Sunday, November 9, 2014

InnerMission Productions presents Longview, TX by Anna Rebek

playwright, director, set designer and costume designer
Anna Rebek
We are unbelievably honored and thrilled to have shared the last few months with Anna Rebek.  Anna is a friend and a colleague and she has written an incredible play.  This has been an unreal opportunity for everyone involved.  We had a few questions for Anna our playwright and fearless director, set designer and costume designer.  Here is a little bit about how this incredible artist found herself in Longview, TX:

IM: The play examines our media-driven society, is there a specific message you’re trying to send?
AR: In the middle of a heavy announcement about Prisa Hernandez having gone missing, Blanche is distracted by something in her teeth. There are no bad guys in the play, as real people aren’t all good or bad. But if you had to pick a villain, it would be Blanche.

The Blanche Duvet show represents the great American opinion before fact show. I wanted to expose the goings on off-camera, and how the topics are chosen to be excitatory, to provoke and entertain viewers. It’s intentional, it’s manipulated, and when acknowledged, it’s not dangerous. The problem is that it in this country it isn’t always acknowledged.

During the Ferguson riots I saw a police chief make a public announcement on television with an African American officer standing behind him. The officer never spoke, he was never addressed. This impacted me, this idea that this man had been used as a prop. That kind of media manipulation is obvious on shows that lampoon it, like The Colbert Report, but when it’s not a joke and you realize that they thought that showing an African American officer would convince the public that racism couldn’t possibly live among police in one of the most segregated cities of America…

IM: What was your inspiration for writing LONGVIEW, TX?
AR: Three reasons really.
#1. I love Texas.
My mom is Mexican and grew up in Austin Tx. During holidays and summers we would go visit her family there and stay with aunts and uncles and grandparents. She told us that when she was growing up there were kids in her class she wasn’t allowed to play with because their families were white and had that rule. That wasn’t my experience, all I remember is that I never had to brush my teeth, I got to watch R-rated movies and eat bbq and I slept where I fell. It was awesome. Plus these people talked different, had a different pace of doing things, this way of speaking just a few words but having rich meaning behind them. Words seemed just brushed on top like a cheap coat of paint, with Spanish thrown in here and there. They’d also tell these long stories or jokes and I’d hear the music in it.
I wanted that challenge as a writer, to have depth in subtext without cluttering up the dialogue, and still creating a real specific space and time and authenticity in how they spoke.
I wanted to go back and hear them again like I did as a kid. And I did. Writing this play was a way for my heart to visit Texas around 1992.

 #2. Taking care of my mom when she had cancer.
That time, caring for her while dealing with the fear and illness turned my life into a horror movie. I knew going through it that I would never be the same as I had been before. That experience also brought out the best and worst in people around me and I crossed many names off my list because of it. This play poured out of me and those memories sank like a stone to the bottom. There’s nothing like writing to tell you where wounds are still healing.

#3. Ferguson Missouri.
I listened to the absurdity of the media spin on that event spiral out of control. People were able to select from the buffet of facts the media spread to confirm their own narrative. So much tension, so much hate right underneath spurting up. It is our right and in our human nature to form opinions, but it was clear that when I heard discussion about that event, the speaker always started with an opinion and chosen the data to support their version of the truth. That’s not factual, and its not educated.

 IM: Rumor has it that you wrote this piece for this ensemble…How did the actors inspire these characters?
 AR: That rumor is true. I wrote this piece specifically for all but one of the actors that are in it.

Jaime Tuttle has incredible helpfulness and sweetness, and is definitely super smart. She also has a very determined core, and I’m not worried about her getting what she wants out of life. I wanted for her to explore that edge with Casey, the end of nice in favor of getting ahead, what it feels like to step on someone else’s head to climb yourself up. And also for Missy for her to try on charm with slower processing.

Tiffany Tang has extreme truthfulness and softness. It’s like she’s holding all these lovely gifts in a basket in front of her and offering them up to the world. It can be a dangerous way to go, but I empathize with it. For her character Liz, who is based on my own life, I wanted her to feel the moment when life comes along and slaps that pretty basket into the street. Having to watch her  be harsh and gruff and totally about to lose it is beautiful.

Sam Ginn and I go back. I’ve seen her play many roles, and there are many roles I’ve seen played on stage that I wished were played by her instead. Often. She has such a strong presence and genius comedic timing, but she never fully takes in and uses her sex appeal. I wanted all of it! I wrote Darlene for her because I wanted her loose and bold and funny and been there/done that with the sexy confidence of a bulldozer. Which she should have anyway.

Bryant Hernandez is the only actor I didn’t originally have in mind for his role, but I now know why Carla and Kym suggested him for the part. Bryant has a musicality in his delivery that brings a joy and flair and fabulousness. He also has a connection with Carla that layers the relationship between Doug and Blanche onstage. He gets to lead dancing in this piece and his grace and rhythm make it look easy.

Kym Pappas has gorgeous vulnerability and is also flooding with nurturing sensibility. She may not have kids but she’s a mom. She also has a serrated edge that few have ever seen fully, myself included, but I know it’s there. I wanted her to have the challenge of nowhere to put all her love for most of the play. She has such a rich depth too, that I wrote Farrah who’s easier to read on the surface. Farrah has an open face, faith and an open heart.

Carla Nell can convey huge expression facially and does so hilariously. No one does caustic like Carla. She also moves well even if she doesn’t think so. I wanted to give her an opportunity to let her bitch side take over, I wrote Blanche so she could relish chewing people up and spitting them out. I also wanted to see her connect to her body, to use her whole instrument from her head to her cute pinky toes.

Martin Gutfeldt has a beautiful tenderness and sincerity both vocally and physically. In a sense it’s like he’s been spared some of the harshness of the world. He can also play the saxophone like a deer wears antlers. I wanted to see Martin in a role that provided him a backstory where he had endured lots of hardship, teasing, bullying, abuse…I wrote Holden to have suffered for being different; a young man who’s never felt totally safe, whole or normal.

John Antonov is such a sweet man. I don’t think he knows how disarming he is. He also has a tendency to shy away and make his presence smaller. I wanted to give him a role, Sergeant Tate, where he can own his space, have authority and be in command vocally and physically. I also wanted him to turn his shyness into good ol’ boy charm.

Brian Lee Burke is one of those beautiful straight men that have a genuine love for real women, and a low tolerance for bullshitters. He must have met a bunch of them because there’s sometimes an air of defeat that follows him. He has the most unique and luxurious voice- his Texas drawl is a song. I wanted to see his spark light up when I wrote Jim; to use his voice and sex appeal in a ol’ school cop way, and have him dust off his optimism and see if it still fits.

IM: Which character in Longview, TX would you most like to play?
AR: Well Liz is based on my experiences, so I’d like to play that part for the catharsis of it. I love to play strong, sexy, women who own their mistakes and keep making them. Because that’s how life is! But for fun reasons it would be Blanche or Darlene. Blanche because she gets to play dirty. And Darlene because she gets to sing and yell, and not care about what people think. She’s free.
6ish Words To Describe The Play:
A spicy tangy bittersweet Texas stew.
You’ll recognize yourself in someone up there, I recognize myself in everyone up there.
Longview, TX opens November 7 and runs two weekends only at the OB Playhouse.
For more information and tickets go to:

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