Eric Samuelsen bids farewell to the #SeasonOfEric

Eric Samuelsen has written for Plan-B Theatre Company for a decade where, in addition to the #SeasonOfEric, his plays MIASMA, AMERIGO and BORDERLANDS also received their world premieres. It’s very rare for a fully professional American theatre company to devote time and resources to new work by local playwrights. It’s exponentially rarer for companies to do entire seasons devoted to the work of a single playwright. I expect, rarest of all, would be for companies to market that season using the playwright’s first name. So: the Season of Eric. And I’m Eric; apparently sufficiently known (or at least notorious) to warrant not just a season of my work, but a marketing campaign based on my first name. It’s immensely flattering and a tremendous honor. Obviously, the greatest five events in my life were when I married Annette, and when each of our four children were born. I’m not kidding when I say this: The Season of Eric comes sixth. We started off with GHOSTS. My PhD dissertation was on Henrik Ibsen, most of my scholarly publications were on Ibsen; I’m an Ibsen guy. And I can say this unequivocally; I love GHOSTS. And of course the ending of the play is powerfully and movingly tragic. But I’ve seen GHOSTS in production many times, and I’ve always felt there was something essential missing. Humor. Dour old Ibsen, the stuffy Victorian moralist. As I translated the play, I kept cracking up; I loved Ibsen’s subversive satirical wit. In our Script-In-Hand Series production, we only had a few days to rehearse, but it was so thrilling to hear laughs in the house....

Audience Comments: NOTHING PERSONAL

Audience comments on the world premiere of Eric Samuelsen’s NOTHING PERSONAL: NOTHING PERSONAL is the best thing I have ever seen, anywhere. Everyone must see this play. – MaryBeth Jarvis Clark  Whoa, Eric Samuelsen, whoa. Thanks Kirt Bateman, and April Fossen (and Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin) for making tears pour from my eyes and my face contort into what I’m going to call “WTF” face. I got home and said, “What the hell did I just see?” to my empty house. People: GO see NOTHING PERSONAL. – Sarah Danielle Young  Listen to me and hear me now. I had the good fortune to catch NOTHING PERSONAL in dress rehearsal. I was FLOORED by what an amazing piece of work this is on EVERY level. I have never, NEVER had such a completely engaging, provocative, visceral, PRESENT experience watching a live performance as I did watching this one. So well done, and such residual fodder for thought. It was hard not to stand up and talk to the characters, try to help, yell at some of them. It was hard not to get involved. It was difficult to simply to stay seated in my chair like an audience member is supposed to. Amazing work by everyone. Thank you to Eric Samuelsen, Jerry Rapier, Kirt Bateman, April Fossen, Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin, and to everyone else who took part in the creation and funding of this play. It feels to me like NOTHING PERSONAL is an evolution of the art form. – Melissa Rasmussen We were really challenged by the play because it was a “play” and not completely factual – that’s not a complaint,...

Martine Kei Green-Rogers on NOTHING PERSONAL: Everything is personal now.

Martine Kei Green-Rogers is a Raymond C. Morales Post-Doctorate Fellow in the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah and the dramaturg for NOTHING PERSONAL and CLEARING BOMBS this season at Plan-B. NOTHING PERSONAL by Eric Samuelsen takes me on an infuriating ride. Don’t get me wrong; it has nothing to do with the production or even Samuelsen’s crafty use of language. My fury has everything to do with the unfolding of the story and its subsequent emotional roller coaster ride. In order to explain what I mean, and to illustrate how these harsh words are actually a great compliment, I want to rewind in time to the first run I saw of this play (October 6). As the dramaturg on this lovely production, I had the opportunity to sit in on a very early run of the show [after only 6 days of rehearsal]. The director (Jerry Rapier) had just finished preliminary blocking and character work when all the designers were invited in to see the shape of the production thus far. At this run, I found myself with numerous questions about the play and the production. Aware that it was very early in the rehearsal process, I even prefaced my thoughts to Jerry with this quote: “It is sooooo early in this process so take most of these [notes] with a grain of salt. These are just the ruminations of a crazy woman and the journey I went on while watching/ the questions I found myself asking while watching.” “I love Ken’s smugness and calmness -its a nice contrast with Susan’s frenetic energy. Its also sets...

Actor Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin on rehearsing NOTHING PERSONAL

Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin has previously appeared in Plan-B’s THE THIRD CROSSING and SLAM. “I think it might be challenging for you to play a role where you don’t get to speak,” said Jerry [when he offered me the role of the Matron in NOTHING PERSONAL]. I, of course, thought this to be extremely funny, since I am known for being loquacious. I soon found out he was serious and the most challenging part is NOT that I don’t have anything to say but that I have so much to say. So much I should say and don’t say ANYTHING. I admit I had to reach deep down to find empathy for a middle-class white woman who is unjustly imprisoned. I mean big freaking whaaaa! Yet this play should not – and is not – filtered through my almost-ever-present lens of race. This play is about power – those who have it get to do whatever they want to those who do not. When that happens, you are bound to feel empathy for the underdog. Lest I get too preachy (pun intended), what I really love about live theater is the process. I love working in small frosty theaters [the heat has been off in the Studio Theatre since rehearsal began], inside jokes, meltdowns, tantrums, snide remarks, deep-down belly laughter, nicknames, frank discussions, reminiscing, openness and breakthroughs…a playwright’s words on paper interpreted and brought to life by some of the most creative creatures on the planet. It is indeed about the journey. Eric Samuelsen’s NOTHING PERSONAL receives its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre Company October 24-November 3 with Kirt Bateman, Dee-Dee...

Actor April Fossen on rehearsing NOTHING PERSONAL

April Fossen has appeared in Plan-B’s SHE WAS MY BROTHER, MESA VERDE, LADY MACBETH and SUFFRAGE.  She has also appeared in eight SLAMs and the Script-In-Hand Series reading of 8.  April has created roles in two plays by Eric Samuelsen for Plan-B: first MIASMA in 2006 and NOTHING PERSONAL, opening October 24. Here we are at the end of the first week of rehearsals for NOTHING PERSONAL and I’m feeling a little lost. Like maybe I know less now than I did at the beginning of the week. So, I’m going to make a list of 10 things I DO know. 1. I know that I trust Eric’s writing. I know that if I let myself give in to the words and the character and the story, it will all be there as a safety net. Eric’s plays are nothing if not safe places for actors to get lost in. 2. I know that I trust the people I’m working with. I trust Jerry to be honest with me. I trust Kirt to be super creepy on stage and super not-creepy off stage. I trust Dee-Dee to make sure things don’t get too pinchy. 3. I know that I wouldn’t last a day in prison. 4. I know that I’ll learn my lines eventually (hopefully soon), but tonight it’s too many words so I’m doing this instead. 5. I know that the floor of the studio theatre is hard. 6. I know that I should probably add Ibuprofen to my Costco shopping list. 7. I know that I’m incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to work on this script...

Eric Samuelsen on Creating NOTHING PERSONAL

Eric Samuelsen has been writing for Plan-B for a decade: seven SLAM plays, two Ibsen translations presented as part of the Script-In-Hand Series (A DOLL HOUSE and GHOSTS) and three world premieres (MIASMA, AMERIGO and BORDERLANDS).  The 2013/14 #SeasonOfEric is fully dedicated to his work. From 1996-1998, Susan McDougal, a woman from Little Rock, Arkansas, married to Jim McDougal, an S&L owner, was under investigation by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr for her alleged complicity in the Whitewater case. Because she refused to testify before Starr’s Grand Jury, Susan McDougal spent eighteen months in federal prison, including 8 months in solitary confinement. David Hale, a main Whitewater witness, insisted that she had had an affair with Bill Clinton. She insisted that she had not done so, and would not lie about it in court. For that refusal, she was imprisoned. In a sense, then, the character ‘Susan’ in my play NOTHING PERSONAL refers to Susan McDougal, and ‘Kenneth’ refers to Kenneth Starr. References in the play to ‘David’ mean David Hale, ‘Jim’ equals Jim McDougal and ‘Bill’ means Bill Clinton. NOTHING PERSONAL is a play very loosely based on McDougal and her imprisonment. But not all that much of it. My initial impulse was to focus entirely (and factually) on McDougal and her imprisonment. But as I wrote the play in the darker years of the Bush administration, I became increasingly concerned about the loss of civil liberties taking place through a wide variety of measures and incidents. The Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps, the illegal detention of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo and other ‘dark sites’ across the globe, all reflected...

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