THE PRIVATE THEATRE presents:
ROCCO, CHELSEA, ADRIANA, SEAN, CLAUDIA, GIANNA, ALEX
Produced by THE PRIVATE THEATRE and TÉA CREATIVE
Premiering at HERE Arts Center Spring 2019
WRITTEN BY: DAN HASSE
BASED ON ORIGINAL WRITING BY: CHUK OBASI, CHELSEA FREI, KAREN EILBACHER, SARAH WHARTON, JASON GRAY, Adriana ROSSetto, SALOMÉ KRELL, BRONWEN CARSON
COMPANY: ADRIAN BAIDOO, MICHAEL CUOMO, CHELSEA FREI, EMILY JACKSON, MELISSA MICKENS, CHUCK MONTGOMERY, TALYA MAR, CHUK OBASI, ADRIANA ROSSETTO
CONCEIVED BY: VIEVE RADHA PRICE AND JOHN GOULD RUBIN
DIRECTED BY: JOHN GOULD RUBIN CO-DIRECTED BY: VIEVE RADHA PRICE
SETS: LIZ TOONKEL
COSTUMES: KATE FRY
LIGHTING: CHUAN-CHI CHAN
VIDEO: RAY SUN
sound/COMPOSER: drew weinstein
PRESS REPRESENTATIVE: JOE TRENTACOSTA
PRODUCTION MANAGER: LIBBY JENSEN
GRAPHIC DESIGN: ACHILLES LAVIDIS
PHOTOS: HUNTER CANNING
There’s something about engaging in the dilemmas and decision-making of the title characters of our piece – Rocco, Chelsea, Adriana, Sean, Claudia, Gianna, Alex – something that invites audience members ever more deeply into the inner dramas we all enact as we strive to find our balance and to maintain our integrity in an America cross-cut by polarizing issues and habits of mind. For almost four years, we worked as a committed company of actors, writers, directors, choreographers, musicians, and videographers to create the theatrical aesthetic that guides this piece, and which we call insight theatre. Each of the seven title characters is collaboratively devised by the company and based on extensive community research. Every character wrestles with the everyday manifestations of American polarization, and like all of us, they struggle (sometime successfully) to find their inner bearings and to become the person they want to be. For example:
Rocco – a popular shock jock confronted with accusations of his radio partner’s scandalous behavior – vies to stay focused on learning and speaking the truth in a political culture that expects a rush to judgment, and a communications industry that rewards it. Chelsea – a young professional engaged in a lively and promising online relationship with Dan – wrestles with the existential threat of putting herself into play offline, in real space and real time. Claudia – a successful playwright – faces into the necessities and imaginative possibilities involved in deciding, thirteen years ago, to give her infant daughter up for adoption.
By looping together the conscious struggles of Rocco, Chelsea, Adriana, Sean, Claudia, Gianna, and Alex, we experiment directly with the driving force of the performing arts: the spontaneous generation of empathetic connections between audience members and the actors on stage. In a theatrical jujitsu of sorts, we have developed a theatrical aesthetic for the piece that enables us to begin quite traditionally. We begin by inviting audience members to identify and empathize with the situations and struggles of the seven title characters – but we then employ multi-genre theatrical devices to develop these characters by dramatizing the way they think and feel and make their decisions; their struggles to be curious rather than hasty, conscientious and free rather than constrained and rash. The characters become reflexive mirrors of American polarization – not in their particular dilemmas or concrete situations, but in how they use their minds to deal with those dilemmas and decisions. As a result, Rocco, Chelsea, Adriana, Sean, Claudia, Gianna, Alex is a fresh contribution to the venerable tradition of theatre as social inquiry – a piece that is profoundly moral without being moralizing, political without being doctrinaire, and personal without being eccentric or voyeuristic.
BACKGROUND AND PROCESS
Rocco, Chelsea, Adriana, Sean, Claudia, Gianna, Alex, devised and co-directed by Vieve Radha Price and John Gould Rubin is the fruit of a four-year process. The Company set for itself the challenge of dramatizing the consciousness of conflict – the struggles Americans face in their everyday lives influenced by an increasingly polarized society.
In the first step of the process, the Company trained in and carried out “Insight conversations” (agenda-less, curiosity-based conversations designed to gain insight into an individual’s aims and aspirations without provocation) with Americans from New York City and across the country in pursuit of issues and material.
The second step involved developing the narrative structure – a play. How could we select and organize this vast array of materials into a cogent and captivating drama that would lead our audience into a sense that we were performing something intimately bound to their lives. To this end, Price and Rubin designed and led twelve Insight Design Labs over the course of a year: working collaboratively with the Company to develop each company member’s chosen scenario into characters struggling to find themselves and to build relationships in a polarized culture.
In the third step, Price and Rubin pulled the drama of the title characters together by workshopping the play in a number of venues, culminating in a presentation in The Actor’s Studio Directors Unit. A writer, Dan Hasse, was engaged to weave the stories one into the other comprising a seamless array of narratives constructing a tapestry of conflict, decision-making, life and struggle. The play’s coherence is founded on audience members discovering themselves mirrored by the struggles, options and decision making of Rocco, Chelsea, Adriana, Sean, Claudia, Gianna, Alex and thereby engaging in their own struggles with socially fragmenting technologies and polarizing habits of mind that drive cultural conflict in America today.