Just in time for the nationwide General Election on Nov. 6th, Bare Theatre of Raleigh, NC is presenting The Leader, a program of one-act plays about politics, including “The Leader” by Romanian and French playwright provocateur Eugene Ionesco (1909-94), on Oct. 25-28 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham and on Nov. 3, 4, and 8-11 at the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh.
According to Bare Theatre:
“With one of the most decisive elections in United States history approaching, Bare Theatre uses Eugene Ionesco’s 1953 absurdist comedy ‘The Leader’ as the centerpiece of a collection of pieces to capture the sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing implications of following a leader. This bizarre story raises questions about human nature and leadership without being specific to time, place, or person.
“[The Leader] will feature, in addition to the Ionesco play and other vignettes: clowns performing [Transportation Security Administration]-style security checkpoints, a brief look at the most impactful leaders in world history, a presentation on ‘The Anatomy of a Leader,’ fun with lemmings, and a choreographed game of ‘king of the hill’ with sinister turns.”
“I saw a production about 17 years ago that gave me the idea for this show,” reveals Bare Theatre managing director G. Todd Buker. “The Eugene Ionesco play, ‘The Leader,’ is very short; but the students who put it on created a series of original vignettes to go along with it and fill out a full evening.
Buker, who will serve as director for this program of short plays, adds, “There’s a lot to love about this show. I’m a big fan of Absurdism and Ionesco, but this was also a great opportunity for Bare Theatre to explore clowning and devising.
“Clowning in particular is a favorite,” Buker explains, “because it breaks many standard rules of theater and the possibilities are endless. We did several workshops in the streets of downtown Raleigh, which I think was a fantastic experience for the cast. They had to approach strangers, and act ridiculous in the streets, which is exhilarating.”
Todd Buker adds, “Our show is a collection of short works, all of which deal with a leader or lack thereof, or concentrate on followers of various types. We begin with Ionesco’s play, which is very relevant today even though it was written in 1953. That play then becomes the springboard for all of the other short plays and scenes we present.
“There is a short play about the myth of lemmings’ mass suicide, another about a cult layoff, even a play written in rhyming couplets about medieval monarchs who sound very much like two well-known political parties,” says Buker.
He says, “When we originally began the process, I had whiteboard full of ideas that the ensemble had come up with. We also had several short plays from Chuck Keith, who shares writing credit on the project. The most difficult part for me was deciding what to keep and what to let go, and conveying an overall vision to the cast when we were creating it together on the fly.
The Bare Theatre cast for The Leader includes (in alphabetical order) Loren Armitage, Jeff Buckner, Patrick Cox, Matt Fields, Matthew Hager, Joanna Herath, Diana McQueen, Stephen Wall, and Cassandra Wladyslava.
“The cast is the creative team,” claims The Leader’s director Todd Buker, “and I suspect they may say that devising and some of the clown exercises were the most difficult. Two exercises in particular – one in which they had to ask insane questions to strangers on the street (with no costume or makeup on to indicate they were performing), and another in which they had to enter a room and try to stand in a box using some basic rules of clowning. That sounds easy, I know, but it’s actually one of the most difficult exercises, because the clown repeatedly has to start over.”
In addition to director Todd Buker, who doubles as lighting and sound designer for The Leader, the Bare Theatre creative team for the show includes physical/fight choreographer Heather J. Strickland, assisted by Jason Bailey; costume designers Susan Buker and Mollie Earls; and stage manager Emily Huffman. (Strickland is the artistic director of Bare Theatre.)
In keeping with the Raleigh-based theater company’s name and reputation for no-frills productions, Todd Buker says, the set for The Leader is a “Bare stage, only a walk-through metal detector, a platform, a projector screen, and a coat rack.
He adds, “Each scene is lit according to the needs of the script and the mood. A strobe light is used during the final scene.”
Buker says, “The cast uses base costumes of a white tank top and black pants, with other pieces such as shirts, coats, tabards, and dresses being used for various scenes. The most unusual costumes are for a short play in which the actors play sperm cells.”
The Leader director Todd Buker says, “While this show does coincide with the 2012 election, it is not political in any way, and does not directly address the current candidates. This collection is intended as thought-provoking entertainment that will hopefully give the audience lots of laughs.”
He adds, “The show is suitable for most ages, except for possibly very young children. There is a little bit of adult language, and some adult themes. It is also worth noting that the show contains a few loud gunshots onstage, and a strobe light is used. Onstage violence is mostly stylized and not graphic in nature.”
Bare Theatre presents THE LEADER at 8 p.m. Oct. 25-27 and 2 p.m. Oct. 28 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705; and at 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 2 p.m. Nov. 4, 8 p.m. Nov. 8-10, and 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Visual Art Exchange, 309 W. Martin St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $17 ($10 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
Durham Shows: 919-322-8819, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/272680.
Raleigh Shows: 919-322-8819, email@example.com, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/272684.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6yVSNhonUQ&feature=player_embedded#!.
Common Ground Theatre: http://www.cgtheatre.com/ (directions/parking: http://www.cgtheatre.com/directions).
Visual Art Exchange: http://visualartexchange.org/ (directions/parking: http://visualartexchange.org/about/contact/).
G. Todd Buker: http://gtoddbuker.com/ (official website).
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