Backstage: Untangling ‘A Maze’ at Rorschach Theatre; 3 premieres at GALA


Sara Barker and Andrew Ferlo in Rorschach Theatre's “A Maze.” (C. Stanley Photography/Rorschach Theatre)
August 14, 2012

I am asking director Grady Weatherford what “A Maze” is about. One would think this is a fairly simple question.

“It can be a difficult question,” says Weatherford, which is a sign of how straightforward this conversation is going to be. “It’s about a lot of different things.

“At its root, it’s about the creative process and the different ways that we look at it,” he goes on. “It’s a kidnapping story, a rock-and-roll story, an art story.”

I sense us getting closer to the plot.

“For anyone who has ever tried to make anything, it is sort of a maze to get there. You have to find your way to what you’re trying to create.”


Natalia Miranda-Guzmán, Ignacio Garca Bustelo and Antonio Vargas, in GALA’s season opener, “In Spite of Love.” (José Arteaga)

Hang on, we are zooming out again.

“Finding our way to these creations is really the maze of life.”

Weatherford is excited about this Rorschach Theatre production in a way that prevents him from describing it to anybody who hasn’t seen it. He is almost comically spoiler-averse. Each shot of summary is chased with a cautious admonition of “but I don’t want to give too much away.”

At the risk of giving too much away — “too much” apparently being “anything at all” — here is the gist of the show: A 17-year-old girl has just escaped from captivity, where she’s been held for eight years, and is about to tell her story to the world on an Oprah-style show. Meanwhile, a rock-and-roll band has discovered a gigantic graphic novel around which it’s decided to build a concept album. Funny thing about that big comic book: The central character is our teen escapee.

Eight actors play the 17 characters, who are “a lot of very self-involved people who are all trying to tell their own story to benefit themselves,” Weatherford says. “And we end up sort of crossing paths, and it becomes a much more serious thing than just the self-involved, ‘this is my story’ situation. It becomes a giant shared story.”

The 34 scenes unfold over 10 years, and the play goes forward and backward in time. Its nonlinear nature appealed to Weatherford, who often works in film, as did the notion of creating an original song for the band’s epic album to go along with the story.

The post-punk band “that lives in a three-chord, three-minute-verse sort of world,” Weatherford says. “And the creation of this album is stepping out of that to move into a more soaring” sound. Sound designer Thomas Sowers wrote an original song for the band, which is teased out throughout three acts — a riff here, a chord there — and isn’t revealed in its entirety until the end of the play.

The set is the maze of the play’s title, a two-level shifting floor with a maze pattern that changes between scenes.

I admit to Weatherford that I am having some trouble following this. He assures me that’s okay.

“It’s so dense and so thick,” he says. “You probably shouldn’t sit back at the end and say, ‘Oh, I get it.’ ”

Through Sept. 9, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. www.
rorschachtheatre.com
. 202-399-7993.

Three D.C. premieres at GALA

All three of GALA Hispanic Theatre’s mainstage productions next season will be D.C. premieres. The first, “In Spite of Love” (“El desdén con el desdén”), will be in Spanish with English surtitles and directed by Hugo Medrano, the producing artistic director of GALA. Although the show is new to the District, it’s certainly not new to the world: It was written in the 1600s by Agustín Moreto of Spain.

“It’s going to be done with full classical costumes,” said Rebecca Medrano, executive director of GALA. “We’re not doing modern versions of the classics.”

That said, “it still has a lot of relevance. It’s all about flirtation and how you make somebody pay attention to you if they don’t like you,” she added.

If you are wondering whether romantic relations have progressed in the past 400 years, the play centers on a boy and girl whose “courting works with indifference,” Medrano explained. “They both have decided they’re not going to marry or fall in love. So when one of them does fall for the other, the other doesn’t know what to do.”

People: clueless about dating since the 17th century.

“The House of the Spirits” (“La casa de los espíritus”) by Caridad Svich, based on the novel by Chilean author Isabel Allende, will be directed by José Zayas, also in Spanish with English surtitles. The play opens in February.

Closing out the season is “DC7: The Roberto Clemente Story,” a bilingual musical based on the life of Clemente, a Puerto Rican baseball legend. It was written and will be directed by Luis Caballero of Puerto Rico. The show is a co-production with the Society of the Educational Arts, which produced a limited-engagement run of the work in New York in February that was also directed by Caballero.

Caballero directed last season’s “Puerto Rico . . . ¡ fua!,” stepping in for Hugo Medrano, who was hospitalized weeks before the show’s opening night. It was through Caballero’s work on “Puerto Rico . . . ¡ fua!” that “Roberto Clemente” came to be included in GALA’s 2012-13 season.

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