The cast of Savage Umbrella's latest work, Care Enough, has been on quite a ride over the past two months. It's almost time to share it with the audience. Be warned.
"There's a lot of violence in the script, and I think for a while we forgot how scary that can be," says director Laura Leffler-McCabe. "This is a group of actors where several of them are new to us, so they wanted to hold up a bit. We have had a lot of smart dialogue with the company about the importance of the violence in the play, and why it needs to be there."
Exploring violence is nothing new for the company. Their last production, The Ravagers, brought the audience up close and personal to the murders of numerous new husbands, and then had the viewers carefully walk around the corpses on the way back to their seats.
This time, playwright Carl Atiya Swanson wanted to take a closer, more personal look at the cost of politics and violence. Inspiration came from numerous places, from anti-war protests to John Berger's "Twelve Theses on the Economy of the Dead" to the physical comedy of Buster Keaton. The show's title comes from a Keaton quote, when he tried to explain how he was able to do so much physical humor without showing outward signs of wear.
Still, Swanson's script is only one step in the process. Savage Umbrella builds its original work as collaborations among all of those involved, including the cast, director Leffler-McCabe, movement director Hannah K. Holman, composer Ted Moore, and the rest of the creative staff.
"I may be the ignition, but we need pistons and axels to make [the show] go," Swanson says.
"Early on in the process, we were able to let the actors do a lot of exploration and playing around so they could build a vocabulary of movement that now seems like it has always belonged," Leffler-McCabe says.
The process has "strengthened the writing. It has made every thing better. The cast is enormously brave. If we need to stop and talk, we stop and talk," Swanson says.
In Care Enough, a man is held hostage by political forces. Throughout the play, he is haunted by his former lover, while a chorus comments on the action that is happening both in the real world and in the character's mind.
"I think it is not always a clear line between those two worlds. There's a lot of navigating where those two issues lie," Leffler-McCabe says.
A lot of the play is about "how we hurt people without knowing it. I was thinking about the theme of the play. When we did The Ravagers, there were obvious political issues. This is much more subtle, about how those political systems continue in everyday life," Swanson says.
"I think it's going to feel shocking, like a blow," Leffler-McCabe says. "Not just because of the violence that happens, but because there is a lot of heavy subject matter that people try not to think about."
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