Now in its ninth year, the Source Festival aims to act as a starting ground for new work from artists, both new and seasoned, from all over the country. Through collaboration and a great deal of creativity, the Source puts out eighteen 10-minute plays, three full-length plays, and three “Artistic Blind Dates” – an opportunity for artists of all disciplines to collaborate a build a piece of devised theatre over the course of six months. With so many artists working together to create these new works, the Source is bound to bring some exciting and relevent questions and concepts to the DC theatre-going community. Their first installment of 10-minute plays, Heroes and Home, was no exception.
How do we define “hero?” Does a hero have to be “super,” or can a hero be someone a little more ordinary? How do we build a home for ourselves? How do the heroes of our own, everyday lives contribute to our concept of home? These are only some of the many questions raised in the six 10-minute plays that comprised Heroes and Home.
The plays correspond with one of the full-length plays – Buried Cities by Jenifer Fawcett. According to Dramaturge Mark Routhier, Fawcett’s piece explores how our homes, or places we hold sacred, contribute to our identities. Taking a look at violence, the play asks questions about safety, and how violence complicates our feelings towards that given home.
The six playwrights showcased a range of styles, some airing on the comedic, and others very serious, but all inviting us to consider how we identify with the world around us, specifically with those we idolize, and the figures that make our home. Topics ranged from a human with a sense of smell that rivaled that of a dog in A Whiff of Humanity by Mark Eisman, to a young Indian woman in Maximillian Gill’s Love and Minor Destruction, who finds the hope and inspiration to put her life on a desired path through the story of a Hindu goddess.
As a whole, these questions made for a thought-provoking evening, and inspired me to really take a step back and consider the relationships in my own life, both to individuals and the places I consider to be a “home.” Though some of the plays felt like they could push even further in responding to those questions, the six playwrights offered distinct, unique voices to this overarching theme, which allowed the directors (who each received two plays) to bring them to life in some captivating ways.
Director Anna Lathrop did a fantastic job with her two pieces – We Could Be Heroes by David MacGregor and Harold Eventually Reconciles with his Sister in One Second by Jason Pizzarello. MacGregor’s play asked some truly intriguing questions about the heroes in our everyday lives, and what it takes to rise up to those expectations. Pizzarello focused on the family, and how we welcome home military heroes attempting to re-integrate into the family. Lathrop used minimal set and props in both, which allowed the audience to focus on the relationships of the characters, particularly in Pizzarello’s play.
Pizzarello’s story showcased a brother and sister, Harold (Danny Pushkin) and Julie (Kimberlee Wolfson), attempting to find reconciliation. However, every time one of them made an error, such as the brother apologizing in the wrong manner, there would be a re-set, and Harold and Julie would go back to the beginning of the scene. Pizzarello brought questions to the surface regarding heroes and home, with the brother just returning from the war to find a sister who is unsure of how to welcome him. The play was fascinating, and kept me anxious to learn why the two would continue to re-set, and what the solution could possibly be that would help the two on stage.
Lathrop’s staging enhanced the metaphysical elements of the piece, using a chair as her only set piece. The emptiness was perfect for the play, and emphasized how this use of time was completely outside of the world of the familiar. Every time the actors reset, Wolfson would go back to her chair, and Pushkin would move slightly to the right, The effect was a circle around the chair going clock-wise, representing the manipulation of time in the play.
Though the lack of set and props could have been a challenge for the actors, the duo conquered this task with ease, and maintained a stage chemistry that left me rooting for the siblings to find their reconciliation and peace.
In contrast, we also had some plays that were far more comedic, but still raised some important points, particularly That Kid, by Jane Willis and directed by Rachel Murray, and Man in Peril, by Alex Dremann and directed by Kristen Pilgrim. Both playwrights managed to create an interesting but unexpected turn of events within the short plays that drastically changed the tone of the piece, both with Willis’ exploration of a challenging dynamic between Evelyn (Mindy Shaw) and her grandson, Fabian (Conor Hogan), and Dremann’s choice to inverse the hero and damsel and distress relationship between Man in Peril (Christopher Carillo) and Superhero (Joseph Graf). Both elicited tremendous laughter from the audience, which added a nice light-hearted feel to the evening after witnessing the more serious stories.
Intriguing and thought provoking, the six plays of Heroes and Home ask the right questions that will stick with you for hours. I look forward to seeing what else the Source Festival 2016 has in store for us this year.
Run Time: 90 minutes, with a 10-minute intermission.