Wednesday, September 10, 2014

25000 is a big number in James Lapan's solo show

James Lapan in his solo show 25,000 Posts (John Ulman)
James Lapan can teach you how to properly dig a post hole if you want to put up your own “For Sale” sign at your house. He’s a very thorough teacher, and while he teaches you, he tells you all kinds of other interesting tidbits about himself and his life. He says, about his show 25,000 Posts, “It’s 39 monologues about life love and real estate.”

In May, 2014, he has a two week stand at West of Lenin performing this show and he is remounting it at the Penthouse Theatre on UW Campus from September 12-14 (tickets at brownpapertickets.com - Jim says it’s basically by donation and no one will be turned away for lack of funds!).

I asked Jim about his playwriting experience. He says, “I tend to write a play every eight to ten years. I (recently) contributed to The Betty Plays, a collection of four short plays for Betty Campbell to play. (Note: Betty Campbell is a long-time Seattle actor who is getting to an age where standing and acting is a problem and four playwrights contributed to a special work where she specifically could act sitting down!) Mine was adapted from a news story about an 83 year old woman who had to land a plane when her pilot husband had a cardiac incident.

“(The seeds of this play came out of writing for a) 14/48 production in 2012. The theme was “how did this happen” and I wrote a play called “Short Sales” with a cartoon-like storytelling about how someone could end up with a house in a short sale situation. It was less fictional than I expected my writing to be.

“When I thought about what interests me as a writer and what to connect with audiences, what struck me was the archetypal nature of my 21st Century life. A lot of things that had been stories in domestic American life had happened to me. I was anticipating another life change and the way I coped with that was to write. To chronicle some of the ways I’ve surfed the rough seas of the 21st Century.

“I wanted to make sure that it was fun and engaging and theatrically interesting, so there are three threads of the play through 39 monologues – 13 training modules where I train the audience how to insert posts in front of houses that are going up for sale, 13 “anon”ologues – things people said to me, and 13 memoirs, over 13 years of stories.

“The memoir is more my chronicling the American dream and how it had to adapt to sustain itself.  It starts with my courtship and beginnings of relationship with my first wife. I didn’t want to create a naval-gazer or a victim-hood portrait. If anything, I was looking for opportunities to have fun at my own expense. The end of the show is when I put my son on a plane to go to high school in another state.

“(In development), I showcased scenes at Spin the Bottle at Annex Theatre three times and did some ArtsCrush events to see where the material fit. I was determined to see a production happen. I looked at venues and the money to self-produce. I did an Indie-GoGo and received $2500 for a production. That took a lot of pressure off and was a tremendous help.

“We settled in January with dates in May at West of Lenin. Self-production is an amazing education. I’d produced before, but media is different, how you connect to your audience and get the word out.

“I learned (through doing the production) that the good news is people responded very well and laughed a lot. The things I suspected were funny played funny. The audience was willing to go wherever I wanted to take them. The response was really exciting. The encouragement was exciting. People would come up and tell me how they lost their house or how they transitioned out of a marriage or how their job changed. A lot of the ways life has changed for people. That was terrifically satisfying.

“The West of Lenin run was an experience of finding my voice as a performer. This production is not significantly different, but the venue allows us to play around a little more because there are more entrances and exits to play with.

“The set is designed to tour and I’m absolutely looking to continue performing this and would really like to get this in front of non-traditional audiences. People who don’t necessarily see theater routinely, perhaps people who struggling with housing or people who are trying to navigate some of the 20th century challenges that the play grapples with.

“At the same time this is more a mid-career effort than a launch into the fringe festival ‘lifestyle’ but I do expect to continue writing in my own voice. In responses from people who saw the show in May, they saw the connection when I played members of my own family. ‘That’s the well,’ they said. Like when I’m playing my brother, there seemed to be other entire stories that come alive when I inhabit him. I already have some ideas for that. But I’m focused on getting this in front of people.”