In travis tate’s intimate new comedy, “Queen of the Night,” father and son head to the woods to bridge the gap in their lives. It doesn’t help that the son is an artist, cheerful and unhappy, and that the father miserably faces his wife’s remarriage. Yet their clumsy communication with nature gives rise to the unexpected.
It’s really amazing, ”says Raz Golden, who heads the production of the Dorset Theater Festival world premiere.
“A double can be very difficult because it requires a lot of two players,” he said. “Fortunately, we have two amazing actors who really go for each other and dive deep into the material. But their job is made a little easier by the fact that Travis wrote such a well done play, and infused it with such beautiful emotion, also comedy and also poetry. It’s so much to chew on and a gift to artists.
“So I’m super excited to be directing the world premiere.” Golden said.
The Dorset Theater Festival will present ‘Queen of the Night’ from August 10 to September 7. Outdoor 4 at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester. (The production will be filmed and available to stream on demand.)
In “Queen of the Night,” the recently divorced Stephen and his millennial son Ty embarked on a camping trip to their former playground in Southeast Texas. As an important family event approaches, father and son try to survive in the woods, and each other, braving bears and reckoning with the wilderness of their past.
Despite a weak cell signal and high emotions, these two characters do their best to connect. In this honest and poetic family comedy, Tate explores masculinity and homosexuality through the prism of multigenerational darkness.
“Queen of the Night” faces the universal truth that having an honest conversation with your family can be an unattainable height.
“It’s something that, through the hustle and bustle, hard work, and love, can really find a place to connect with the people you’re meant to love the most,” Golden said. “What’s inside is hope, that deep, deep feeling of hope that you are not alone in this world. Even people with whom you thought might not be able to form a relationship, there is still hope for this.
The characters are given an authenticity and an earthy weight through their dialogue.
“The language is so rich and beautiful,” Golden said. “It ranges from the super-familiar and familiar conversational tone that feels like the ones these characters used to live in, to this beautiful poetic imagery depicting the natural world and the stars.
“And how it goes from one to the other so naturally,” he said. “Few other playwrights, and especially emerging playwrights, have a fluency in speech like Travis does.”
Stephen and Ty come from different directions and from different worlds. Steven is in his late 50s, so his generation saw the end of the civil rights movement – a very different world than Ty, 29.
“And it’s made even worse by the fact that Stephen is straight and Ty is gay,” Golden said. “Unfortunately, in the past, when Ty was a kid and lived under his father’s roof, they had no serious connection to keep that relationship going – so they broke up.”
“This piece allows them to discover how to reconnect before this big family event – which changes the dynamics in an irrevocable way.”
Stephen and Ty speak different languages, but they feel the same way.
“Stephen didn’t have Instagram, but he still knows what heartache is,” Golden said. “One great thing we found in rehearsal is that one of Ty’s fears is showing anger like his dad does. Her discomfort with the world manifests as anxiety, but they come from a similar core, her issues and Stephen’s issues, but they manifest in different ways.
“Ty has a mortal fear of sinking into the anger that Stephen has access to,” Golden said. “Stephen worked away from that and didn’t have this as his first impulse. He both succeeds and fails.
But, both try.
“This is the game,” Golden said. “You can’t engage with someone who isn’t going to at least try.”
For Golden, the challenge of making this new play captivating is the same as for any intimate theater.
“It’s not an exact science – it’s about creating in repetition, adding nutrients and water, sunlight and all of that, hopefully to grow a tasty tomato. . “
Golden dispels a common misconception about acting.
“You think about the character and you have a revelation, and that’s how it all comes together,” he said. “It doesn’t, especially with a play like this where the main action is for the two to talk to each other.
“It’s really about taking stock every day of new discoveries that you have about the characters, the new ways they interact with each other, the new moment,” Golden said. “As a director, my job is to make sure I run a rehearsal room where all of this is possible and where the actors feel safe to experiment. And, frankly, a place where when they come home for the day, they don’t hold a grudge against their fellow artists.
“The characters (in the script) are in many ways plans,” Golden said. “The words on the page are 50% of the character, and the bodily lived experience of our wonderful actors – Danny Johnson and Leland Fowler – brings the remaining 50% to the characters. Actors bring so much of themselves to characters like these.
jim.lowe @ rutlandherald.com