Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Bridges Stage Company debuts with “Terre Haute”

Aaron Levin (seated) directs Norman Newkirk (photo by Greg Lowney)

Aaron Levin directs Norman Newkirk and Robert Bergin (photo by Greg Lowney)
Yup, it’s a(nother) new theater company! I could confidently say that every month, I think. But Bridges Stage Company is one you should, likely, pay attention to because director/producer/master teacher Aaron Levin has deep connections to our theatrical community and the administrative chops to get what he wants!

First, Aaron Levin has been teaching actors around town for millions of years and is considered a master teacher. He says, “Not only am I starting a new company and directing the play, I’m teaching two classes a week and finishing a book I’m writing. I just finished Chapter 21. “Passing it On” deals with acting. I’ve taught for 34 years. I’ve heard it a lot that what comes out of my mouth is not what they’ve heard from anyone else. Everything I say in class, I finally put on paper.” That sounds like a potential instant theater classic.

His bio details his beginnings in acting and schools , “He graduated in acting from North Carolina School of the Arts (BFA) and in directing from the University of Washington (MFA).” He studied in New York City and in London (with the National Theatre of Great Britain and the Royal Shakespeare Company). He studied voice and dance and was a ballet dancer for 14 years.

He has directed around the country and in Moscow. And, crucial to his efforts to get a new theater company off the ground, he has studied fundraising!

Others know him as the husband to Tim Clements, a years-long member of the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Captain Smartypants, their “pocket choir” performing group.

For their first play, they’ve chosen Edmund White’s play, Terre Haute, written in 2006, about a character similar to Gore Vidal and a correspondence Vidal had with Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. Though McVeigh’s name is also changed, many of the factual details of that event remain the same in the play.

Edmund White is a gay man and the celebrity writer character in his play is clearly gay, though Gore Vidal presented himself as more pan-sexual (if you will). However, the gist of the play has little to do with any sexuality at all. It is an exploration in four lengthy scenes (about 80 minutes long) that spans the breadth of a weird kind of relationship.

The two actors are Robert Bergin and Norman Newkirk. Aaron says, “Robert was doing a movie in 2012 with Norman and wanted to do a play with Norman. Norman called me and asked for a play with an older man and a younger man, and I sent a list of 16 plays. They read all the plays and chose Terre Haute.

“They needed a director. I asked them to come over and read it to me and I took it on. I had them read it for ACT Theatre’s John Langs and Alyssa Byer and Lois Greenberg, my associate producer. John and Alyssa said they’d love to have it as part of the Central Heating Lab. They promised $18,500, about 1/3 of the budget.” And they were off and running.

Aaron says of the domestic terrorist, “We were told to look at McVeigh as a monster. If you start looking at him as a human being, you have to start looking at yourself. Let’s face it we all have dark places. When the terrorist Harrison talks in the play about his life, it’s the boy who lived next door to me. You start to look at what occurred and how he got to where he got to.

“You have to look at our press and our government and foreign and domestic policies. He’s not an aberration. That’s the problem. That’s what the play deals with. That doesn’t mean that we agree with what he did.”