by Terrance Mc Arthur
S. Eric Day was one of the founders of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival, where he directed and performed. He has worked with the Good Company Players as performer and director, and is now a major part of California Public Theatre as their artistic director.
CPT is producing Bless Me Ultima (based on the novel by Rudolfo Anaya) under the auspices of the Fresno County Public Library, as part of the Library’s The Big Read, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Eric has also directed plays based on Big Read books for Tom Sawyer, Poe’s Tales of Terror, Fahrenheit 451, and Call of the Wild. Eric took some time to answer questions about CPT and Bless Me, Ultima.
Terrance: Eric, you have been involved with Valley theatre for many years. What led you to start California Public Theatre?
Eric: A desire to do works that are socially and educationally responsible.
Terrance: What are your proudest accomplishments with CPT?
Eric: Most recently, Rent at the Tower Theater, in spite of the technical difficulties. Other proud moments include I Love You Because, Lonely Planet, Call of the Wild, Fahrenheit 451 and Rocky Horror Show (also at the Tower Theater)
Terrance: You have worked from Shakespeare to Poe. What intrigues you about Bless Me, Ultima?
Eric: I read the script and found it to be exciting theater.
Terrance: You are not Hispanic. How difficult is it for you to tap into the book’s cultural background?
Eric: I was born in Fresno and have lived in California most of my life. I have relatives who are Hispanic, and I grew up with some of my cousins’ culture. While much of Bless Me Ultima is bound in ancestral knowledge, the culture is not terrifying for me. Having directed Macbeth for Woodward Shakespeare Festival and the Crucible for the Good Company Players Second Space, witchcraft in the theater is not a stranger to me.
Terrance: In Poe’s Tales of Terror, you had to make a body turn to goo onstage. In Call of the Wild, you had to make spring in Fresno seem like winter in the Yukon. What challenges do you need to deal with in this production?
Eric: There are special effects that are needed for this show that the Technical Director Ryan Barnes has to coordinate to help build the atmosphere of Spiritualism and Faith vs. Witchcraft.
Terrance: What information would help the audience of Bless Me, Ultima to better understand the show?
Eric: The Fresno County Public Library has resources to enhance public knowledge of the book and the play that they will get to see May 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12 at The California Arts Academy/Severance Building in the Tower District , 1401 N. Wishon Ave., (559) 498-3300
Terrance: What does the future hold for you and CPT?
Eric: We will be reviving our production of the Last Days of Judas Iscariot in May to inaugurate our brand new performance space on Fulton, right across the street from Diana’s Studio of Dance in the Tower District.
Keep up with CPT shows by visiting their website.