Friday, October 7, 2005
Tough act to follow
KU student to share stage with American theater giant
By Mindie Paget
Among theater aficionados, Edward Albee is a hero.
He’s the rare contemporary American playwright who supports himself writing exclusively for the stage. And he sticks to his guns, creating surreal, avant-garde works in spite of sometimes skeptical critics.
Kansas University graduate student Tim Macy is cut from the same curious cloth.
“He’s one of the quirkiest young playwrights I’ve had the fortune to work with,” says KU English professor Paul Lim, artistic director of English Alternative Theatre. “What he has in common with Edward Albee is not just this quirkiness, but also keen intelligence and a special love for the English language.”
The absurd quality of Albee’s plays reaches new heights this weekend for Macy, whose own one-act play, “The Holocaust Kid,” is sharing a double bill with Albee’s “The Zoo Story” at the Lawrence Arts Center. English Alternative Theatre has dubbed the double whammy “Two Killer One-Acts.”
“It’s peculiar,” Macy says. “I’ve read several of (Albee’s) things; he’s a great playwright.
“Both plays have very abrupt and sort of stark endings, so I think there’s a parallel in that sense. But it would be ridiculous for me to say that I parallel any of the texture and layers of Albee’s stories because he’s written so much into this little one-act, it’s amazing.”
Macy might be a bit modest.
Jeremy Auman, who’s directing “The Holocaust Kid,” says it’s as good or better than any original script he’s directed. The first thing to know about the show, he says, is that it’s not a piece about the Holocaust à la “Schindler’s List.” Rather, it’s the story of one dysfunctional family.
“Although aspects of religion are kind of touched upon, I think they’re secondary to what the play’s about,” Auman says.
Macy’s tale revolves around a young man, Jack, who has inexplicably left Yale University during his first semester to chase his dream of becoming a boxer, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.
In the mean time, four women — Jack’s mother, sister, girlfriend and grandmother — are searching or waiting for some version of the man they once knew to return.
The play takes place in the home of Jack’s grandmother, an elderly Jewish woman. Her daughter, who has abandoned her religion, is preparing to move her into a Christian retirement home after the Christmas holiday.
Throughout the play, Macy offers glimpses through flashbacks into Jack’s interaction with his family before his disappearance, as well as into his boxing experience. Stories about Herman, the Holocaust survivor and departed grandfather, also circulate, helping to illuminate the family’s lack of togetherness.
Auman hopes, for the sake of theater, that potential audiences won’t be afraid of the play’s title.
“I think people need to know that contemporary writers are writing things that aren’t classic musicals and classic plays,” he says. “These are things that you can relate to. It’s important that we start to watch new work; otherwise, the theater will disappear and we’ll be stuck with ‘Oklahoma!’ and ‘Les Misérables’ every year.”
About the playwright
Macy, a 25-year-old from Noel, Mo., a town of less than 1,500 in the extreme southwest corner of the state, says he feels fortunate to have ended up at Kansas University, studying playwriting with Lim, who’s directing “The Zoo Story.”
“I have friends that have gone off to other MFA programs, did their undergraduate work at KU, and they’re lucky to get a staged reading once a year,” Macy says. “There’s all this competition for very small spaces and very low budget, but Paul and EAT, they come in and they take original scripts and they produce them.
“I mean, I’m being produced next to Edward Albee, which is really surreal.”
When he was an undergraduate, one of Macy’s 10-minute plays was performed at the Kennedy Center, and his one-act play “The Sunshine Game” was staged both in Lawrence and at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference in New York.
Which raises another parallel between Macy and Albee, who was just 30 in 1958 when he wrote “The Zoo Story,” his first play. At least for the weekend, the visions of two beginning playwrights will unfold on the same stage.
One of those works has since proven to be the start of a long, fruitful career in theater; the other represents potential. And Macy’s approaching the somewhat intimidating pairing with a wry sense of humor.
“I think (Albee’s play) kind of rises above mine. But that’s OK,” he says. “That’s why I’m going first so nobody will get up and leave after his is done.”
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