Production Blog

A behind the scenes peek at rehearsals, artistic choices, artist interviews, and the daily business of running a theatre.

The Aliens (a poem by Charles Bukowski)

you may not believe it 
but there are people 
who go through life with 
very little 
friction or 
they dress well, eat 
well, sleep well. 
they are contented with 
their family 
they have moments of 
but all in all 
they are undisturbed 
and often feel 
very good. 
and when they die 
it is an easy 
death, usually in their 

you may not believe 
but such people do 

but i am not one of 
oh no, I am not one of them, 
I am not even near 
to being 
one of 
but they 
are there 

and I am 

from The Last Night Of The Earth Poems

A chat with actor Parker Gray about getting really really real

Q: The playwright of this show, Annie Baker, has become known for her hyper-realistic aesthetic and style. She posits situations, characters, and environments that are true to life in very specifically modern ways. In working on The Aliens, what have been the most exciting and challenging parts of exploring a theatrical style that is (the characters notwithstanding) stripped of much theatricality?

A: I think perhaps the most exciting thing about any hyper-realistic play is (when you’re able to fulfill the requirements of the role) how easy it is to understand where these characters come from, where they are, and where they’re going. And when you have a playwright as talented as Annie Baker creating these stories and characters, it does half of the work for you. Playing around in Evan’s world has been extremely fun and challenging at the same time.

Something exciting to play with is the fact that, because these characters are SO human, every thought that goes through your head completely supports the action of the scene. And what I mean by that is, in other plays it is really easy for an actor to be upset with themselves because they will become distracted and their thoughts will roam if they aren’t listening well, or even if they’re listening “too hard”. You can start to judge your thought process and get in your own way, because you don’t feel connected with your partner, or you haven’t quite figured out your path yet. However, with the help of Annie’s writing and the world she has created, this hyperrealism allows the actor to think SO many thoughts about what’s going on, and it’s almost impossible to lose track of where you are. I’ve found that Evan is an extremely vigilant and observant character, so he is constantly judging the world around him and he’s judging himself through these experiences around him. And because of this, I as the actor, am fully able to jump into that mindset and track my journey through each scene. Evan is always hyperaware of when he is messing up or making too many waves, and so every self-conscious thought an actor could have is mirrored in Evan’s world. No thought is off limits; which is so freeing as an actor. It is so easy to find your way back to the scene or the action if you’re lost. However, this ability isn’t possible without doing the outside rehearsal room work you need to do as an actor, but Annie Baker definitely helps you get to where you need to be.

Now this script isn’t void of challenges by any means. Every night is fun, because you get to play around and try new things, but this play still costs you something. It is a tiring journey to go on. The play is so sweet and endearing, while also being brutal and heartbreaking. And I as the actor feel that every day during and after every rehearsal. These characters are all wounded in some deep, serious place, and in order to fulfill the requirements of this play, you have to go there and it’s tough. Each character is so meaty and full, and any actor would love to be able to sink their teeth into these roles, but it comes at a price. And that’s what good writing and good acting requires: a price to be paid. Annie spends precious time setting these characters so high on a pedestal, only to fall very far very quick. And you have to go there in order to do the play. And because of the brilliant writing and the hyper-realistic style you FEEL that every time. It’s challenging, but in a good way. Acting wouldn’t be fun if it was easy. And I wouldn’t want to do it, if I didn’t have to work. This play makes you work, but it also makes it seem effortless. And with this cast and creative team, it’s impossible not to have fun, to go after each other, and to feel all the things every night.

Theatre Jones spotlights Aaron Mark and the world premiere of "Deer"

Garret and Lisa and John and the rest of us here at Stage West are excited to present the world premiere of Deer to the playwright himself this weekend! Please join us on Sunday March 26 for our matinee performance. Playwright Aaron Mark will be in attendance and will lead the Post-Show Conversation. 

In the meantime, check out this interesting article Work in Progress: Deer - Playwright Aaron Mark talks about the unusual path his play Deer took for its world premiere at Stage West by Shelby-Allison Hibbs over at Theatre Jones (and excerpted below...)

Aaron Mark grew up in Houston, attending theatre and classes at the notable Theatre Under the Stars. Instead of taking the typical route of going to college and majoring in theatre, Mark decided to move directly to New York City after high school to start his career working in the theatre. He began by assistant directing numerous musicals. Mark mused about his past ambitions,  “I was on a path to become a director of musicals.” He’s most known as a director, and has a notable amount of credits in the city.

But something changed as Mark began to take an interest in writing plays… weird plays, as he says. Deer was inspired by real events; a couple of Mark’s friends were driving in a wooded area when they suddenly hit a deer. It completely changed their night because the animal was not quite dead yet—one of them would have to kill it. Mark was fascinated by that situation. “Who is going to do it? What does it reveal about the dynamics of their relationship? What would it catalyze in their relationship? I was intrigued by the intensity of that moment.”

Deer is unusual from a development standpoint… because it has already been published. Even before a single production of the play had occurred. That is interesting…and almost unheard of.

Check out the full article at Theatre Jones to find out the rest of the path Deer took to its world premiere at Stage West.

Hope to see you all on Sunday with your questions and comments for the director.

(photo: Aaron Mark)