by Lloyd Suh
directed by Daniella Topol
Three years after his hit play, American Hwangap, Lloyd Suh is back with a contemporary take on the lost years of Jesus Christ. Teenaged and wayward, Jesus of Nazareth journeys to the East with his friend, Abigail of Galilee, toward a spiritual haven full of Maharajas, punk rock, and some really good weed.
"Exciting, energetic and gutsy. And original. Not to mention extremely funny. First-rate cast."— Woody Weingarten, Marin Scope
"So clever, comic and intriguing...Jesus is highly entertaining."— Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
"This is very funny, satirical stuff. Wry and affecting...the laughs just keep coming!"— Jean Schiffman, The San Francisco Examiner
"Lloyd Suh has given us something fresh, and utterly unique...this is one heck of an interesting evening of theater."— Clinton Stark, StarkInsider.com
5 out of 5 stars (Outstanding - Starkie!)
Lloyd Suh is also the author of Great Wall Story (premiering at the Denver Center Theatre Company in March). His play American Hwangap was produced at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco; with Ma-Yi & The Play Company in New York; and with Tanghalang Pilipino at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila, in connection with the Andrew Mellon Foundation and Lark Play Development Center's Launching New Plays into the Repertoire initiative, and was published in Smith & Kraus's Best New Playwrights 2009, American Theatre Magazine, and with Samuel French, Inc. Other plays include The Children of Vonderly, The Garden Variety, Masha No Home and Happy End of the World, a play for young audiences commissioned by Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis via the NEA New Play Development program. He has been the recipient of grants and awards from the New York Foundation of the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Jerome Foundation, and others. He is an alum of EST's Youngblood, and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, and a current member of Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Ma-Yi Writers Lab. He has served since January 2011 as Director of Onsite Programs at the Lark Play Development Center.
Daniella Topol (director) is a New York-based freelance theatre director primarily focused on working with writers to develop and direct relevant, theatrical and adventuresome new plays and musicals. Recent world premieres include: Rajiv Joseph's Monster at the Door (Alley Theatre, TX), Willy Holtzman's The Morini Strad (City Theatre, PA), Janet Allard and Niko Tsakalakos’ Pool Boy (Barrington Stage, MA), Sheila Callaghan’s Lascivious Something (Women’s Project, NYC), Caridad Svich’s Instructions for Breathing (Passage Theatre, NJ). Committed to developing programs that develop new writers and new plays, Daniella has served as the Associate Producing Director of the City Theatre in Pittsburgh, the New Works Program Director of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the Artistic Program Director of the Lark Play Development Center. She has been a grants review panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, TCG, New York State Council on the Arts, and NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Upcoming world premieres include: Catherine Treischmann's How the World Began (South Coast Rep, CA: Women's Project, NYC); Carla Ching’s Sugarhouse at the End of the Wilderness (Ma-Yi Theatre, NYC), and Stefanie Zadravec’s Electric Baby (Quantum Theatre, PA).
Shirley Fishman (dramaturg) As Director of Play Development at La Jolla Playhouse, Shirley oversees new projects under commission and in development. She served as dramaturg on a number of productions and workshops, including Charlayne Woodard’s The Night Watcher, David Schweizer’s Peer Gynt, John Leguizamo’s Diary of a Madman, Terrence McNally’s Unusual Acts of Devotion, Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations, Culture Clash’s Zorro in Hell, musicals Bonnie & Clyde and The Wiz, among others. During five years at The Public Theatre, she served as dramaturg on such projects as Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters, directed by Michael Greif; Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano, directed by Loretta Greco; Tina Landau’s Space; Thulani Davis’ Everybody’s Ruby; David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child; a workshop production of Brian Freeman’s Civil Sex, and numerous readings and workshops as co-curator of The Public’s annual New Work Now! Festival. She has been a Creative Advisor/Dramaturg at the Sundance Theatre Lab (1997-2000) working on such projects as Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife; Naomi Iizuka’s 36 Views; Moisés Kaufman’s The Laramie Project and Emily Mann’s Meshugah. An M.F.A. graduate of Columbia University’s Dramaturgy program, she has lectured at UC San Diego’s Department of Theater and Dance, is a Playwrights’ Dramaturg for their annual Baldwin Playwrights Festival, dramaturg for Native Voices at the Autry and San Diego’s Playwrights Project which nurtures young writers. She is a member of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.
Bobak Bakhtiari (Gopal) is excited to make his Magic Theatre debut as Gopal in Jesus in India. Bay Area credits include performances with Word For Word, Golden Thread, and the west coast premiere of Betrayedat Aurora Theatre, where he received a Critics Circle Nomination. Recent LA stage credits include Glamour Girls at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, acting alongside Bond girl Gloria Hendry, and performances with Workshop ‘79. On TV he can be seen interrogating Saddam in Interrogating Saddam on Nat Geo Cable, and in various comedic commercials. He is part of the sketch comedy troupe Scratch-N-Sniff productions and normally resides in a tiny cottage surrounded by cypress trees in Beverly Hills. Bakhtiari holds a Performance Studies degree from Bowdoin College and intensive training at A.C.T.
Jessica Lynn Carroll (Abigail) most recently played Amy Draft in Bellwether at Marin Theatre Company. She's been seen regionally as Gabriella in Boeing-Boeing at Center Rep and as Amelia Ainsley in Auctioning the Ainsleys at TheatreWorks. Miss Carroll has also participated in readings of new plays through PlayGround (Christina Walters), Playwright's Foundation (Rock Creek: Southern Gothic), and TheatreWorks New Works Festival (The Burnt Part Boys, Asphalt Beach, The Funkentine Rapture). Other local roles include Little Sally in Urinetown (Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award nomination), Evelyn Nesbit in Ragtime (Dean Goodman Award), Emily Webb in Our Town, and Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Ms. Carroll earned a BFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and is a member of Actors’ Equity.
Damon Daunno (Jesus) is a native of New Jersey and a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Credits include (Broadway) Kneehigh Theatre Co.'s Brief Encounter and (Regional) The Last Goodbye at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Also an accomplished musician and regular performer at various New York clubs and cafes, his Adulterated Trappings EP can be purchased on iTunes. He is thrilled to be making his Magic Theatre debut and thanks his cast and crew, Abrams, Jesus Christ and punk rock.
Mahira Kakkar (Mahari/Mary) is a proud member of the acting unions in America. She is happy to be making her Magic Theatre and Bay Area debut. New York credits include: Ms. Witherspoon (Playwrights Horizons), Opus (Primary Stages), Cavedwellers (Pearl Theatre Company), Betrothed (Ohio Theatre/ Ripe Time), and Sophistry (New World Stages). Regional credits include Twelfth Night (Westport Country Playhouse), Rafta Rafta (The Old Globe), Romeo and Juliet (Arden Theatre and Virginia Stage Company), Our Town and Coriolanus (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Inana (Denver Center), Three Sisters and Lady Windermere's Fan (Baltimore CenterStage), Around the World in 80 Days (Florida Studio Theatre) and Seven (International). Film and TV: In Real Life, A Night In the Hill, The Life of Pi, Gareeb Nawaz's Taxi, The Big C, Blue Bloods, Law and Order: CI. Upcoming: No Word in Guyanese – a one woman show about growing up gay, Guyanese and Muslim (The Directors Company, New York). Training: Juilliard, Public Theater, SITI Company.
Jomar Tagatac (Sushil) is excited to be part of this production. After earning a B.A Degree in Theatre from San Diego State University, he moved to San Francisco. He received an MFA in Acting from The American Conservatory Theater in 2005 and played the role of Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His most recent credits include The Nature Line (Benji) at Sleepwalkers Theatre, and The Best of Playground Festival 2010 and 2011. He's also been seen in Holes (Orpheum/SHN) and performed in projects for Word For Word and a collaboration of a new play, What's a Little Death performed at the Source Festival and The Baltimore Theatre Project. Jomar has been a Teaching Artist for The New Conservatory Theatre since 2006 teaching Improv/Theatre Games as well as teaching Hip Hop Dance throughout the Bay Area. Jomar is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association.
Magic Theatre’s NNPN Playwright in Residence Christina Anderson took time out from preparing for the world premiere of her new play Good Goods at Yale Rep to talk with Lloyd Suh about Jesus in India via Google Chat.
Lloyd: ah! hello!
Christina: haha, did you have trouble logging on?
Lloyd: No - just never gchatted before, not sure what I was doing.
Christina: I've never done a gchat interview before either so this'll be a small adventure for both of us.
Lloyd: Love it.
Christina: I read the play. And I really enjoyed it. I thought the language was great and the piece is very sincere, funny, and theatrical.
Christina: Can you talk a bit about what inspired this play?
Lloyd: Sure. Back when I was in grad school, I had a theater history class where we often got off the rails and talked about very random things, which was fantastic in fact - and one day for some reason, the professor, an amazing guy named Bill Coco, somehow started talking about how there was evidence to support the idea that Jesus may have spent a good part of his "lost years" traveling the East - especially in India, but also through China and what we now know as Tibet. I thought that was pretty exciting, and I remember talking about it with a friend of mine, an actor named Sunil Malhotra, and I told him I thought he should write a play about it, and we talked about how exciting it would be to have a teenage Jesus wandering the east, which is not dissimilar to like a contemporary college kid backpacking through Europe, say. Or even like the trend of people becoming very interested in Eastern mysticism and doing the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing.
Christina: Ahhh ... yes.
Lloyd: but somewhat recently, I started noticing all these Hollywood movies that were kind of about "rebooting" franchises - almost as if to play off of the "myth" of certain characters, like James Bond starting all over from the very beginning, or Batman Begins, or the new Star Trek "reboot", and I kind of dug those movies, especially because they're able to play with our perceptions in a way, but also bring up questions that I find really interesting - about how a person becomes what they are, how they grow into what we might know about them, before they know themselves what that is. I think it has something to do with being in the early part of a new century - that we're examining our biggest cultural signposts …
Christina: and it totally makes that icon more human
Lloyd: …and all of this made me think back to this story about Jesus as a teenager, before he really owns his cause. And yes, absolutely - I hope that in his teen angst, he's recognizable to people. I think and hope that his dilemma will ultimately be familiar - more than anything, it's a rite of passage play, a coming of age, which is another story style that has always resonated with me.
Christina: I remember reading an article in Utne magazine that discussed the possibility that some religious heads would probably turn their noses up at Jesus if he walked into the room. He would be considered "a hippie" by today's standards. I always found that observation so interesting.
Lloyd: That is definitely interesting - and yeah, I think he was absolutely anti-establishment; the gospels are ultimately a story of a revolution.
Christina: When we meet him in your play he is such a complex character with virtues and faults. And I think it's really compelling to consider this portrait, too.
Lloyd: Oh good – Yes, he can be a little raw, a little juvenile, and a little profane at the onset, but I also love using those qualities in reference to how it connects with what we might think of when we picture a teenage rebel today.
Christina: Can you talk a bit about the music that's in the play? How did you pick the genre?
Lloyd: Absolutely - the biggest thing about the genre I guess is a question that also relates to the other style elements - which is the question of time (as in WHEN is it happening?). So I made the decision early on to use a more contemporary style, especially with the music. I was attracted to the idea of punk rock not just because of the association with anarchy and an anti-establishment vibe, but also because its aesthetic doesn't require musical "talent" per se. I loved the idea of this band that wasn't necessarily any good, which to me felt like adolescence, like a "Before" picture.
Christina: That's what I love about the music choice. The passion to "just play" and dive in really does work well with Jesus' quest to find himself. Follow the path as it leads.
Lloyd: That's a cool way to put it. We just had the first music rehearsal yesterday, and man that was fun.There's something so liberating about the permission to make noise without an obligation to make it about anyone but yourself.
Christina: Are you a musician, too?
Lloyd: I'm not a musician, though in high school and college I was in a few bands, none of which really went anywhere. I played guitar, which I'm barely serviceable at being able to do. But it's fun to be in a band. Even when that's the only goal - just to be in one. Not to have to be a good one.
Christina: Haha! True. I remember starting various rap groups throughout junior high and high school.
Lloyd: Isn't that the perfect time to do that?
Christina: Totally...there's something about music and freedom. If you can't have the car or your own telephone line, you can at least rap about having it.
Lloyd: Were you an MC or a DJ or both?
Christina: I was an mc. Not very good at all, but I was passionate about it!
Lloyd: Love it! We should jam when we're both here in February. The instruments are set up in the lobby and there's a mic.
Christina: Totally! I'm down.
Lloyd: Love it.
Christina: So how's it been working on this play at the Magic? You mentioned that the rehearsal room has been great for working on rewrites...
Lloyd: Absolutely. I love being at the Magic, and I love Loretta and the entire staff. I feel like there's a real sensitivity here to what writers need - not just in a general sense, but a really personal one. I feel like they take the time to really think about and try to understand where I am and what I'm looking to do, day by day, and how they can help me in that way. Loretta was able to convince Shirley Fishman to come and work on the show as the Dramaturg, and that's been amazing, Daniella Topol, who I've known for a long time in various capacities, is someone I've always wanted to work with and I feel so comfortable with her, there's a real ease of communication, and that makes it so much easier to do the work.I love the fact that at the Magic, there's a premium on discovery. To me, that's what I love most about writing plays, and about being in a rehearsal room, and even in watching plays. And that the spirit of discovery extends to providing the kind of environment, even when rehearsals are happening, of giving a writer space to constantly and continually discover things.
Christina: That's really lovely. Great rehearsal rooms are so precious. It opens the process in a way that allows for amazing possibilities.
Lloyd: Yes! I really do dig it - it's my second time here, and this play is VERY different than the last play I did at the Magic, maybe surprisingly different. And it means a lot to me because in a lot of ways, it feels very much like a leap of faith on the Magic's part.
Christina: Speaking of your other work...for those who may not know, can you mention your first time at Magic?
Lloyd: I was here two seasons ago, with a play called American Hwangap, and the Magic production was the first in a three-production process in an initiative by the Lark Play Development Center and the Mellon Foundation, called "Launching New Plays into the Repertoire", which is really unbelievable - it created a multiple-production model of a new play to help combat the syndrome of one-and-done world premiers, by building a mini-movement around a play, put together multiple stakeholders, and create a dialogue between the Artistic Directors of multiple companies with like-minded interests. The play is a much more naturalistic, domestic piece, and while I think there are a lot of similar themes, it's a very different style. It centers around the 60th birthday party of a Korean American father who has been in Korea, away from his US-based family for some 15 years, and comes back in a rather uneasy reconciliation. In Korea, the 60th birthday is a very important, significant marker in a person's life, and although the play was inspired in large part by the fact that the divided North and South Koreas were about to turn 60 years old themselves (and I was very interested in thinking about the idea of reconciliation/reunification), it's done through a very intimate lens - it's not explicitly about those sorts of politics at all, but instead focused in this very private, familial way. So a part of me wonders whether it might be a surprise to people to see a bunch of teenagers playing dissonant punk rock and talking about God and Buddha and Jesus and everything, but I'm probably projecting, it might be narcissistic of me to think that people are thinking about me that closely!
Christina: Well, let's talk about style a bit ...
Christina: When you sit down and think about what you'll write next, do you think about switching up style or do you think of the idea and let the style come from it?
Lloyd: I've done both, for sure. I like to think that the second one is the way I do it, but I've done the first before, absolutely. With this play, I do think the story begged a particular style, and the form really came out of my thinking about what it wanted to be, rather than what I might want from it. Especially in the sense that because I was writing about Jesus, who is someone that a lot of people have a lot of associations with already, I wanted to do it in a way that was unexpected, but not unfamiliar. I hooked into this idea of a parable - especially because they were such an important part of the way Jesus relates his ideas throughout the gospels, and I thought it was a cool way to structure the play, too, in that a parable is really an illustration rather than something more literal, and I loved how it could then be a container for all of the other stuff - the music, the "time" thing about Then and Now, etc.
Christina: That's so cool. And I also think it's exciting when a playwright will listen to what the play needs and really use style, structure, technique to support the story.
Lloyd: I'm not sure how much of that will necessarily be obvious to the viewer, but it's certainly helpful to me just as a process piece, and a generative impulse.
Christina: I think that type of consideration and purpose adds a depth to the writing. Even if it's not immediately recognizable to the audience, I think that type of work can still be present...present as in felt.
Lloyd: Absolutely. There's a million ways to tell a single story, all of which are valid, but I think what's exciting is that once it's personal to the teller, then it can suddenly feel like the only way to really tell it.
Christina: Great! Well, Lloyd, I want to thank you for joining me in a gchat!
Lloyd: Thank YOU! This was fun. And honestly, it's great to talk about it like this, because it definitely reminds me of the big picture, especially as I'm deep in rewrite land and thinking so much about specifics.
Christina: You have really beautiful piece. I have no doubt you'll put together a great show!
Lloyd: Thanks again, Christina! See you soon!
Christina: Bye! Thanks!
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