Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The Spirit OnStage Theater Troup will soon be premiering their production of The Art of Hope/The Hope of Art, a collection of original one-act plays. What inspired the company to bring these theatrical stories to the stage?
Steven Alloway: The initial idea was my mother Sylvia Alloway’s brainchild. The world is becoming an increasingly depressing place. Often, the media—both mainstream media and social media—seems dominated by fear, animosity, and desperation. It’s easy to lose hope.
However, one of the core principles of Spirit OnStage has always been to use art to change the world for the better and to provide hope when people need it most. So, my mother had the idea to present a collection of one-acts with all different themes, different authors, different subject matter… but with a single underlying premise: finding hope in the world.
Of course, we knew we couldn’t do it without help. Even if we each wrote one (which we did), that wouldn’t be enough to fill an evening. Plus, we wanted the project to include some different perspectives, besides just from the two of us. So, we talked to some friends who have worked with our company before and are also very talented writers (Paul Rose Jr. and Adam Neubauer). They were both eager to help out, and the result is four very different plays, which each deal with life and hope from a unique point of view.
"Travelling Mercies," by Paul Rose Jr., is a sci-fi story about a spaceship pilot dealing with loneliness on a long voyage. "Exeunt, Chased by Bears," by Adam Neubauer, is a broad, often silly comedy about two arrogant, young punks whose lives are forever changed when they meet a stranger on the road. "Hogan’s Villains," which I wrote, is a comedy/drama about two women with very different career paths, which have somehow led both of them to the same place: acting out training scenarios at Quantico for the FBI. And finally, "Home Sweet Home," by Sylvia Alloway, is a drama about two childhood friends who grow up to find that the dreams and ideals they were promised in their youth, don’t really hold up in adulthood.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
SA: Well, given the subject matter, we hope that it gives them hope. Maybe not a life-changing revelation of “I see now that the world is worth living in, whereas before I was convinced it was terrible.” But maybe it will cause people to think, and just for a moment, to see past the terrible things and events that seem to surround us and overwhelm us. Or, at the very least, we hope that they’ll be entertained and uplifted for an hour or so and enjoy a night of good theater.
BD: What can you tell us about the creative process of the cast and crew in bringing each one-act to life?
SA: I actually have a rather unique perspective on this one, since I directed two of the four plays we’re presenting, and the process was very different for each of them. "Exeunt, Chased by Bears," I cast using three long-time members of our group—Marc Braun, Ronald Frescas, and Vance Wells—with whom I’ve worked plenty of times before, and who are also good friends. We rehearsed at my house, and in between run-throughs, we’d frequently delve into silly jokes and pop culture discussions. But they all have great chemistry together, and I knew pretty much from the moment I read the script that they would be the best choices to bring it to life.
The other play I directed was my own play, "Hogan’s Villains." I actually held auditions to cast that one and was lucky enough to end up with two very talented actresses—Dani Lenski and Katie May Porter—to play the two leads (along with a small role I wrote for myself, just for fun). The dynamic that arose from working with two people I’d never worked with before was very different from "Bears," where I had a cast full of long-time friends. The process was more organic, I think. The two had immediate chemistry together, which continued to grow and develop over the course of the rehearsal process. And as it did, the play grew and developed along with it. They found a lot of little bits between them that really brought the play to life and made it seem more real. And that really helped me both as a director and as an actor. The end result is better than I could have hoped for.
BD: The production will be appearing at the Moving Arts Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, from September 8-17 (Friday-Sunday). What are you most looking forward to about the production, especially given that you have written and directed one of the plays?
SA: I’m really looking forward to showing all of this hard work to the audience and seeing what happens. That’s one of the things I love most about live theater. The dynamic is always different when you put it in front of an audience. They react to what you give them, and then you react to what they give you. After going through the same lines and the same actions over and over again, suddenly, you’ll hear laughter, and you’ll remember—Oh yeah, this is funny! Or you’ll get reactions you never expected, in places you didn’t even realize would have that impact. The connection between the audience and the actors is something you just can’t get with movies or TV, and it’s one of the things that makes the theatrical experience worthwhile for both.
BD: Are there any other upcoming shows or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
SA: We always have a few productions in mind at any given time. Next up will be Spirit OnStage’s 17th annual Christmas show, which my mother will be writing and directing, entitled, “Freedom from Christmas.” It’s about an eccentric old lady who tries to remind the world of what Christmas used to be. Dates aren’t set yet, but we usually run the 2nd or 3rd weekend in December.
After that, I’d like to do an evening of radio recreations. Several of our group’s members, including myself, have a background in radio drama. We often work radio plays into our Christmas shows, and at least twice have done evenings of original radio dramas. But I really want to do some of the old radio plays from the 1940s, Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds or episodes of Suspense and X Minus One. I’ve got a few cool ideas for how to present them, so… stay tuned!
And finally, my mother is working on a full-length musical, based on the biblical book of Ruth. It will be a huge undertaking, which we hope to mount in late spring or early summer of next year.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about The Art of Hope/The Hope of Art and Spirit OnStage?
SA: Check out our Facebook event page for more information about the show, as well as pictures from each of the plays. You can purchase tickets at the door, or buy them online here. And be sure to like the Spirit OnStage Facebook page.