by Lorie Lewis Ham
Special ticket discount for KRL readers at the end of this article.
The New Ensemble opens their first full season with The Pillowman on January 28 at the Broken Leg Stage in Fresno’s Tower District, directed by their founder Heather Parish.
The Pillowman is a police procedural about a writer in a totalitarian state who is interrogated about the gruesome content of his short stories, only to discover that they mimic some strange child-killings in his town. The investigation includes the writer’s brother and delves into their past. “It asks a lot of questions about freedom of speech, the artist’s responsibility for inciting violence, and speaks very loudly against violence against children through the very scary stories told,” said Heather.
“It is a show I’ve seen done twice at larger theaters around California,” continued Heather. After first seeing it, she immediately ordered the script for reading. “It is a play that stays with you once you’ve experienced it. It is hard to get out of your head—both because it is beautifully written and because the subject matter is so visceral. I’d wanted to direct it for about three years, so when starting my own theater group, it was immediately put on the short list.”
Written by Martin McDonagh, The Pillowman played to critical acclaim in London (Olivier Award Winner) and New York (Tony nominee). Other plays by McDonagh include The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and Tony nominees The Lonesome West and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He is also the writer/director for the 2008 feature film In Bruges.
The principle cast includes James Sherrill (Edgar in Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s King Lear) as the writer, Landon Weiszbrod (director of the Golden Chain Theater in Oakhurst) as the brother, Jaguar Bennett (Shylock in WSF’s The Merchant of Venice), and Travis Sheridan (Mr. Fresno Flag Tattoo) as police officers. Heather has also worked with WSF.
The Broken Leg Stage is a small venue but Heather stated that was not a problem for this show. “The Pillowman is written in such a way that it can be done very elaborately on a large stage or stripped down to nothing on a small stage. We’re going with option B.”
According to Heather, The Pillowman is considered Martin McDonagh’s bravest, most unflinchingly honest play causing very strong reactions to it and to the issues it presents—violence against children, freedom of speech/rhetoric, personal accountability. “Especially considering the events in Tucson recently, this play speaks to the topics our society is dealing with very directly. It deals with real issues in a way that is startling, but we want people to be startled. If they are startled, they’ll continue to think about the ideas after they leave the theater, which is a major purpose of art.”
The show does contain strong language so it is only recommended for people aged 16 and up. Show times for The Pillowman are January 28, 29, February 3, 4, 5 at 8 p.m. and January 29, February 5 and 6 at 2 p.m. at the Broken Leg Stage in Fresno’s Tower District, 1470 N. Van Ness in Fresno.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance through their website. You can also reserve seats to be paid at will call by texting or phoning 559.457.9613.
SPECIAL TICKET DISCOUNT FOR KRL READERS!
Kings River Life readers will receive a special price for The Pillowman– 20% off the regular price of a ticket. Just go to this link and choose the date. When it asks for the discount code, simply put in ‘krlife’ and the discounted price will show up!