the beginning of the piece, in chronological order, tracking the movements and the logic of how things would happen and why. Darrell Larson, who plays Steve (the father), has been involved with this play since the early readings in New York. Our goal was to find an actor here in L.A. who would be the perfect match for him as the son, and how lucky we were in finding Tim Walker (Stephen). The two work wonderfully together. It’s funny and heartbreaking.

 

Q: What do you hope this play will make audiences think about (besides the obvious, which we can’t talk about without including that spoiler alert)?

Mark: This play is about a relationship between a parent and child. Hopefully, when the audience (all who are either a parent or a child, or both) will get home, pick up a phone and say to the other, “I love you.”

Q: What’s next for you?

Mark: I can’t wait to find out. But, for now, I’m going home and hug my boy.

PATERNUS runs through Aug 9, 2014. Performances are at 10:30pm on Fri & Sat (additional performance at 8pm on July 31st). Rogue Machine is located at 5041 Pico Blvd., LA, CA 90019.  Tickets are $25. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com

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