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The Blood and Thunder storm moves to Alaska, come hell or high water

March 24, 2010

The intensely intimate play, Blood and Thunder, is in its final performances for two reasons. “For one thing,” Steve Lozier, managing director of Moving Arts says, “we kept extending the show and now we’re all exhausted.” 

The three-person play by Terence Anthony had a 20-week run. It takes place in the Lower 9th Ward, flood waters rising, two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Lozier says, “We intentionally staged it at Hyperion Station, our original 29-seat space. It’s very small. The action takes place a couple feet from the audience,” which gives you a claustrophobic feeling, as if you’re inside the Lower 9th Ward apartment with the characters. 

“The other reason we need to close,” Lozier adds, “is that we’ve been invited to take the show to The Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez , Alaska in May. We really need some time off before we go.”

That the one-act play will be staged at Last Frontier, Lozier says, is gratifying.  It started off as part of Moving Arts’ 15th Annual Premiere One-Act Festival but proved it could clearly stand on its own.  

Blood and Thunder runs 59 minutes, “like clockwork.” Director Sara Wagner (Jake’s Women) says the show was not so much difficult to direct, as challenging. “The playwright [Terence Anthony, recipient of the Bill Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship] kept asking me to direct  but  I wasn’t sure it was the right project for me at the time or that I was the right director for the project.” Wagner says she changed her mind after taking a long look at the script. “Once I found my hook, I wouldn’t let go; I didn’t want anyone else to direct this production.” 

Wagner’s first challenge was how to stage the play with all its rawness. The language is honest, she says, and the audience needs to believe there are flood waters just outside the door. “Jason Duplissea created a very effective sound design,” Wagner says. “I wanted a soundscape that would place the audience at the precise point in real time that the action takes place. I wanted to remind them what was happening ‘outside’ without letting it overwhelm the story.”  

“I was also careful about approaching Blood and Thunder as a ‘Katrina play’, if we have such a thing yet in our vernacular. The play is not about Hurricane Katrina, it is set during Katrina. The rising flood waters are a physical threat, yes, but also a metaphor for the rising tension between the characters.” 

Part of the sound design, Wagner says, is a pre-show audio collage of news reports. In such a small space, you can grow uncomfortable. That’s fine with Wagner. “I don’t want the audience to be able to comfortably distance themselves from what is happening on stage; that’s what TV is for. Directing this play for such a small venue wasn’t difficult; the challenge will be moving this intimate, honest production to a much larger theatre.”  

That’s Wagner’s next challenge: Blood and Thunder will be staged in a 480 seat house at The Last Frontier Theatre Conference. “I have a long history with the Conference in Valdez,” explains Wagner. “It’s an invigorating, week-long pressure cooker of artistic energy; they are a great audience. I’m very proud to share this production with them and also very excited to introduce the cast and crew of Blood and Thunder to the Conference.” 

The original cast–Keith Arthur Bolden, Tony Williams, and Candice Afia–will go with the show to Alaska.  “My cast is fearless,” states Wagner. “Throughout the run they have continued to take risks in exploring the truth of this play; I learn something new every time I watch them perform. I welcome facing this new challenge with them–translating our intimate production into such a large space without sacrificing the play’s intensity.”  

Moving Arts is in its 17th season. Lozier says that intimacy has often played a key role in their productions. Several years ago,  Paul Stein (then Artistic Director) developed “The Car Plays,” a series of works performed inside cars in a parking lot. “The audience is in the car with the performers; you can’t get more intimate than that.”   

Lozier isn’t sure what’s next, after the conference in Alaska . He knows there will be growth. “We want to focus on giving company members more opportunities to hone their craft with in-house training. We want to do more public outreach, too.” 

Lozier cites a highlight from last October. “We did a play inside the Natural History Museum in conjunction with their yearly Spider Pavillion, called “Arachnatopia: A Choose Your Own Web Play.”  Kids could follow various characters around the museum, including Wally, played by Morgan Krantz, the hero who was afraid of spiders. They loved him and did all they could to give him courage. We love working with young people and want to foster a young audience. They are our future.”  

Blood and Thunder ends March 28, come hell or high water.

Moving Arts 1822 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles, CA

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