15 September 2014

Playwright Lucas Hnath discusses Walt Disney, the Man and the Myth

This week on drama on the waterfront, we share a video of A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney playwright Lucas Hnath discussing all things Walt Disney, the Man and the Myth.

Playwright Lucas Hnath

Interview recorded at a FEED event at Soho Rep. in New York during the world premiere season in 2013.

The Circa season of A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney runs until 27 September. To book, visit www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa box office on 801-7992.

08 September 2014

Destination Beehive: Imagine if elections sold out (it’s a stretch, but work with us here)

Imagine, if you will, that elections were even more of a performance than they already are.

If in order to have your vote count, you had to keep an eye on the Beehive’s website, and keep track of when the date was announced. You had to check in with your friends and family, and make sure the date was one you could get along to. Organise a babysitter, book in at a restaurant for dinner, dress up a little bit, go along and watch a song and dance from all of the candidates and then at the end, register your vote. And if you failed to get organised and heed the warnings - ‘The election is selling out! Limited votes left! Book yours now!’- well then, you would have no say on the make-up of our totally serious and entirely respectable body of representatives.

Lucky for you and for every New Zealander, voting is nowhere near as limited as tickets left for Destination Beehive. There’s no limited bookings, no date wrangling you need to play along with, and you can definitely bring your kids with you while you give the government two ticks. You can vote at an early voting booth, you can vote from overseas, heck - you can vote having read or watched absolutely nothing from any of the candidates (we do not encourage this but dammit, it’s possible).

But for those of you who DO enjoy a bit of a song and dance, and found the imagination game above to be rather appealing, you’ve not got much time left - at time of posting, 10 of the remaining 13 performances of Destination Beehive are already SOLD OUT. Imagine if you missed out...

Get in quick! To try to get tickets to a performance of Destination Beehive, on until Election Day, 20 September, call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz

01 September 2014

David McPhail as Walt Disney

Actor David McPhail tells drama on the waterfront about his experience playing the famed creator of some of the world's favourite cartoon characters in A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney.

David McPhail in A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
I didn’t like Bambi. In my small, seven-year-old mind a deer was always associated with antlers. I was scared of antlers. I had trouble understanding what Mickey Mouse was actually saying. Even worse I was never sure if Mickey was Minnie’s brother, or her husband, or simply a friend with similar ears.

I felt happier with the nihilistic violence of Wile E. Coyote and his attempts to flatten the Road Runner. The mindless mayhem of Tom and Jerry made more sense to me. A heavy mallet on Tom’s head would make his tongue roll out like an endless welcome mat. And then Jerry would nail it with a railway spike. But that was another cartoon company. Walt Disney had Silly Symphonies so Warner Brothers hit back with Looney Tunes. I loved that.

Meanwhile over in Fantasyland, Donald Duck sounded like a squeegee, Mickey and Minnie were doing whatever they did and Pluto, the severely retarded dog, was waving his ears around. It’s interesting to reflect that two of Walt Disney’s most endearing characters were a brain-damaged dog and a dwarf called Dopey. The character I liked most was Scrooge McDuck. He was bitter, twisted, cruel and mean. Scrooge didn't last long. Perhaps he was getting under the skin of his creator too much. Walt Disney’s creations were always friendly

Today I’m trying to get under the skin of the man whose mind created Mickey Mouse. We have one thing in common and ten thousand things we don’t. Disney was a cigarette smoker. So am I and working in this play I’m seriously concerned about my addiction. You’ll understand why when you see the play.

David McPhail.
The things we don’t share? He was fabulously successful, extraordinarily rich, admired by Mussolini and the creator of the most iconic and perhaps moronic mouse in the world. Try as I might I haven’t achieved any of those milestones.

When I was younger, roughly around the time of the last Ice Age, you could watch Walt Disney on television. He’d fade up in flickering black and white and cheerfully describe everything you were about to see while constantly assuring you that everything coming up would delight you. I rarely paid much attention. Instead, I was hoping we’d get Mickey and Minnie in an inflatable dingy about to hurtle over Niagara Falls and one of them would die. Neither ever did. Because Walt Disney really wanted to make the world a more cheerful place. He was obsessed with happy endings. In an attempt to achieve these he wrecked himself, alienated his family and nearly demolished all the magic kingdoms of his dreams. Why? Well, in his own words: ‘You can’t just let nature run wild.’

Running wild is a central motif in Lucas Hnath’s play. The words are scattered over the pages like black confetti. The rational connections of human speech are carved up and reassembled randomly. It’s reminiscent of the cut-ups of William S. Burroughs except Hnath dismembers conversations while Burroughs carved up whole pages of other people’s books. The Ticket That Exploded is probably the best and worst example of this happily neglected form of plagiarism. Hnath simply slices his own sentences. This creates an authentic language. But, it is bloody hard to learn. It is a conversation without connections. This is the way we speak. Disjointed, discursive, disruptive and frequently dying away into the distance.

A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
So, that’s the language but what is the play about? Aha, that’s where you come in. Where we all get together. Don’t be deceived by the title. This isn't a play about death. It’s your play. We may tell a story and we use a language but what happens is entirely over to you. For centuries playwrights have been driving their ideas, their hopes and their ideals into the face of their audiences. I want to make you laugh. I want to make you tearful. I want to change you. I want to show you a more seductive future. I want to make you forget the past. Most forgot the eternal ingredient. I want to tell you a good story. This is a good story. How we tell it is critical to your enjoyment. But the story is more important than the tellers.

A little fat boy called Walter Disney. Scribbling away with a broken pencil. Sometimes drawing animals. Always small things like ducklings or mice. Never lions or cobras. Little dainty creatures with big innocent eyes and four-fingered hands. Safe tiny animals in a candy-floss world with lemonade streams. Thirty years later Disney, who now calls himself Walt because it’s manlier, is still drawing the same things. Except now they move. Their little tails twirl, their big ears wobble and their eyes are more googly than ever. And this is making millions.

So, what does a little boy do when he wants more?  He makes something bigger – Disneyland or even Disneyworld? This play is about a dream that went hay-wire. It’s also about childhood day-dreams and the dangerous hope of never growing old. It’s about striving to be young. But, the body begins to falter. It won’t stop fading. It doesn't work anymore. The lights are going out in Disneyland. So what’s left?

The chance of another life. A cartoon life? Where everything can be fixed. Where all the fun, the frolics and the future can happen again and again. This is the weird world of Walt Disney and Jessica, David, Richard and Nick will open the magic doors, sprinkle a little star-dust around and then drop you right in the shit.
David McPhail and Nick Blake in A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney runs in Circa One until 27 September. To book, call 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.

25 August 2014

Destination Beehive: Newest Electorate Hotly Contested

The brand new electorate of Port Nicholson, located in the heart of Wellington City, has proved to be a highly contestable area, with no clear leader coming through in local polls. Despite Wellington's reputation as a liberal Labour stronghold, it appears that the newest subdivision of the population has managed to encompass the entire political spectrum, with candidates from National, Labour, the Greens, NZ First, Conservatives, and Internet Mana all in with a fair chance of election day satisfaction.

Given such a high likelihood of a surprising outcome, it's no surprise that live television election special Destination Beehive will focus on this curious new development in the political landscape. With experienced political reporters Katrina Coleman and Tina Fisher at the helm, this special promises to deliver up-to-the-minute analysis and focussed face-time with party leaders and candidates on the policies and promises that matter to every day New Zealanders. 

Exclusive new digital technology with allow the live studio audience the opportunity to vote on the issues directly, and potentially sway the small but significant electorate.

We went out to the Port Nicholson voters for some insight on what's important to them - join Destination Beehive's live studio audience to see how it all plays out!

What's important to me as a father is the dumbing down of our children by our education system. Children are struggling at basic literacy and numeracy skills, which is limiting their potential for success when they finally enter the job market. Is that good enough? Clearly not. Even with rudimentary literacy, those children are still potential competitors for me in the future. I'd like to see policies that restrict the intellectual development of our youth, and that encourage the use of their bodies for manual labour and road surfacing.
David Napier, 31, Port Nicholson
I'll totes be voting for who has the best personality. If there's one thing the media has taught me this year it's that policy is irrelevant.
Cathy McTavish, 35, Port Nicholson
I always vote green because we need to look after our planet. Who cares about taxes if we keep having super storms which knock out power and basic services for days on end?
Hannah Solo, 32, Port Nicholson
My election issue is: preserving my right to walk around topless
Nadine Bonaparte, 28, Port Nicholson
Vote 1 for the bogans!
Vodka Marie, 60 something, Port Nicholson
Destination Beehive opens Friday, 29 August and runs until Election Night, 20 September. The Thursday, 28 August $25 Preview is nearly SOLD OUT and Opening Night is completely full! Tickets are going quickly for the whole season, so book soon to avoid disappointment. www.circa.co.nz or 801-7992.