As the former artistic director of Kingsport Theatre Guild’s Imagination! Theatre and whose traveling theatre company continues to lead workshops for budding actors and actresses at KTG each summer, Alaska Reece Vance could think of no better place to stage the world debut of her new original play “Human.”
Local audiences can get a glimpse into the fantastical world Vance has created when the show opens at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 14 in the Kingsport Renaissance Center theater. Performances will continue at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday. Tickets are $15.
“Kingsport Theatre Guild is just very supportive of local theatre,” Vance said. “The space is great, it seats a lot of people, and every seat in the house is good. Plus the artistic director [RaChelle Cheeks] is my best friend, so we really wanted to work together. We’re taking it to the New Orleans Fringe Festival in November, then we’re hoping to take it to New York in the summer, so we wanted to share it with our friends first and see how it did in this area and get some feedback.”
Fans of Shakespeare will recognize some familiar names in “Human,” which incorporates classic characters from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Caught in the middle of a planet-damaging feud between Queen Titania and King Oberon, a human named Kellen tries to understand his identity in the Fae world. Meanwhile, Ramona, a newly-diagnosed Type 1 diabetic, longs for independence. When Kellen breaks the boundary between worlds, he sets in motion a chain of events that will change his life and Ramona’s as well. Though the setting may be whimsical, suspense and passion are around every corner.
“It’s actually based on the changeling boy in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’” Vance said. “That character always interested me because he never appears in the play, he’s just talked about, so I wanted to kind of investigate his story.
“I love ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ I love Shakespeare, and I love fairies. Fantasy is my favorite, and I don’t think it’s a very often-explored genre in theatre. ... I don’t see a lot of fantasy on stage, and I just thought it would be fun to do a really fantastical piece.”
Vance enlisted the help of her father Joe Reece, The Drifting Theatre’s technical director, to build the show’s elaborate set.
“The set is very fantastical,” Vance said. “It’s got a lot of what we’re calling ‘trages,’ which are tree cages. It’s just a very representational set. That’s been interesting because we have to tour it, but the show calls for something more than just chairs and blocks, so it’s been a challenge trying to figure out how we can make a set that’s fantastical and whimsical but small enough to put in the back of our cars. Poor dad has had a big challenge trying to make the set break down so we can tour with it.”
“Dee Hatfield is our production stage manager, and she’s also designing the costumes. We’ve taken an approach of they’re fairies, but they collect things from what they call the ‘other world,’ which is the human world. The costumes are an interesting mix of what you’d think of as fairy elements with a weird modern twist because of the stuff that they’ve been harvesting in the other world.”
Bringing the fairies to life on stage is a cast made up of both Drifting Theatre company members and local actors, many of whom are making their Drifting Theatre debuts.
RaChelle Cheeks, KTG’s executive director and a long-time Drifting Theatre member, does double duty in “Human,” playing the roles of Fennel and Sycorax.
“I love the positivity that always surrounds a Drifting Theatre production,” she said. “Audiences will want to come see ‘Human’ because it is a beautiful story told through beings who don’t possess the ability to hold back emotion. If you want to feel love, hate, fear, anger, joy and every emotion in between through the eyes of liberated and, somehow, trapped creatures, then you want to see ‘Human’.”
The play, which runs at two and a half hours with intermission, contains some mild language and adult topics, so it isn’t recommended for young children.
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For tickets or more information, call KTG at 392-8427 or visit www.kingsporttheatre.org