By Sherry Kramer
Directed by Michael Rau
Produced by One Old Crow Productions
Nomination: Tony “Grasshopper” Mitch is nominated for Outstanding Choreography/Movement
About this Production
David's RedHaired Death is the beautiful, complicated story of two redheads who find they have everything in common until the death of a brother drives them apart. The redhaired mythology that empowers and glorifies these women leads them into a big love they can't safely get back out of. It's a story about the heaviness of the things we carry. Our version incorporates aerial silks, 3 walls of immersive projections and video that encompasses the audience, and a food and drink menu in collaboration with the restaurant Cantina Royal.
Diana Beshara, Elizabeth Simmons, and Grasshopper Mitch talk about this complexed and poetic work that became very personal for the artists.
What attracted you to this project?
Diana: Co-producing the show, Elizabeth Simmons, was the one who brought the show to me. At first, it seemed like a logical next step from my company's first production, a site specific version of Sam Shepard's Cowboy Mouth in an apartment in the Lower East Side. That was a two person show, this is a two person show plus some silent presences. That was a one act, this is a full length. Neither seem so concerned with things like plot, on the surface, and leave a lot of open space for interpretation, which I love in a piece. Slowly but surely getting a little bigger, you know? When you are a small new company that has no idea where the money will come from next, these are viable concerns. Plus the language is so beautiful and poetic, I just wanted to chew on it. We started talking logistics, and it was rolling right along. But then, my father died. And her aunt died. Within four days of each other. This is a show about grief and loss. It seemed too hot to even think about, so the project went on hold, and I went into mourning. But the more-and-more I held, the more-and-more I told myself I couldn't possibly do this show, the more and more obsessed I became with it. I really believe that things come into your life for a reason. "There are no coincidences," as Jean says in the play, and this show needed me to deal with it right at this time. So, it actually has a beautiful and tragic symmetry to it. My father is the person who inspired me to believe that I could even do something as crazy as make my own work. I never would have started a company if he hadn't given me the idea and pushed me to make it a reality. The last thing he would have wanted is for me to stop doing what I love because of him. So in the end, I'm doing this show for him, in his honor. And I just hope I can do a little bit of justice to all the faith he had in me.
Grasshopper: I was interested in working on the production because I was given the opportunity to create a different and unique adaptation of the play.
Elizabeth: I had wanted to do David's RedHaired Death (that capital H is on purpose by the way, we asked Sherry Kramer!) for almost 10 years. Acting in DC, I knew one of the original cast members, and the show always fascinated me; the language, the non-linear narrative, the relationship between these two women. And a two woman cast! Where do you see that? Also, the sense of mystery to it, even in the details, like who are these men who come in and out of the RedHeads world?
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Diana: It was amazing being a redhead! Because, all the reasons you would think :) No, seriously, this piece was a challenge due to some very personal things that resonated deeply with it that were going on in both mine and Elizabeth's lives. My favorite part was watching all of our ambitious moving parts, like the food and drink, projections, aerial, etc, finally come together into a real, quite elegant, cohesive piece. I loved making sense of this stream of conscious non-linear show. We just kept on walking around, in the most high stress times right before we opened, kind of in a daze, just saying "We made a thing!" over and over to each other. It's like a birth, it's difficult and the most rewarding thing you can do, all at the same time.
Grasshopper: The best part of the production was the cast and crew that I was able to work with. Everyone involved in the project was professional and friendly.
Elizabeth: The moment when we were standing on stage during tech and the world just came together. It was really gratifying to see everything go from ideas to reality. It was a great sense of accomplishment, especially for a first time producer. That was pretty amazing. I also really enjoyed the rehearsal process and just having the space and time to take risks and feel comfortable. There were moments I've never tried before on stage, especially that magical thing that happened when we worked out our monologues with the aerialists, I'd definitely never done that before as an actor.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Diana: It's a two woman show, where I had a very creative producer role and ALSO was on stage for the entire hour and a half, minus like 7 minutes. That was a challenge! It was very scary and very raw and hit me in a lot of my actor scary parts. But we think that those things that are difficult to do are the things that are often the most worthwhile to do. We learned so much, and it was such a joy to dive into this abstract, poetic text.
Grasshopper: The biggest challenge with this particular production was coordinating the aerial choreography. The aerial cast had significantly different experience and rotated throughout the show.
Elizabeth: Well, being a first time producer! I learned so much during the process, and it's definitely a challenge when you're co-producing and co-starring. As an actor, a challenge for me was just letting go and not anticipating. Because the play doesn't have a traditional arc, there's a lot of time jumping and memory scenes, sometimes it was tough to really stay in the moment and not let those transitions wash over you.
What makes David’s RedHaired Death so different?
Diana: We got to collaborate with so many awesome designers and creators. The whole show was basically visually soundtracked by our incredible video/projections designer, Asa Wember. And it was so amazing to watch our stark white box transform for the first time when his immersive projections on 3 huge screens engulfed us into many other worlds. It was also so so incredible to collaborate with our jaw-droppingly talented aerialists, Sloan Bradford, Matthew Stuart, and our amazing Choreographer Tony "Grasshopper" Mitch. It was so interesting to see their way into this piece, and how they translated with our awesome director Michael Rau, in collaboration with us, all these surreal moments in the show. It was awesome to work across mediums like that, and I think we all got to take something special away from that. It was amazing how the space, LA SALA at Cantina Royal, which is quite intimate, just exploded out when we accessed the vertical of the soaring ceilings with the aerial silks collaboration.
Grasshopper: Personally, the most amusing part of the production was the first aerial rehearsal and the awe and excitement in the actors' and crew's faces.
Elizabeth: Well, the flying men were pretty different and the amazing projections, and there was delicious food in a theatre behind an amazing Mexican restaurant. Oh, and the writing and the acting too lol! Sherry Kramer's words are just beautiful, there's a sense of poetry and love and heartbreak. There's this relationship between her characters, between my Marilyn and Diana's Jean that I haven't seen before in other plays.
What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Diana: We hope we surprised people a little, we hope they saw a little magic, had a little awe, and were able to get as swept up in this magical, mythical redhead world as we all were, designers, crew and performers.
Elizabeth: Hope! That you can move on, that you can go through so much heartache and confusion and still come out on the other side, just maybe not exactly the way you thought you would.