Cate Brewer asks Catherine Aselford about her Capital Fringe show Carry a Big Stick.
Cate: Why is your production of Carry a Big Stick a ‘must see’ for DC Fringe audiences this summer?
Catherine: Carry a Big Stick is a good story, well told. It’s not the most “Fringey” show, but it sure is a fun theatrical ride! I’m a typically apolitical DC native, yet this play made me care about the political maneuverings that finally got us the Panama Canal.
What interested you about directing this piece?
I was immediately taken by the way Paul’s characters “play” each other. Some mask their intentions, while others switch sides. Each scene is a fascinating character study.
There have been a lot of interesting political outcomes in Washington in recent weeks. Can we draw any parallels between the politics in the play and those of the moment?
Well, there are certainly parallels between the tricks played in the Congressional Committee meeting in Carry a Big Stick and what seems to be going on right now! In the play Congress isn’t deadlocked, because there’s a solid Republican majority. But party boss Mark Hanna’s comment about Roosevelt “not even being a real Republican” reminded me of current discussions in which politicians are termed “RINO”s…. “Republican In Name Only.”
Will you tell audiences a bit about your cast?
It’s always tough to cast seven men in a non-Equity show! But with doubling we got the cast size down to six. I’d directed a reading of Carry a Big Stick for the Playwright’s Forum, and was able to have two actors from the reading repeat their roles: Philip Baedecker, and Terence Aselford. Both Baedecker and Aselford have performed in Fringe before, so they are braced for a quick tech-in, and some oddball performance times. John McCaffrey has a long theatrical resume, and – as an added bonus — he resembles Teddy Roosevelt. This show is a feast for character actors, and I’ve found some wonderful actors who were new to me. David Schmidt has worked at Shakespeare Theatre Company and is currently in a show at the Lorton Workhouse. Robert Mark O’Brien has a varied background as an actor – film , TV, radio, and theatre – and he exudes a crafty charm as the self-proclaimed “most important lawyer in America.” Tucker Bacon has just come to DC, and I predict that he’ll soon have plenty of work here.
What else can we expect to see from you and Guillotine Theatre in the near future?
Well, technically Carry a Big Stick is produced by Bull Moose Theatre, a pick-up group created by our playwright/producer Paul Handy. Paul’s play Cry For the Gods was a Fringe hit in 2011. Guillotine Theatre will present a staged reading of John Morogiello’s really dark play Civilizing Lusby for the Page to Stage Festival over Labor Day, then we have an October gig reprising Civil War Songs and Stories with the bluegrass band, Dead Men’s Hollow. After that – well, we have some plans, but things aren’t confirmed yet.
Is there anything else that you want to tell us?
I was so sad to miss directing or performing in Fringe last year! I’ve worked at every Fringe since the first one, in 2006, sometimes on multiple shows, and I’m SO happy to be back!
At Warehouse – 645 New York Ave NW, in Washington, DC 20001
METRO: Mt. Vernon Sq. 7th St. (Green/Yellow); Gallery Place/Chinatown (Red,Green/Yellow)
THU 7/11 at 6:45 PM
SUN 7/14 at 10:30 PM
FRI 7/19 at 8:00 PM
SAT 7/20 at 6:45 PM
WED 7/24 at 8:45 PM
SAT 7/27 at 1:45 PM