Spark by Caridad Svich opens this weekend at the Anacostia Playhouse and runs through September 28, 2014. This gritty, powerful drama tells the story of a veteran returning from war, and the ongoing battle she and her family face to overcome economic challenges, emotional conflict, and the spectre of war that haunts them. Spark also opens a deeper dialogue about a society’s responsibility to address its veteran’s physical, emotional, and mental needs and break the cycle of abandonment in families.
In the first of a series of interviews with Theater Alliance’s Managing Director and Spark‘s director and cast members, meet Managing Director Elliott Bales.
Joel: Why did you select Spark to begin your 2014-2015 season?
Elliott: Theater Alliance is focused on developing, producing and presenting socially-conscious, thought provoking work that fully engages our community in active dialogue. When we came across Spark, we found a piece that had gone through nearly thirty readings without ever being produced. We were taken with the common, everyday nature of the characters whose language becomes so poetic without losing the simple nature of their lives and relationships. We also found in it themes that DC audiences feel particularly close to: the emotional challenges faced by our veterans returning from war, the difficulty of reintegration military families face when their soldier returns, and the soul-rending impact created by the cycle of abandonment as it threatens to pass from generation to generation. This story addresses each of these issues and invites the audience to a dialogue about how we engage with these issues.
Is there a theme for your season and how does Spark illuminate that theme?
Our theme for the season is Uncharted Territory. Spark causes us to explore the human impact of the longest continuous period our nation has engaged in combat operations in its history. We, as a nation and a people, have never been at war this long. And we have never had such a profound sense of separation between those who do the fighting, and those who stay behind. For the first time, soldiers are communicating with their families within hours of being under fire, and are whisked away in a matter of hours from combat zones to home. Spark helps us engage in a dialogue with our audience about what that means, and what we should be doing about it.
Why is Spark so relevant in light of what is happening in the world today?
As a US Army veteran with a tour of duty in Iraq, I find that Caridad Svich has masterfully captured the emotional whirlwind of a soldier returning home to a family that has struggled to keep life going during their soldier’s absence. It is even more poignant that the play’s main character is a female soldier, who acts as a prototype for all who serve. This story has played out in our area every single day for the last dozen years, and it happens in our neighborhoods and in our circle of friends or acquaintances.
Introduce playwright Caridad Svich to DC area audiences.What do you find most interesting about her style of writing of the play?
Caridad is an award-winning playwright, songwriter/lyricist, translator, and editor who was born in the United States of Cuban-Argentine-Spanish-Croatian parents. She has written over forty full-length plays and fifteen translations as well as other short works. She has been a guest artist at the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh and the Royal Court Theater and has taught playwriting workshops at Paine’s Plough Theater in London and the US-Cuba Writer’s Conference in Havana. Caridad has also been a guest lecturer at the Yale School of Drama and a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in Vermont. She received a 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre, a 2012 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award for Guapa, and the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize for her play The House of the Spirits, based on the Isabel Allende novel. She has won the National Latino Playwriting Award (sponsored by Arizona Theatre Company) twice including in the year 2013 for Spark.
Why is the Anacostia Playhouse space so perfect for this production of Spark?
Spark takes place in an economically challenged area of North Carolina, but the same story could easily be set in Anacostia. The relevance of the play’s issues to the DC Metro area in general and Anacostia in particular make it a perfect and profound venue. The Anacostia Playhouse has the right mix of space to build a sizeable set while still maintaining a feeling of intense intimacy for nearly 100 people. It is a modern, spacious and bright venue that provides artists and theater-goers a wonderful theater experience. Plenty of on-street parking, 5 minutes from Capitol Hill, four blocks from the Anacostia Metro station, and four great restaurants within a block and a half make this a great place to experience theater.
Elliott Bales joined Theater Alliance as its Managing Director in March 2014. Previously he worked as a Program Manager for Lockheed Martin working in federal government programs. He is a theater, film and television actor in the DC Metro area as well as an audio book producer. He served in the United States Army for 26 years retiring with the rank of Colonel. His decorations include the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Meritorious Service Medal. He holds a BA in Communications-Drama from Abilene Christian University, where he worked in every aspect of production on more than 60 plays including acting, directing, technical directing, and design. He also holds an MS in Strategy from The National War College at the National Defense University in DC.
Spark plays through September 28, 2014 at Theater Alliance performing at Anacostia Playhouse – 2020 Shannon Place, SE , in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.
Caridad Svich’s website.