How do you put something back together? How do you keep it from falling apart? How do you stand up out of bed if your bed is the wall and you’re already standing? These are some of the questions Grain of Sand Theatre is asking in rehearsals for its latest production, Tell-Tale, which will be playing this July as part of the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival.
DC Playwright Hunter Styles approached Grain of Sand Theatre last summer after seeing their violent and very physical production of Raising Cane at the 2012 Festival. He had noticed that, “Grain of Sand isn’t afraid to explore some dark themes. In fact the group seems to find some of the darker sides of being human — cruelty, perversion, isolation, secrecy, suspicion — really theatrically potent. I’d been wanting to write a play that takes a page out of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, and this felt like the perfect fit.”
Christine Lange, Grain of Sand’s Artistic Director, liked Styles’ use of language and blending of fantastical elements, two things that she identifies as important ingredients of a Grain of Sand production. Styles and Lange met, and Tell-Tale was born. “This is a company that isn’t afraid to look under the bed, and I wanted to get in on that adventure,” Styles says, “Tell-Tale is my stab at that darkness.”
The plot is simple: a car crash survivor makes a miraculous recovery, finds he has a strange connection to his donor, and seeks her out to uncover the truth. On a deeper level, it’s about redefining yourself and your relationships after a traumatic experience, about how new perspective means you can’t recreate what’s past. This is what Styles has done with Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart: taken the pieces of it – themes, atmosphere, plot – and put them together to create something new.
Director Carl Brandt Long is interested in realizing this theme physically. “Hunter wrote a script in which different realities, different spaces, different perspectives exist simultaneously,” he says, comparing the play to the works of Pablo Picasso and M. C. Escher. Although each scene is written from a different character’s perspective, the cast of five remains on stage the entire show. “We’re seeing through one point of view each scene, but we’re still aware that the others are there, too, creating a bigger, more complex picture,” Long says.
The company is using the Bedroom at Fort Fringe to this effect, too. In some scenes, for example, a bed is on the back wall of the playing space, as if the audience is looking down onto it. At the same time, other characters are walking around, or sitting on the edge of the bed, interacting with whoever ‘lying’ in bed. “We have multiple views of the same physical space existing at one time,” Long explains. “The single viewpoint is shattered. I haven’t seen this done on stage before. It’s exciting to discover.”
Carl Brandt Long returns to directing this summer, having helmed Grain of Sand’s first production, Hamlet: Reframed, winner of the Audience Award for Best Drama at the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival. Tell-Tale showcases the acting talents of Sara Bickler, Pamela Leahigh, Amal Saade, John Stange, and Matthew Ward, with Rin Hutter stage managing, and dramaturgy by Katelyn Shanklin.
The Bedroom – Fort Fringe
612 L St. NW, DC
Thurs, July 11, 8:45 pm
Sun, July 14, 6:45 pm
Sat, July 20, 7:15 pm
Sun, July 21, 2:15 pm
Wed, July 24, 7:00 pm
Thurs, July 25, 10:15 pm
Sat, July 27, 10:45 pm