Produced by: theatreworks.org
Featuring: Adrian Blue, Julie Fitzpatrick, Cassidy Brown and Mia Tagano
Directed by: Pamela Berlin
When: Previews July 10-12, opens July 13, runs through August 4, 2013
Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California.
Tickets: $19-$73. (Discounts available.) Call 650-463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org
To help TheatreWorks raise some money to finish their new office and rehearsal facility, visit theatreworks.fundly.com/home-is-where-the-art-is.
Actors Mia Tagano and Cassidy Brown were interviewed by Paul Freeman about their 21 roles in "The Loudest Man on Earth." Read the interview in The Daily News.
has something to say
"The Loudest Man on Earth," by Catherine Rush, was the most buzzed-about play at TheatreWorks' 2012 New Works Festival.
Which is saying something, because "Being Earnest," by Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska, was part of that year's crop, and people loved it.
But people just kept talking about "The Loudest Man on Earth." Which I missed at the festival. But having now read the play, and having met its star, Adrian Blue, I can see why people were raving about it.
And I am very much looking forward to seeing it performed on July 13, in its world premiere. (Previews start on Wednesday.)
The play is a lovely, charming romantic comedy, with plenty of human conflict and truth to keep its head above the mundane.
And Blue, who is not physically a big man, has a huge charisma about him that I am guessing translates to quite a bit of power on stage.
The play is about a maverick theater director, Jordan, who is deaf. He's a cranky guy who knows his worth and does not suffer fools. He meets a charismatic journalist, Haylee, and is smitten. The two fall in love.
Blue, by the way, is himself a maverick theater director and actor who is deaf. His wife, although not a journalist, is certainly charismatic. She is the playwright, Rush.
They make a formidable team.
We met and talked in a very unfinished room at TheatreWorks' new facility in Redwood City. Paper tape still showing on the sheetrock, huge sheets of paper covering door frames that might or might not yet have actual doors in them.
And several trestle tables set up in a rectangle for script read-throughs and the like, and a bunch of folding chairs.
TheatreWorks is still working on raising enough money to do the finishing work on the facility, but with eight plays -- and the New Works Festival -- to produce in the 2013-14 season, there is no sitting around, waiting for the cans of paint to roll in.
The stage blocking was all wrong for my meeting with Blue and Rush. I had to drag in a stool for my use -- we don't put huge overweight guys with arthritic knees in tiny folding chairs, thank you -- but that put me towering over them, which was rude of me.
But Blue didn't seem to care. He flopped into a chair completely at home in himself, which is a truth about him, and a truth about the character, Jordan, he plays in "The Loudest Man on Earth."
When Jordan meets Haylee's parents, he calls himself an "oral failure," because he doesn't even try to talk. They don't understand. He asks Haylee to translate for him:
"I am proud of the fact that I know I can't speak clearly. It's better than being one of those deaf people who run around speaking loudly and unintelligibly because their speech teachers lied to them and told them they were wonderful. Plenty of other things in this life to do well."
"That line, 'I'm a proud oral fail" came straight from Adrian," says Rush. "As long as I've known him, he's called himself that."
"My self-esteem is just fine," Blue said. "I will proudly say I am an oral failure."
The play touches on quite a few issues that deaf people face in life, but it's not some kind of tract -- it's a charming romance about two people who have to learn to communicate with each other.
Everybody has to do that. If deafness is not the issue, something else would be.
What do they hope hearing people take from the play?
"As a writer," said Rush, "What I want is for hearing people to leave the theater knowing how to communicate better with other people."
"Haylee has her life, her background," said Blue, "But they are both just humans, they both have flaws. But they are not defined by being hearing or deaf, black or white, straight or gay. They are not trying to change who they are."
"The Loudest Man on Earth" is not their story, they both pointed out, although some of the incidents in the play happened in their lives.
"Believe it or not," Blue said, "Somebody did once ask if I was related to Koko."
Koko is a female gorilla, born at the San Francisco Zoo and who has lived most of her life in Woodside, not all that far from the TheatreWorks offices, who learned quite a bit of American Sign Language.
She looks nothing at all like Mr. Blue, so my guess is that whoever asked Blue if he was related to her was acting out of ignorance, stupidity and, possibly, malice.
But it makes for a good line in this wonderful play -- which includes many fine dramatic and comedic moments as Jordan and Blue learn to live with each other. But I've been asked to not mention most of them, so that the audience may be surprised by them.
Rush and Blue did say that "The fights they have, Haylee and Jordan, we've never had those fights. But, the play has to be built around some kind of conflict.
"They have to learn to love the best of each other. ... The only thing left of our relationship, in the play, is the fun they have."
The couple, who live in Philadelphia, have been together for 22 years, although they haven't always worked together in that time. They each take on projects that might put them in different places in the world.
Rush has been writing plays since she was 8 years old, and only two of them have had deaf characters.
She went back to college, Yale, when she was 35,and majored in Middle Eastern history. "I went back to school because I was tired of being ignorant about about various things in the world," she said. But then ... before she finished ... she took one playwriting course, and the hook was set.
Blue started as a street performer, 40 years ago.
"Long hair, San Francisco," he said, laughing. "I made a lot of money and paid no taxes!"
He was a mime.
These days, he does more directing than acting. He might turn down acting jobs sometimes, he said, but he'll almost never turn down a directing gig.
Another project they worked on together was translating Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" into sign language for performance. It took 18 months.
"I feel like Shakespeare is among the bawdiest playwrights in the world," Blue said, with considerable humor. "When you understand it, it's very dirty stuff."
"Translating it was very fun," said Rush. After working on the translation so long, they ended up taking roles -- she was Viola, he was Malvolio. A lot of fun.
And what do they expect deaf people to take from seeing "The Loudest Man on Earth"?
"A deaf audience will say, 'I've been there.' The experiences Jordan and Haylee go through are very relatable. Deaf people will probably crack up at some of it ... and be sad for some of it."
Rush made a point of mentioning how impressed she is by director Pamela Berlin, who's been a part of the project for three years, and by the cast who share the stage with Blue.
TheatreWorks vets Cassidy Brown and Mia Tagano play 21 roles between the two of them.
"The actors we have are phenomenal," said Rush. "Mia and Cassidy ... each character is just so clear. Even without costumes, in rehearsal, you can just see them.
"And Julie Fitzpatrick, she had to learn sign language for this production," Rush said. "She has, I think, the hardest part. She has to sign for other people, speak for herself -- she's incredible."
Rush, Blue and Berlin have workshopped the play three times, including at the New Works Festival, and are very excited about the world premiere. and appreciative of the support they've had at TheatreWorks.
And they are quite the admirable team, this couple.
"We know we're very fortunate to be together," said Rush.