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By Eliza Anna Falk
The Ambassador Theater International Cultural Centre (ATICC) and its Founder and Artistic Director, Hanna Bondarewska, are not afraid of challenges and demanding repertoire. Providing a platform for expression of complex narratives, whilst working toward building bridges between di verse cultures and groups, lies at the core of ATICC’s mission. Showcasing plays from around the world is what the Ambassador Theater does best. This year the American audiences will have the opportunity to see ‘Rage’, a riveting play, written by a critically acclaimed Canadian playwright, Michele Riml.
In ‘Rage’, the winner of the 2005 Sydney Risk Prize and 2008 Jessie Richardson Award, two opposing worlds collide and shake us up with a loud bang! The drama’s intense plot and a shocking finale force us to reflect on the complexity of the human psyche and examine where we stand on the issue of violence. And if it is just for a brief moment, that we stop and think about our contribution to peace, the production is a success.
Riml’s pairing of two opposite philosophies and animating them by two equally incompatible characters, is what has attracted Joe Banno to the script. The award winning Director has always been drawn to naturalistic plays dealing with psychology of intricate relationships, and humans crossing lines between good and evil. ‘Rage’, just like his beloved Shakespearian dramas, puts a spotlight on a dysfunctional relationship and proves that real people are flawed, changeable and capable of anything.
In the play, a radical, suicidal student called Rage brings his father’s gun to school in preparation for a counselling session with Laura, one of his teachers. A philosophical discussion on peace and violence turns into a blood chilling duel after Rage asks Laura to do the impossible – or so we think. The odds are high for the Hitler’s sympathiser to harm a human being representing all he despises, yet how about the pacifist abandoning her ‘being peace’ attitude and turning violent?
Laura may be idealistic but is she weak? Why ruthless and uncompromising Rage goes through a moment of weakness? These are only some of the questions, the Director and Actors (Ariana Almajan and Marlowe Vilchez) had spent time discussing before and after moving rehearsals to the stage. Deconstructing the characters through analysis of their personalities, motivations and behaviours, was crucial in bringing them to life and allowing the Actors to acclimatize with and understand the personas they were going to inhabit. Not to mention decoding the play’s intention and message.
Michele Riml wants to tell us much more than the important obvious. We know that facts of life cannot be changed – good and evil go together like light and darkness, and peace and violence have always existed in tandem. We know that guns have been made accessible to youngsters with tragic consequences. It is also common knowledge that growing up is difficult; especially for those born with predisposition to depression and violent behaviour; and that schooling is unpopular with many students, making teachers potential targets of resentment and abuse.
It is rather uncommon for a pupil to harm a teacher, however, as the publicly available data demonstrates, student violence against educators has become a common occurrence across the American schools. Whilst preventative measures are being implemented, plays such as ‘Rage’ are crucial in exposing the issue to the public and emphasizing the gravity of the crisis. The graphic presence of the gun and the way it is used in the play in front of the live audience is part of Riml’s strategy and her attempt to show us the danger for what it really is – another life about to be lost.
The drama is a strong reminder to parents and firearms owners to play their part in trying to prevent school shootings by practicing good parenting and keeping weapons away from children and adolescents. The importance of parental and environmental contribution to the process of early and on-going prevention cannot be emphasised often enough. Although solution to the multilayered problem of youth violence requires action on numerous levels, experts generally agree that early intervention by families and around the environments that children live in are most effective.
Another truth ’Rage’ brings to mind is that holding a belief may be a passive position to be in until it is complicated by intrusion of experience with its power to trigger responses not necessarily matching the ideals. The play incites us to think about grey areas between theory and action and gives us a chance to reflect on ‘what if’ situations. Banno praises the play for opening up a very important debate on whether violence can be justified, especially in extreme circumstances, such as the current one with ISIS and their ‘to kill or be killed’ motto.
Pertinent questions around violence and complexity of human responses bring us to the issue of ‘Rage’s’ finale and audience’s expectations. The director is a fan of open endings and had been toying with the idea until the author disclosed that the approach had been already trialled and given ‘thumbs down’ by the audience. Thus, it is safe to announce that the approaching Ambassador Theater’s production will not only allow audiences to witness the drama unfolding, but also make them privy to its unexpected conclusion!
At FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001
Ambassador Theater Presents US Premiere of
Directed By Helen Hayes Awarded Director
October 22 – November 16, 2014
Mead Theatre Lab at FLASHPOINT
916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001 (Near Gallery Place Metro, Paid Garage Parking on 9th or 10th Street)
Preview Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014 Opening & Reception after the show
Press Opening: Sat., Oct. 25, 2014 8 PM
Shows: Wed – Sat at 8 PM; Sun at 2 PM
Tickets: $10 – $40
RAGE – In this tense, one-act, Canadian play, an unstable high-school student confronts a pacifistic guidence councelor in her claustrophobic office at the school. During their increasingly heated conversation a gun is produced, and their encounter becomes a battle of wills. Will “justifiable” violence or passive resistance win the day? Who will survive?
Michele Riml is a critically acclaimed playwright from Vancouver, Canada. Her plays include Under the Influence, Poster Boys, RAGE, Souvenirs, On the Edge, The Amaryllis, Henry and Alice: Into the Wild and the international hit Sexy Laundry, which has been produced in Canada, Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Iceland, Mexico and the USA. Originally produced by Green Thumb Theatre in Vancouver, RAGE was the winner of the 2005 Sydney Risk prize for Outstanding Original Play and has also been translated into French and German. Her plays for young audiences include The Skinny Lie, The Invisible Girl and Tree Boy. Michele was nominated for the 2008 Siminovitch Prize. She is represented by Colin Rivers at Marquis Entertainment in Toronto.
Over the last 25 years, Joe Banno – who recently established a new residence in Los Angeles – has distinguished himself as an innovative, critically acclaimed director. In work that has been called “joltingly powerful”, “audacious” and “engagingly freewheeling”, he has brought his unique, directorial vision to well over 100 productions spanning classical and contemporary theatre, opera, musicals, video and film. He has also, in a successful second career, established himself as a fresh voice in classical music, opera and film criticism, with hundreds of his pieces published in newspapers across the country.
Since 1988, Banno’s productions at theatres in the Washington DC-area have been nominated for 32 prestigious Helen Hayes Awards, and have won 8 of them, including one for Outstanding Direction. Banno is also the recipient of the Mary Goldwater Award and the Bud Yorkin Award, both for excellence in directing.
With a theatre background that includes degrees from Georgetown and Carnegie-Mellon Universities and further studies at NYU and the British-American Drama Academy, film training from NYC’s School of Visual Arts, The New School for Social Research and Global Village Video Center, and long experience in the classical music world, Banno brings a uniquely wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary perspective to his work.
His directing has been seen across the US – from a co-production between NYC’s Blue Heron Theatre and the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, to the inaugural production of LA’s Mutineer Theatre, to hybrid stage-works incorporating text, dance, music and visual arts for experimental companies like Musica Aperta and The In Series. He has created stagings of new and classic works for the Folger Theatre and Theatre J (DC), Rep Stage and Adventure Theatre (MD), Milwaukee’s Renaissance Theatreworks (WI), Wolf Trap Opera and the American Shakespeare Center (VA), Opera Northeast (NYC), and San Francisco’s Marin Opera (CA), among many other companies. For a decade, Banno was the artistic director of DC’s groundbreaking Source Theatre Company.
Among the many hats he has worn throughout his eclectic career, Banno has written on classical music for the Washington Post, directed an independent feature film and a web series, worked as general manager at radio station WFUV-FM in New York City, headed–up a new-works funding initiative at Opera America and, for two years, was the on-camera co-host for the official U.S. live-broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards to the Arab world on Alhurra television. He has frequently served as an acting coach, conference panelist, competition judge and theatre consultant. Banno has interviewed conductor James Conlon before a live audience at the Folger Theatre, and director John Pascoe on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. In 2010, and again in 2012, he guest-lectured in Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tim Page’s arts-criticism seminar at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism, as well as recently guest-lecturing in theatre classes and workshops at Pepperdine University, Catholic University, St Mary’s College of Maryland and The Shakespeare Theatre (in Washington, DC).
Currently, Banno is in discussions with theatres in LA and in the DC-area for productions in the upcoming season. He is working as director and co-screenwriter on an independent feature-film project in development, as well as on two other films and a web-series also in development. In 2013, he began contributing concert reviews to the Los Angeles Times.
Banno’s career has seen him direct over 60 contemporary plays – including dozens of new scripts – at a host of theatres. From 1997 through 2006, Banno served as artistic director of Washington DC’s creatively audacious Source Theatre Company, where he nurtured the development of burgeoning writers through the annual Washington Theatre Festival of New Plays, and produced and directed works by a who’s-who of contemporary American playwrights, including a multi-year cycle of plays by David Mamet. Under his creative leadership, Source expanded its mission – producing late-night theatre; offering seasons of music ranging from intimate cabaret to rock festivals to chamber music series and opera workshops; hosting shows of gallery art and photography; and forging partnerships, artistic residencies and co-productions with other DC theatre companies – resulting in Source’s growth into a bustling, multi-disciplinary arts center.
Celebrated for his culturally relevant updating of classic plays (like his American-set deconstructions of “Tartuffe”, “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Source), Banno has been particularly noted for his work in Shakespeare. He has directed eight Shakespeare productions, including “Hamlet”, “The Merchant of Venice”, and a notably popular staging of “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Folger Theatre (where his production of “Romeo and Juliet” won several Helen Hayes Awards, including one for Outstanding Direction). His Shakespeare directing has also been seen at Washington Shakespeare Company/AvantBard (seven productions including the rarely-produced “Cymbeline”, “Pericles”, “Troilus and Cressida” and “Edward the Third”), and in the historically-recreated Blackfriars Theatre at the American Shakespeare Center (for a twice-extended, year-long run of “King Lear”).
Known as well for his work in musical theatre, Banno’s production of “Evita” – a collaborative project between Open Circle Theatre’s company of artists-with-disabilities and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange – was a critical and popular success. His work in musical theatre extends from classics like “Carousel” (a national tour with Opera Northeast) and “Fiddler on the Roof” (a hit production at Connecticut’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre) to lesser-known works, such as William Finn’s early “In Trousers” (at Source Theatre Company) and the DC premiere of “Six Women With Brain Death” (Razor’s Edge Theatre). Banno’s world-premiere staging of “Executive Leverage” at Source Theatre Company received a Helen Hayes Award Nomination for Outstanding Production of a Musical.
As an opera director with over 40 productions to his credit, Banno has had his most recent successes with “The Marriage of Figaro”, “The Magic Flute” and “Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci” at Opera Delaware. His modernist stagings of “Otello” for Washington Summer Opera, “Sweeney Todd” with Wolf Trap Opera, and “La Tragedie de Carmen” and a Bernstein double-bill at the Alba Music Festival (in northern Italy) – together with his emerging-singer workshops of “The Coronation of Poppea” and “Das Rheingold”, and his experimental stagings of non-theatrical musical works (most notably his “Winterreise” for DC’s innovative music-theatre-dance collective, The In Series, and his theatre/chamber-music/haute-cuisine event, “Re:New”, with renowned Chef Jose Andres and the ensemble Musica Aperta) – have reconfirmed him as a challenging and original interpreter of the art-form.
FILM & VIDEO
Banno has recently begun directing film, and his first independent feature, “Sleeping and Waking”, was released in 2009. Boasting a wide-ranging knowledge of film, television and related media, and trained in film production, single- and multi-camera video production, cinema history and film semiotics, he has been involved in the world of visual media in a wide range of positions – film critic, projectionist, indie-cinema manager, co-director of live-theatre telecasts for Virginia cable television, and creative consultant on the multiple festival-award-winning 1995 film, “Bigger Fish” (Second-Hand Smoke Prods). In 2012, he completed a two-year project directing a video web-series featuring nutritionist Janis Jibrin, for fitness guru Bob Green’s website TheBestLife.com, ranging from interviews and exercise videos to cooking demos and on-site restaurant features. He currently has several independent film and web-based projects in development.
MUSIC & FILM CRITICISM
As a critic with twenty-five years-worth of published work to his credit, he has contributed reviews and articles on music and film to a number of publications, including Opera Monthly, Yankee Magazine, and DC’s alternative weekly, Washington City Paper, where he was the opera critic, as well as a film reviewer, from 1989 to 2008. He was a classical music critic at The Washington Post between 1993 and 2012, and reviewed classical recordings and videos for the website TheClassicalReview.com from 2009 through 2012. Last year, he began contributing concert reviews to the Los Angeles Times.
The last few seasons have seen Banno developing and directing a number of stage works: the plays “Elvis Blossom” and “Dear Abe” (at Virginia’s newest incubator for original scripts, Studio Roanoke), the dark-comedy “Ngala Muti” and the punk-rock musical “Requiem” (for the graduate playwriting program at Catholic University’s School of Drama, in Washington, DC), the American premiere – in a freshly revised and newly orchestrated version – of the British theatre-for-youth musical, “Spot’s Birthday Party” (at Maryland’s Adventure Theatre), the new Irish play, “Elvis’s Toenail” (at Sidewalk Studio Theatre in LA) and the film-adapted, one-man show, “Wonderful Life” (at LA’s Theatre Asylum).
In his first production for Northern Virginia’s American Century Theatre, his audience-interactive staging of Durang’s “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You” was enthusiastically received, as was his second production for the company, a rare revival of the stage-version of “Judgment at Nuremberg”. In recent seasons, Banno staged a double-bill of Leoncavallo’s opera “Pagliacci” and Ernesto Lecuona’s Cuban zarzuela “Maria La O” (set, respectively, in 1950s Little Italy and Havana), as well as developing and directing a new musical-revue of songs from the 1930s and ‘40s by émigré Hollywood composers, “From Berlin to Sunset” – both productions for The In Series, the DC-based company where he had previously staged a cycle of Mozart’s operas in modern-dress.
I’ve started my adventure with theatre some time ago, as a singing kid, who was starring in musicals. Then it developed through voice-overing, acting, playing instruments to Academy of Fine Arts. Because of the past – I love being around the theater and creating something on the scene or behind the lights. Now I am graphic artist, working in Poland, traveling around the world and trying to be ambassador of life.
Anna KlamczyÅ„ska has received her Master of Fine Arts at the Warsaw Academy of Arts in 2013 with the focus on illustrations, graphic design, media and lithography and has been collaborating with the Ambassador Theater since 2010. Anna has produced numerous works, which were exhibited in numerous art exhibitions in Poland. She has also performed as a vocalist in many national and international festivals and received many awards. Since she was little she has performed in the theater and the movies and taught many theater and art workshops. Anna also have extensive experience in technical theatre work and has produced and stage managed many productions.
Jonathan Rushbrook (Resident Set Designer) is a British transplant who graduated from the George Washington University’s MFA Production Design program where he focused his efforts on set design and lighting. Jonathan’s passion for theatre was ignited at nine years of age when he acted in his first show. Over the years he became fascinated with the technical and design aspects of theatre production. In 2004 he was awarded a BA in drama and film studies from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, and in 2007 he completed a post-graduate teaching certificate at Middlesex University in London focusing on drama and dance education to middle and high school students. During his time at GWU he designed several main stage productions for their Theatre and Dance Department as well as local theatre companies including the Washington Stage Guild, the Olney Theatre, and the American Ensemble. His efforts culminated with his thesis production of Jane Austen’s Emma as adapted by Michael Bloom. Jonathan spends much of his time working within the events business focusing on design and production but still enjoys working closely with Ambassador Theater. This will be his second season with Ambassador Theater and he is looking forward to many more to come.
Cliff Williams III (Fight Director) is a native Virginian and has been choreographing and directing for the last 12 years. His favorite credits include The Scene at Actors Theatre of Louisville; Shoplifters at Arena Stage; Angels in America at Forum Theatre and The Argument at Theatre J. His full resume can be seen at www.CliffWilliamsIII.net
Eliza Anna Falk ( Literary Director) joined the Ambassador Theatre in early 2013 as a Creative and Editorial Consultant, in time to contribute to the success of the Literary Café event at the Embassy of Austria. Soon after she assumed the role of a Literary Associate Director and provides literary support to the theater’s productions, working with the Artistic Director on research and plays’ development. Her contributions include essays and articles; press releases, play bills and programs, aticc.org blog entries, as well as editorial work and occasional translations i.e. poems by Ireneusz Iredynski. Eliza’s passion for theatre and writing is also being realized through her work as a writer/reviewer for DC Metro Theatre Arts, covering plays, musicals and concerts. Graduate of Warsaw and Sydney Universities, she holds a Bachelor of Social Work and Policy and an M.A. in British Film and TV. She is also a CELTA (Cambridge) qualified teacher of English. Her past employment encompasses work for the Australian federal government, including diplomatic postings to Moscow and Warsaw, teaching English, and interior design and styling projects. Eliza is an avid theatre and film goer and lover of arts and travel. Past resident of Warsaw, London, Moscow, Paris and Sydney, she is thrilled to be able to experience life in cosmopolitan DC and collaborate with its vibrant theatre scene.
Ariana Almajan is excited to reteam with Joe Banno and Ambassador Theater after last fall'sRage! Recently she was seen in "The Trap" as Josie and Grete. DC-area: Student Playwrights Project (Arena Stage), We Are Not Animals (Source Festival),Faceless (Active Cultures Theater), Whenever You're Near Me (I Feel Sick) (Women's Voices Theater Festival), The Trap (Ambassador Theater), Out of Silence (Advocates for Youth/Capital Fringe Festival), and Stone Tape Party (Nu Sass, winner Best Comedy and Best Overall at the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival). TV/Film: America's Most Wanted (Fox), Deadly Affairs (Discovery ID), DC 48-Hour Film Festivals, various local and regional commercials and independent films. She works frequently with Young Playwrights Theater both in schools and on stage with their New Play Festival and New Writers Now Young at Heart. You can see her online in the comedy webseries The ABC's of Online Dating, the fantasy The Broken Continent, and the upcoming comedy Quiet!
Sigríður or Sigrid as she is called here in the United States is a native of Iceland.
She came to the United States 1988 to pursue her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Design after having taught Icelandic and History at Fjölbrautaskóli Suðurnesja, (college) in Keflavik, Iceland for several years.
One year after her graduation 1992, she started her own decorative arts company; Scene Studios, Inc., www.scenestudios.com as well as Dedua, www.dedua.com, a business focusing on fashion accessories. She still runs both companies in Alexandria, Virginia.
Through the years she has designed costumes for various theatrical productions in Washington D.C. as well as worked for the Washington Opera. She is the resident costume designer for The Washington Stage Guild and The Ambassador Theatre in DC. She has taught theatrical design at American University in Washington DC, and in Morgantown, West Virginia. Presently she is in her fourth year of serving as a costume design professor at George Washington University.
Marlowe Vilchez is originally from Silver Spring, Maryland. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College Magna Cum Laude in May 2012 with Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Fine Arts, with a concentration in Theatre. After graduation, he moved to DC to pursue his career as an actor. Last year, he appeared as George Spelvin in The Chevy Chase Players’ production of The Actor’s Nightmare. He also ranked among the top 16 actors in Monologue Madness 2014. He performed in Writing Miss’ Clark’s Resume and Macbeth: Instruments of Darkness as Cesar and Banquo, respectively, at the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival. Most recently, he appeared as Raymond Stitt/ Rage in Ambassador Theater's production of Rage. Marlowe credits all of his success to the two people that raised him Kasandra and Lesby Vilchez.
Rachael Knoblauch ( Set Designer) is a graduating senior from University of Maryland, Baltimore County where she has spent the past four years studying the design and construction of scenery as well as costume. She has largely collaborated in academic theatre--working as assistant designer, costume artisan, and scenic painter, among other things, for multiple departmental productions. Most recently she completed work as scenic designer for UMBC's production of "Gum" by Karen Hartman.