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Open Fist tackles ambitious 8-play ‘Gary Plays’
series by iconic playwright Murray Mednick
LOS ANGELES (April 4, 2017) — Fans of seminal playwright and Padua Hills Playwrights Festival founder Murray Mednick are in for a treat: Open Fist Theatre Company presents Mednick’s entire “The Gary Plays” series in one epic production beginning May 4 at Atwater Village Theatre. Longtime Mednick collaborator Guy Zimmerman directs.
Originated by Padua Playwrights and developed in workshops over a two-year period by Open Fist, “The Gary Plays” chronicles the odyssey of unemployed actor Gary Bean in the years following the random murder of his son. As he tries to come to terms with his loss, Gary is accompanied by a chorus of inner voices, refracted aspects of his psyche, which gives voice to the various characters he encounters and articulates his grief, fears and aspirations. Taken as a whole, the six-play series portrays economic and spiritual distress in the contemporary urban wilderness of Los Angeles. An everyman/anti-hero, Gary was hailed by KCRW as “a sort of L.A. Leopold Bloom.”
“What I find so unique is that each of the plays is its own experiment in theatrical form,” says Zimmerman. “Each features the same characters and is part of the same story, yet is formally distinct in terms of style.”
“For me, these plays articulate the confusion we’ve been feeling as a city and as a society,” says Open Fist artistic director Martha Demson. “The avant garde ensemble work required to present these remarkably vibrant and compelling plays as a single marathon event is exactly the kind of work we strive to do at the Fist.”
Jeff LeBeau, Kelly Van Kirk and Darrell Larson share the role of Gary over the course of the narrative. The ensemble also features Peggy Ann Blow, Sandra Kate Burck, Phillip Curry, Carl J. Johnson, Elizabeth Lande, Laura Liguori, Derek Manson, Roderick Menzies, Laura Richardson, Barbara Schofield, Josh Trant, Amanda Weier and Norbert Weisser.
“As Murray Mednick experiments with language… he is emblematic of a Los Angeles dramatic tradition in much the same way that Clifford Odets is identifiable with Gotham or David Mamet with Chicago,” wrote Bob Verini in Variety.
Open Fist audiences can choose to follow Gary’s journey over the course of three separate evenings — or view all six plays on a single Sunday. Part 1 consists of Tirade for Three and Girl on a Bed. Part 2 is comprised of Gary’s Walk and Out of the Blue. Part 3 includes DaddyO Dies Well and Charles’ Story. Although The Gary Plays was initially published as an octet, workshops revealed that two of the plays remain outside the narrative arc of Gary’s journey and it was decided to not include those in this production.
Murray Mednick, a pioneer of the off- and off-off-Broadway movements in the ‘60s and ‘70s and playwright-in-residence for Theater Genesis, wrote such ground-breaking works as The Hawk, The Hunter, Sand, Are You Lookin’ and The Deer Kill (1970 OBIE Award for Outstanding Play), and was the founder/artistic director of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival in Los Angeles from 1978 to 1995. He is the recipient of two Rockefeller Foundation grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Theatre Critics Association Best New Play citation (for Joe and Betty), a Career Achievement Award from the LA Weekly, an Ovation Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to Los Angeles Theater from the L.A. Stage Alliance, a Local Hero Award from Back Stage West, and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle’s Margaret Harford Award for Sustained Excellence in Theater.
Guy Zimmerman is an award-winning writer, director and producer who is the artistic director of Padua Playwrights. Directing credits include The Royal at the Met Theatre; the critically acclaimed The Fool and the Red Queen at the Lounge Theatre; his own play, The Black Glass, which premiered at Open Fist before going on to Push-Push Theater in Atlanta and Balhaus OST Theater in Berlin; Fractalicious! by playwright and theorist Bryan Reynolds, developed by Transversal Theater Company, at the Interferences Festival in Cluj, Romania; and The Hive Project, featured at the SLSA conference at Notre Dame. He has also produced and directed a series of digital media productions of original plays including Pronghorn, Girl on a Bed, Gary’s Walk, Snout and Great Things. His own plays include La Clarita, The Inside Job, Vagrant, The Black Glass, The Hillary Game and The Royal. In 2015, Zimmerman co-produced VisionLA Climate Action Arts Festival, staging over 80 events at venues across the L.A. basin in support of the UN Ministers gathering in Paris for COP21. A PhD in Theater and Dramatic Arts, Zimmerman has written articles and essays about film, theater, art, science and politics that have been published in Theatre Journal, SubStance, Shakespeare Bulletin, Architecture in the Anthropocene, TheaterForum, LA Weekly, AmericanTheatre, LA Citizen, Cyrano’s Journal, and the arts and culture website Times Quotidian. He is the editor of an eight-volume anthology series for Padua Press, distributed nationally by TCG.
Martha Demson, the artistic director of Open Fist Theatre, believes passionately in the voice and role of theater in our communities. In addition to her work as a producer and director with Open Fist, Demson serves on the board and chairs the arts committee of the Hollywood Media District Business Improvement District. She also sits on the board of the Theatrical Producers League of Los Angeles, which strives to unite and strengthen the work of theater makers in L.A. Highlights of Demson’s award-winning career with Open Fist include producing The Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union (Greig); LA Weekly “Production of the Year” How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients (Visniec), which was also presented in New York by the Alliance Francaise in conjunction with a festival on Utopia sponsored by the New York Public Library and Bibliotheque Nationale of France; Foote Notes (Foote); Travesties (Stoppard); and The Devil with Boobs (Fo). Directing credits include Papa (deGroot), also presented in San Francisco and Istanbul, Turkey; Casanova (Congden); Abingdon Square (Fornes); Escape from Happiness (Walker); Flight of the Earls (Humble); and Dear John Mayer (Shoshana Bean / Eydie Faye). Martha is a graduate of Yale University and of Sanford Meisner’s two-year master class.
The Open Fist Theatre Company is a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members. The company’s name combines the notion that an open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas, is essential, with the idea that determination and even force, signified by a fist, is necessary if the theater is to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness.
The creative team for “The Gary Plays” includes scenic designer Jeff Rack; lighting designer Dan Reed; sound designer John Zalewski; costume designer Kharen Zeunert; and projections designer Hana S. Kim. Jennifer Palumbo is the production stage manager; Gabrieal Griego is associate producer/assistant director/production manager; and Martha Demson and Laura Hill produce for Open Fist Theatre Company.
The Gary Plays runs May 4 through June 4 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 12 p.m.; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Preview performances take place April 26 through April 30 on the same schedule.
Part 1 (Tirade for Three, Girl on a Bed), Part 2 (Gary’s Walk, Out of the Blue) and Part 3 (DaddyO Dies Well, Charles’ Story) perform on a rotating basis on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with all three parts performed on Sundays. Go to www.openfist.org to view a complete schedule. Tickets are $30 for each two-play part, or $50 for a series pass (all three parts/six plays). Previews are $15 for each two-play part or $30 all three parts.
Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.
Details for Calendar Listings
‘The Gary Plays’
The Gary Plays — Fans of seminal playwright and Padua Hills Playwrights Festival founder Murray Mednick are in for a treat: Open Fist Theatre Company presents Mednick’s entire “The Gary Plays” series in one epic production. Originated by Padua Playwrights and developed in workshops over a two-year period by Open Fist, “The Gary Plays” chronicles the odyssey of unemployed actor Gary Bean, Mednick’s everyman/anti-hero who has been hailed by KCRW as “a sort of L.A. Leopold Bloom.” Audiences can choose to follow Gary’s journey over the course of three evenings — or view all six plays on a single Sunday.
• Written by Murray Mednick
• Directed by Guy Zimmerman
• Starring Peggy Ann Blow, Sandra Kate Burck, Phillip Curry, Carl J. Johnson, Elizabeth Lande, Darrell Larson, Jeff LeBeau, Laura Liguori, Derek Manson, Roderick Menzies, Laura Richardson, Barbara Schofield, Josh Trant, Kelly Van Kirk, Amanda Weier, Norbert Weisser
• Produced by Martha Demson and Laura Hill
• Presented by Open Fist Theatre Compa
Previews: April 27-April 30
Performances: May 4-June 4
• Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
• Sundays at 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p,m.
Part 1 (Tirade for Three, Girl on a Bed), Part 2 (Gary’s Walk, Out of the Blue) and Part 3 (DaddyO Dies Well, Charles’ Story) perform on a rotating basis on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with all three parts performed on Sundays. Go to www.openfist.org to view a complete schedule.
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(FREE parking in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater)
(323) 882-6912 or www.openfist.org
• Each (2-play) part: $30
• Series Pass (all 3 Parts/6 plays): $50
• Previews: $15 each 2-play part / $30 all 3 parts