By ALEC CLAYTON
Tacoma Little Theatre’s (TLT) production of The Pillowman took top honors at the American Association of Community Theatre Region IX competition in Spokane this year and is going to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the national finals in June.
“I am at a loss for words on how proud I am of this cast and crew,” said Chris Serface, TLT’s managing artistic director. “This is a testament of the quality of theater in our Puget Sound community.”
Helmed by first-time mainstage director Blake York and featuring local actors Christian Carvajal, Andrew Fry, Sean Neely (named best actor at the state festival in Prosser) and Jacob Tice, The Pillowman is a dark and brutal comedy-drama by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. It’s set in a police interrogation room in an unnamed totalitarian state, where cops are questioning a writer (Tice) and his brother (Neely) because the grisly content of the writer’s stories are similar to details in recent child murders.
For the contest, McDonagh’s full-length play is performed as a one-hour abridgement. Carvajal plays Ariel, the more sadistic of the cops.
“Ariel was one of my few remaining bucket-list roles,” Carvajal said, “so to find myself still on this adventure a year after we closed in Tacoma is mind-blowing. I can honestly say it came as a shock to us. We feel so incredibly honored. We’ve made friends along the way, from all over the Pacific Northwest, and benefited from the creativity of so many people — especially cast members from the full-length production — that we feel we’re competing on their behalf as well.”
Tice said, “Performing in The Pillowman has been a reminder for me of the function of theater to provoke conversation around uncomfortable topics. The question of who is responsible for violence inspired by art — the artist? the perpetrator? the art itself? — is incredibly important in our brave, new, memetic world, and I feel that’s one of the crucial questions The Pillowman asks in an extreme and uncomfortable way. The opportunity to put difficult but critical questions to the audience is to me the great joy of this show.”
“Our being advanced to nationals feels like a sign that our community is willing and enthusiastic to have a forum in which we can ask those questions,” Tice continued. “Our advancement acknowledges that theater can do more than comfort or distract or wow with spectacle, it can challenge and threaten as well, and as importantly. Of course, I’m also absolutely thrilled to go, it’s an honor to represent Tacoma Little Theatre and the Northwest on such a big stage. I am so looking forward to zooming out a bit and seeing the community-theater community, if that’s a phrase, writ large. All the variety of productions and styles will be a really marvelous thing to experience.”
Director York’s wife, Jen York, won an award for her contributions to The Pillowman‘s interrogation-room setting. Michele Graves won for best costumes, and the cast was given a special award for ensemble acting.
TLT is actively soliciting donations of money, air miles or gas cards to help finance the trip. Contact Chris Serface at (253) 272-2281 or visit TLT’s website.
Editor’s note: TLT will hold two benefit performances of the abridged Pillowman over Memorial Day weekend, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 25 and 26. For tickets or more information, please click here or call (253) 272-2281.
American Association of Community Theatre’s AACTFest 2019
25 Carlisle Street, Gettysburg, PA