Constellation Theater Charges Into The Future With Zorro (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Constellation Theater Charges Into The Future With Zorro

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and today we are beaming into the future, meeting everyone from psychics to preppers to refugees turned entrepreneurs. But now we're actually going to flash back to the past to a beloved icon who galloped into the world in 1919 as the brain child of a pulp writer named Johnston McCulley.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:33
The swashbuckling, black-masked defender of the people has appeared all over the place since then, like the Disney TV series and the classic Douglas Fairbanks film.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:45
He even had his own anime series in the 1990s.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:50
But starting this month, you can see the original caped crusader on stage, as Constellation Theatre Company presents the world-premiere play…

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:02
…Zorro. At a recent rehearsal at Source, in Northwest D.C., Danny Gavigan, playing the title role, clashes swords with Andres Talero, playing Zorro's sworn enemy, Captain Ramon.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:31
Zorro was co-written by Janet Allard and Eleanor Holdridge. Holdridge is also directing the play. The D.C. resident has helmed countless plays across the country, but Zorro marks her debut as a playwright.

MS. ELEANOR HOLDRIDGE

00:01:42
I always grew up with Zorro. I loved it. Like, when I was a little nerdy, geeky kid I would watch it on TV, the TV series, and I would watch all the movies. So I've always followed Zorro. And then one day I was in California doing an opera in this beautiful hilly resort area. And I just all of a sudden looked across the landscape and I kind of had this image of Zorro riding.

SHEIR

00:02:00
Now, again, Holdridge has always considered herself a director.

HOLDRIDGE

00:02:04
I'm not a writer. I don't write plays.

SHEIR

00:02:05
But she was so determined to bring her childhood hero to life that she enlisted the help of Allard.

HOLDRIDGE

00:02:10
Because she has this great, quirky style and she just, like, writes incredible characters and gets some kind of pulpy fun of who we are as Americans.

SHEIR

00:02:20
Using Johnston McCulley's original pulp serial as their source, the women fashioned a coming-of-age story set in 1840s California about this guy, Don Diego, who comes home from college.

HOLDRIDGE

00:02:30
And his parents are suddenly not who he thinks they are. The world is not what he thinks. He has the distance to see the world is no longer what it should be or what he wants it to be. He realizes it's his turn to step up because if he doesn't no one will.

SHEIR

00:02:42
And thus, Diego creates his alter ego, Zorro.

MS. ALLISON STOCKMAN

00:02:45
Zorro's the first modern superhero.

SHEIR

00:02:47
Or so many would say, including Constellation Theatre Company's artistic director Allison Stockman.

STOCKMAN

00:02:53
He was the person who inspired Batman and a lot of superheroes after that. So he's in my heart and I was counting on him being in the hearts of other people as well.

SHEIR

00:03:02
Stockman says another reason she chose Zorro is it jives with her company's mission, doing large-ensemble plays that ditch realism or naturalism in favor of what she calls all-out theatricality.

STOCKMAN

00:03:13
So the design is very imaginative. The people in the play speak better than we do in real life. They move in a larger, more meaningful way. And there are opportunities for things like music and dance and fighting.

SHEIR

00:03:27
So with Zorro you'll hear original music, with touches of flamenco, spaghetti westerns and the HBO series "Deadwood." You'll sit on either side of an unusual, alley-shaped set. And as for fighting? You'll witness plenty of swordplay, even up on the staircases that diagonally bisect each side of the audience.

STOCKMAN

00:03:44
The staircases form a "Z" in the space, actually, which I don't think the audience will appreciate, but we take great delight in.

SHEIR

00:03:51
Eleanor Holdridge has been taking great delight in seeing her initial vision of Zorro come to life. But she admits this new role of director/playwright isn't easy.

HOLDRIDGE

00:04:01
It's very weird to direct something I've written. Like, there are moments when a scene isn't working. And my director self gets mad at my playwright self and thinks, wow, how can I possibly make this work?

SHEIR

00:04:12
In other words, do I try and re-direct the scene? Or just re-write it?

HOLDRIDGE

00:04:16
And then one of the interesting things is in the original pulp, they're very much stock characters. So we very much tried to write stakes into the characters, what their back story was, we figured out what they wanted. But then you get into rehearsal and the actor comes up with their own idea of what those are. And as a director, I need to be able to say, wow, that's great. That supports the play. And I need to divorce myself from what I thought I knew to be true.

SHEIR

00:04:39
And actually, that's a running theme throughout the entire play, this idea of what we think we know to be true. With Allard and Holdridge's characters the exterior and the interior don't necessarily match up.

HOLDRIDGE

00:04:52
Everyone puts up masks in society. And it's how they deal and how they work and it's something we all do.

SHEIR

00:04:56
Now, granted, more often than not, in our society these masks aren't literal. But if you happen to be that bold renegade who carves a "Z" with his blade, a "Z" that stands for Zorro"? That mask is what makes you go down in history.

SHEIR

00:05:31
You can catch "Zorro" at Source from January 17 through February 17. For more information on the play and to see some original costume sketches for the characters visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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