The GOOD PERSON OF SETZUAN
By Bertolt Brecht
Adapted by Tony Kushner
Directed by Christie Lee Gibson
Music Composed by Nick Thorkelson
Music Performed by The Carny Band
February 21-March 9, 2013
10 Channel Center Street
Fort Point, Boston
About the Production
Bertolt Brecht and Tony Kushner are among the most entertaining and provocative playwrights in the history of theater. Put them together for The Good Person of Setzuan and the result was an exhilarating parable of love and money, written by Brecht when fascism was rising in Europe and grounded by Kushner in the social and economic realities and relations of our own time.
As the tale begins, a motley crew of three gods arrives in Setzuan. They are searching for one good person who will be revealed simply by offering them a bed for the night. But everyone fears a visit from the gods--except for the prostitute Shen Te. She takes them in, and they reward her handsomely so she can do good for all who need her help. Soon, though, Shen Te is up against a dilemma: more help is needed than she can possibly give. As she sings to the gods, with new music composed for this production, “To be good and to live/Split me, like lightning, in two.”
FPTC core member Christie Lee Gibson directed The Good Person of Setzuan. An opera singer, actress, and creator/producer/director/coach of musical-theatrical happenings, Gibson points to the great story that Brecht and Kushner tell. A trio of rising young Boston actors led a cast of 18, playing some 30 roles. Emerson College senior Kelly Chick balanced the two halves of Brecht’s challenging leading role: as Ms. Shen Te, the prostitute, and as her alter ego, Mr. Shui Ta, the strict businessman. The dual role reflects the conflicting forces that pit the human quest to survive against the equally human desire to be good.
Alan Sevigny, who recently received his Bachelor’s of Music Education from the University of Maine, played Te’s friend Wang, the hapless water seller. Jeff Marcus, who recently appeared in Blood Rose Rising and Our Town, played Shen Te’s lover, employee, friend, and foe: the would-be mail pilot Yang Sun.
The production took place in the temporary home of Fort Point Theatre Channel, a vacant 5,000 square-foot commercial space in an artists’ neighborhood threatened by explosive development. Despite that large space, seating will be limited. FPTC visual artist Anne Loyer, who led the design team for The Good Person, and Gibson conceived an intimate production that brings the audience and the actors together to explore basic questions about living in our modern world.
Loyer’s design, with movable screens and giant fans manipulated by the actors as set crew, drew on her work as a visual storyteller throughout her career. Her work has ranged from two-dimensional fine art, to narrative animations, to public art projects and performances that incorporate audio and video in collages based on the lives of real people. Loyer also co-curates Tamziq, Scattered and Connected, a multifaceted international and local collaboration between artists and students from the United States and the Middle East, with a focus on Iraq.
In addition to Loyer, the design team included costumer Silvia Graziano (who is also FPTC resident playwright) and the puppet/mask/props team of Hana Pegrimkova and Patrizia Rodomonti.
FPTC founding member Nick Thorkelson, the composer, led the four-piece Carny Band, providing original live music for the play's many songs. Just as Brecht and his collaborators created theater songs based on German dance hall music of their era, the Carny Band carried the tradition forward in musical riffs derived from doo-wop balladry, gospel, new wave, gypsy jazz, and more from our own times.
Thorkelson has performed in various rock, blues, soul, and reggae bands, including Boston’s first reggae band, Jamaica Hylton. He co-wrote and helped stage a workshop production of Defarge, a musical based on A Tale of Two Cities. Collaborating with Thorkelson was his brother, Peter Tork, formerly of The Monkees.
Olivia Brownlee, Unemployed Woman, Elephant Singer
Kelly Chick, Shen Te/Shui Ta
Mary Driscoll, Rug-seller’s wife
Lindsay Eagle, First God, Bonze
Paola M. Ferrer, The Wife, Smoke Singer
Kevin Groppe, Third God, Husband
Tasia Jones, Mrs. Shin, Older Prostitute, Elephant Singer
Ron Lacey, Shu Fu, Limping Man, Brother
Rebecca Lehroff, Landlady, Mi Tzu
Kathleen Lewis, Second God, Sister-in-Law
Jeff Marcus, Yang Sun
Marc S. Miller, Old Man
Sally Nutt, Mrs. Yang
Alex Roy, Police Officer
Alan Sevigny, Wang
Maya Sugarman, Niece, Young Prostitute
Francesco Tisch, Carpenter
Rick Winterson, Grandfather
Ida Aronson, lighting team
Rick Dorff, design team
Amanda Sheehan, production manager, stage manager
Silvia Graziano, costume-makeup team
Tim Jackson, band member
Maya Landi, makeup-costume team
Anne Loyer, design team leader
Mike Marano, dramaturg
Marc S. Miller, producer
M'Talewa, band member
Kristen Fumarola choreographer
Larry Plitt, band member
Todd Sargent, lighting design
Robin Smith, design team
Nick Thorkelson, composer, band member
Peter Thorkelson, co-composer, band member
Douglas Urbank, design team
Dan J. van Ackere, photographer, design team
Mark Warhol, sound design