Preview of ‘Abominable’ at The Hub Theatre by David Siegel

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Hub Theater is producing the world premier of Abominable written by Playwright and Hub Artistic Director Helen Pafumi. The director is multi-Helen Hayes Award nominee Kirsten Kelly.

The Hub describes Abominable this way: Sam is dealing with a lot, but so do all teenagers. His bones are growing so fast that sometimes he feels inhuman. Meanwhile, a mysterious and beastly footprint is discovered in the middle of town. While his mother tries to find out what is happening to Sam, more footprints appear and terrify the community as gossip and mayhem abound.

Cast members from left to right:  William Vaughn (Jacob), Maggie Erwin (Sam's best friend Esther), and Chris Stinson (Sam). Photo courtesy of The Hub Theatre.
Cast members from left to right: William Vaughn (Jacob), Maggie Erwin (Sam’s best friend Esther), and Chris Stinson (Sam). Photo courtesy of The Hub Theatre.

Pafumi is also the co-founder of The Hub Theatre and in addition has worked as an actor on DC area stages, such as Folger, Woolly Mammoth, Theater J, Forum, Theatre Alliance, Rorschach, and Keegan. She was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play for her co-adaptation of Wonderful Life. She is the recipient of the Puffin Foundation Award and the Washington Canadian Partnership Award.

Kelly is returning to the Hub after receiving a Helen Hayes Award nomination for directing the Hub’s Big Love. She also directed the Hub’s premiere of The Clockmaker and received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for directing Theatre Alliance’s Boy Gets Girl. She is currently working on The Homestretch a feature documentary about homeless teens in Chicago that has received a MacArthur Foundation Film Grant and a Sundance Development Grant.

DCMTA’s David Siegel recently interviewed playwright Pafumi and Director Kelly.  This article is edited from those  interviews

David: What was your inspiration for writing Abominable?

Helen: My main inspiration for writing Abominable came from watching the bullying, and the regularly escalating violence that is being perpetrated in and on our schools. I had started the play long before, but after Sandy Hook I became very focused on wanting to explore the line between a regular kid, and a beast that would enact such crimes. What makes someone bully another, what makes them snap and go to a much larger scale of violence?

Director/Playwright Helen Pafumi. Photo courtesy of The Hub Theatre.
Playwright Helen Pafumi. Photo courtesy of The Hub Theatre.

I wanted to tackle these questions in a Hub way – with comedy, magical realism and hope. And I wanted a play without guns, so that the conversation was much more about people and much less about the politics of gun control. Did I say comedy? Yes, I did, because even though this play is dramatic, there is a lot of laughter in it and this was an extremely conscious choice. I wanted us all to laugh together first, then wrestle with big questions.

And lastly, I wanted a play that was something to which parents could bring their teenagers. The teenagers in this show drive the story…This unique perspective on the hardships we all face while growing up and the changing landscape of school violence will open the door to a conversation of which we all need to be a part.

Why did you want to direct Abominable? What was it about this play that resonated with you?

Kirsten: What resonated so deeply to me was how she [Helen Pafumi] was responding to these incredibly tragic school shootings and conversations about the increase of bullying in our society. She was really digging into the questions which ask about many of the different tragic and hopeful journeys within these tragedies. I really respected how [Helen Pafumi] was using magic realism and exploring the moments of magic, connectedness and even humor which surge out of tragedy.

How do you go about casting a play like this?

Director Kirsten Kelly.
Director Kirsten Kelly.

Kirsten: I always look for actors who have a tremendous sense of playfulness – even when casting for tragedy as well as comedy. The casting for this was a process of first, finding who connected with the role most deeply, and then who could connect with the other actors in this world. As a director, you try to build the strongest cast you can, and with this play in particular, we needed actors who could carry the depth of humanity that Helen writes, and who could navigate the line between the tragic moments and the humor and comedy that grows out of a human journey.

[Note:  The cast features Carla Briscoe, Maggie Erwin, Liz Osborn, Sasha Olinick, Chris Stinson, and William Vaughn.]

Without giving away too much, what would you like to say something about the technical design of the production?

Kirsten:  The world of the play lives within magical realism. There will be forest that is surprising – it will be able to be peaceful and beautiful as well as dark and scary – just like growing up. It’s a world where so much happens – you are suddenly in a kitchen, then the schoolyard, then the unknown forest. And the forest has so many connections to literature – like the C.S. Lewis books, or the magical journey of Max in Where the Wild Things Are. It’s where adventure and realizing there is good and evil in the work and growing up can happen.

Why should audiences see this production?

Kirsten:  I think the humanities and storytelling brings such richness to one’s life. Taking a moment to be part of a story, to witness artists working and building a world live in front of you, like only theatre can do, is such a magical event. To me, I think there is something very special about seeing a play – taking time out from our screens, and connecting with other people for a moment to all witness a good story together. This play will give us all a deeper understanding of a very complex issue…and with generosity, humor, fierceness and heartbreak, it examines so many of the human questions surrounding the cruelty that young people can face as they grow up.

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Where and When: The Hub Theatre presents the premiere of Abominable at the John Swayze  Theatre, The New School – 9431 Silver King Court, in Fairfax, Virginia 22031. Performances are July 11-August 3, 2014. Friday-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20-$30. For tickets, call (800) 494-8497, or purchase them online.

[Note: There is stage violence. Recommended for those 12 and up. There are dedicated performances with talkbacks for teens and their parents on July 12, 19, and 27, 2014 after the matinee shows.]

LINKS
Part One of ‘Finding Big Love’ at The Hub Theatre by Kirsten Kelly.

Part Two of ‘Finding Big Love’ at The Hub Theatre by Kirsten Kelly.

Part Three of ‘Finding Big Love’at The Hub Theatre by Kirsten Kelly.

Part Four of ‘Finding Big Love’ at The Hub Theatre By Kristen Kelly.