Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Madness Never Ends: A Chat with Ignacio Zulueta

I ran into Ignacio Zulueta at the A.C.T. Costume Shop recently, as we helped set up lights and seating for PlayGround’s month-long residency there. No time to chat, but we promised to catch up online and trade notes on our respective ventures there. Today we did. Here’s what I found out about Iggy’s latest offering.
- Josh Senyak

Josh Senyak recently completed his first year in the PlayGround Writers Pool. His show, The Hair of the Triple Dog, three one-acts by Senyak, Victoria Chong Der and Cleavon Smith, directed by Cindy Goldfield, plays tonight, July 17, at 8pm at the A.C.T. Costume Shop.

JS: Iggy, tell me about your new show.

IZ: The working title is Around the Bay in 80 Minutes. It's a nod to Jules Verne but more importantly a lighter-than-air-hearted look at what makes us such distinct inhabitants of this vivid region.

JS: One play or many?

IZ: Many, in true travelogue style. I'm actually still working on the script with director Ken Sonkin and composer Don Seaver, but at present, the draft consists of several 10-minute shorts that have been presented at PlayGround SF Monday nights. I think about 80% of the material was seen onstage at Berkeley Rep as part of the Monday night series. In between those are standalone 1-minute plays that I've written for the BAPF 1-minute play festival two years running now. While the majority of plays have been done as staged readings or short productions, I'm also using this to showcase a few lovely 'orphans' that haven't been produced but fit the theme and format.

JS: So how do you keep continuity with all that material flying around?

IZ: I've been in close contact with Ken my director to address that directly. We're making sure that the thematic content of each play fits a kind of comedic arc.

JS: Comedy? Hey! What's so funny about the Bay Area?

IZ: What ISN'T funny about where we live? - The Bay Area has this peculiar quality of being critical to America's corporate culture and progressive political culture.... while 'enjoying' a reduced media presence in depictions of american urban life. It's neither Hollywood nor New York and, while I'm thankful for that, the Bay Area sometimes comes across as a series of small towns with incredibly large buildings in them.

If you're a fan of Portlandia, you'll see how the best stereotypes are those rooted in truth and satirized by the people to whom they are attributed to. It's the whole phenomenon of ownership in comedy. In a way, Around the Bay in 80 Minutes is a funhouse mirror of the Bay Area that Bay Area natives (who are mostly transplants - which is a joke in and of itself) are uniquely poised to present onstage. I'll be dabbling with some of the comic format you see in shows like Tim & Eric and That Mitchell and Webb Look. Or for a stage analogue, more like Killing My Lobster.

JS: What's the role of composer Don Seaver? Should we be expecting "BART Stations, the Musical?"

IZ: Hahah! That would certainly be a 'strike'-ing show. -  Don will be playing his own compositions live for the two short musicals, Meet the Breeders and A Matter of Taste, that I've worked into the core of the show. But the music, ideally, won't stop there. Don's talent, and those of my cast, add a super-exciting dimension of cabaret-style transitions as we explore the use of other music in both setting the immediate scene of the play as well as giving a musical sense of place to where we've landed next in the evening. I won't promise a 1-minute musical, but I think some covers of iconic Bay Area songs are very likely.

JS: I'll look forward to the dancing in the aisles.

IZ: Please dance!

JS: Is this your first time working with Ken Sonkin?

IZ: Ken and I have worked together on one of the PlayGround plays that will be incorporated in Around the Bay, as well as at the Eugene O'Neill Foundation in Danville, and at Wily West in SF. Experience, generosity, and sanity - two of which are so often in short supply in our line of work - are what Ken brings to the table when we start rehearsal on the 21st.

JS: So, in three words...?

IZ: Everyone should come! There are some wonderful actors involved. Maggie Tenenbaum, Isabel Siragusa, Steve Westdahl, and Alex Lydon are all currently signed on to perform. (Maggie was in the original cast of Breeders at PlayGround, and Steve appeared as the Yeti in Katie May's Abominable. Isabel and Alex are both members of PlayGround actor Gabriel Grilli's Duck Duck Octopus theatre show.

JS: Is there a moment in the madness to think about what your next project will be?

IZ: Yes! I'm already planning for the Bay One Acts this fall, and there's a 2pm matinee show of a grand guignol horror one-act I wrote for middle schoolers on the 26th at the ThrillPeddlers Hypnodrome. My full length comedy The Fellowship is being produced at AlterTheater this winter, and I'm working on bringing my playground commission, Kano & Abe, to the 2013 Demo Day in September. Looking back at what I just said - it looks like the madness never ends!

JS: Sounds busy. Sounds GREAT!

Alas, the one question on everybody’s mind (will Iggy buy a new fedora for this show?) slipped my mind before we signed off. You’ll have to be there, dancing in the aisles and laughing at the funhouse mirror, to find out for yourself.


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