Vancouver Sun

Sam Shep­ard's work strikes a chord with young the­atre artists

- SHAWN CON­NER Entertainment · Celebrities · Movies · Sam Shepard · Kim Basinger · Kansas City · Robert Altman · Sam Rockwell · True West

Amer­i­can play­wright Sam Shep­ard’s death last year prompted at least one Cana­dian fan to set some the­atre wheels in mo­tion.

“I be­lieve that, on the night Sam Shep­ard passed, Lesli (Brown­lee) put in a re­quest for the rights,” said Jamie King, who is di­rect­ing Shep­ard’s 1983 play Fool for Love for a new the­atre col­lec­tive.

“It was that im­me­di­ate for her. She felt this de­sire and long­ing to do one of his shows. She reached out to me about a month later. I had been feel­ing the same as her, that kind of lone­some­ness when some­one who’s been in­flu­en­tial passes. I hopped on board right away.”

To put on the play, Brown­lee es­tab­lished ABB Col­lec­tive. The group of the­atre artists have come to­gether for a one-and-done mount­ing of the Shep­ard play.

One of his bet­ter-known works, Fool For Love pre­miered in San Fran­cisco in 1983. It was a fi­nal­ist for a 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Numer­ous pro­duc­tions, as well as a Robert Alt­man-di­rected movie (re­leased 1985 star­ring Shep­ard and Kim Basinger), fol­lowed. It fi­nally pre­miered on Broad­way in 2015, with Sam Rock­well.

In the play, for­mer lovers May (Brown­lee) and Ed­die (Alex Rose) come to­gether in a mo­tel room at the edge of the desert for a kind of last stand. They spend most of the play emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally spar­ring (the show has a fight chore­og­ra­pher, Sylvie La Riviere). Two other char­ac­ters, a fa­ther fig­ure sim­ply called Old Man (Dun­can Fraser), and Mar­tin (Mike Gill), May’s date, ap­pear later.

Shep­ard, who was 73 when he died, was in his 30s when he wrote many of his best-known works, in­clud­ing True West, A Lie of the Mind, and Fool for Love. Of­ten seen as uniquely Amer­i­can, his work is strik­ing a chord with the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of young the­atre-mak­ers.

The 29-year-old King re­calls at a for­ma­tive age see­ing Shep­ard plays that were mounted by Main Street The­atre at Lit­tle Moun­tain Gallery.

“I re­mem­ber them hav­ing this stir­ring ef­fect on me be­cause they were such in­ti­mate pro­duc­tions, and so vis­ceral,” said King, who last year re­ceived the Ray Michal Prize for Most Promis­ing New Di­rec­tor as part of the 2017 Jessie Awards.

“And I re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally moved by them. And I think there’s a bunch of other peo­ple in the Van­cou­ver the­atre scene who feel the same way.

“But I also think that Sam Shep­ard speaks very much to where we are right now. He writes for those dis­en­fran­chised peo­ple who are told they can have the world, who are promised the Amer­i­can dream and get noth­ing.”

From the col­lec­tive’s first read­ing of the play to re­hearsals in the days lead­ing up to the run, King and the ac­tors have dis­cov­ered new lay­ers in Shep­ard’s work.

“We’ve re­al­ized how funny the script is. He’s a very funny writer. He doesn’t write jokes but he’ll write these ten­sion breaks that are bright and let you breathe out and re­lease. In our first read, it was this heated, fast-paced script. We still have that, but we have the other side, the hu­mour. It feels a lot more like life.”

The play opens on Valen­tine’s Day, mak­ing this des­per­ate ro­mance a pos­si­ble date-night — or not.

“We’re not sure how much of Valen­tine’s Day date it is,” she said. “But we’re pitch­ing it as a good one to bring an ex to.”

 ??  ?? Alex Rose and Lesli Brown­lee
Alex Rose and Lesli Brown­lee

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