Heidi Berg on White Rabbit, Red Rabbit: "It's Possibly the Most Brilliant and Terrifying Idea That I've Encountered in Years"


This month at the Phoenix Theater, the Arts' Nest is presenting a work created by Nassim Soleimanpour. The playwright wrote White Rabbit, Red Rabbit while being denied a passport out of Iran for refusing to join the military. Soleimanpour wrote the script in such a way as to require no director or set, and with a different actor, who knows little about the script beforehand, for every performance. 

Artistic director Jenna Papke heard about the piece on a blog while the play was having a popular run in Washington, D.C. She thought it sounded really cool, so she reached out to Aurora Nova Productions, which has the American rights to the script. 

Soleimanpour has since received a passport -- he was able to finally see the play performed in 2013 -- but the work lives on. "It's an exploration of what in broad terms it means to be human," Papke says. While it's not an overtly political work, "it gives this little view of what it's like to live in a world where the government has control over your life." The play deals with issues of family and communication, and the playwright's relationship with the audience.

So far, the Arts' Nest has presented the performance twice this month, with different actors performing it. Papke says that reactions so far have been very thoughtful, with audiences hanging around afterward for discussion. 

Tonight, Heidi Berg will be performing the work. She hasn't read the script yet. "You walk onstage, and you open up the envelope and begin." 
Not getting to read the script beforehand is a bit nerve-racking, Berg says. She had a similar situation doing the Unit Collective's Madness series, where as an actor she had 30 minutes to read a script before performing. The title of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit doesn't give her much to go on, and she says information about what happens in the show is pretty scarce on the internet. 

"One of the things that you usually get as a performer is an opportunity to find the story, find the arc, and to pick the points where you know you are going somewhere -- to set your landmarks," Berg says. She fears she might start off and miss a moment. 

"It's possibly the most brilliant and terrifying idea that I've encountered in years," she says. 


White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

8 p.m. Wednesday, January 21 with Heidi Berg


Phoenix Theater

2605 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis

Ari Hoptman will perform the show on January 28