Peter Serko Photo, "All in the Timing"

NEWS + MEDIA


Nov 13 / Wednesday

A Conversation with “She Kills Monsters” Director Chris Boscia

Our Convo with Chris

Open Space sits down with Chris Boscia, director of the Drama Dock production She Kills Monsters

A tragedy. A notebook. A twisting journey through 90s nostalgia lined with Dungeons and Dragons, nasty ogres, and self-discovery. She Kills Monsters opens this weekend on Friday, November 15th and runs through next weekend at Open Space. We sat down with Chris Boscia, director of the upcoming Drama Dock production to learn more about the production.

Director Chris Boscia

Open Space: How long have you been working with Drama Docks?

Chris: I moved to the island 4 years ago from NYC, but I spent many years in Seattle before that directing and acting in plays on the mainland. Last year I performed here at Open Space for the Drama Dock World AIDS Day production of The Normal Heart. This is my very first adventure with Drama Dock as a director and I’m delighted they pinned me down for this.

What is your connection with Vashon Island?

I live here now. I’m a Spanish teacher and a chef here, but I also teach Acting at VCA. This year, I founded and curate Vashon Readers Theatre where we mount staged readings of plays from classics to contemporary comedies to brand new plays. Recently I directed a terrific staged reading of Sam Shepard’s True West which I was incredibly proud of. I’m excited to have a few more projects in the works on island in the next few months, something that I could never accomplish back home in NYC.

Dungeons and Dragons plays a significant role in this production. Do you have a background in that arena?

I do not. No role play games whatsoever, no cosplay conventions. Zilch. I however have learned all about it now, and am even more fascinated about D&D than I was when I first picked up the script.

What was it like to direct a cast with a variety of ages?

I have an extensive background in directing and teaching children. I used to be an actor-teacher for various theatres and companies around Seattle such as The Intiman where we would go out into the schools and workshop ideas and characters through education with students. Our Monsters cast ranges from age 15 to 30, and they all mesh seamlessly. They’ve created a very happy family, which makes them a dream team for me to guide. I love working with this particular age group. I am looking forward to the Spring though, when I get to direct Crimes of the Heart for Take A Stand Productions. All adults: no school schedules to contend with.

“Our cast represents a little bit of everything that is the fabric of Vashon.”

Who would you recommend this production for?

Everyone that can handle the realistic themes of bullying, homophobia, hate and family loss but told through wit and sarcasm, fantasy, pathos, and a whole lot of stage combat. It’s written for an adult sensibility, so I urge all adults to come. Mature kids will absolutely love it, but don’t drop off your kids and go. Stay and enjoy the adventure with them.

She Kills Monsters, presented by Drama Dock

How does working with a diverse cast improve your ability to tell an impactful story?

I really promised myself that in order to tell the story of “otherness” with characters that were geeks or lesbian or disabled or fat or skinny or tall or anything other than “straight white male”, I had a duty to seek out those island denizen. And I succeeded. Amazingly. Many of our cast have never been in a play before of this caliber, or onstage at all. Our cast represents a little bit of everything that is the fabric of Vashon. I can’t tell you how many of our wonderful performers read the play and said “that’s ME in that play, please can I audition?” Casting them made my work that much easier to tell the story we tell. Their passion is amazing.

Is there a character or scene from the show with which you particularly identify?

There are a few. The play, at heart, is about how to cope with loss. Our protagonist loses a sibling and strives to connect with her, somehow. Through D & D she manages to get a peek into her sister’s life. There is a particular scene where she wishes she had said something to her. It’s just a moment, but I think we can all relate to that feeling. In Monsters too, the theme of being an “other” is prevalent. How these geeky characters find themselves, and how they define themselves as superheroes is another theme that strikes me personally.

As a coming of age story, this show is full of lessons. Which is the most important for you that the audience walk away with?

I shy away from theatre that teaches lessons. I don’t direct that way and I certainly hope that our actors agree. Our production is filled with little moments that will make you laugh, or well up, or think “wow, what the hell was THAT I just saw?” But, in the end if I had to answer you , as my dear friend and actor in the show, Lucy Rogers said “Life is a series of stories to tell and you have to make those stories” Its a simple statement coming from a 16 year old girls perspective, but I am going to learn from her and run with it if I can.

She Kills Monsters is set in the 90s. How do you go about capturing that nostalgia on the stage?

It’s a secret. Come see the show to find out what we do to take us back “way way way back to the 90s.”

The show has a recommended minimum age limit. Which elements of the show would you like families to consider before bringing children under 14?

I don’t think it’s appropriate for kids under 14 unless they are well prepared for the mature themes. But it’s up to each parent to decide that. Please don’t send kids alone as there are some very frank themes and discussions verging on R -rated.

“[The story is] about SO MUCH MORE. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, or for anyone that has never belonged, or for anyone that always wanted to be a badass warrior but never had the guts, this story is for you.”

What are the challenges and benefits of putting on a performance in the Vashon community?

The usual challenges I’ve always faced when directing a large cast. Scheduling. But that’s accomplishable. The benefits are far too many to mention. Want a poster? It’ll be ready in 5 minutes at the copy shop. Need a wheelchair? Oh, there’s one right there. Who can build me a giant puppet? Done. Now if only we knew someone that can make us blood and guts. We do… Frankly, Open Space is by far one of the most amazing theatres I’ve ever worked in, and I’m very excited for people to see how we have completely reworked the space.

What is one thing about the show that you would like readers at home to know?

When I sat down to read the play for the very first time after it was offered up to me to direct, I hesitated to get past the description. What does this middle-aged Cuban-American guy know or care about the world of Dungeons and Dragons, geekdom and 90s nostalgia? But it was a page turner and I devoured the script in an hour. It’s about SO MUCH MORE. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, or for anyone that has never belonged, or for anyone that always wanted to be a badass warrior but never had the guts, this story is for you. Oh, and who doesn’t like a good pratfall or two?

She Kills Monsters follows the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. When Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, however, she stumbles into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was Tilly’s refuge. In this high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres, and 90s pop culture, acclaimed young playwright Qui Nguyen offers a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all.


REVIEW

Drama Dock Rocks its Take on ‘Tommy’

Three young actors are standouts in the community theater production.

By Lauri Hennessey

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


I was always a big Pete Townshend fan.

Roger Daltrey was the guy with the curly hair back, the one the girls liked as he strutted the stage with The Who and sang about his generation. But for me, the band was always about the incredible Pete and his windmill guitar skills. He was a great songwriter, sure. But he also had magic to him as he played the guitar or did scissor kicks in the air. Throw into the mix that he wrote an edgy, visionary rock opera and you had a recipe for greatness.

Drama Dock does Townshend’s historic rock opera, Tommy, proud in its summer musical theater production.

f you love rock, or The Who, or just good musical theater, it is well worth a visit this weekend.

For anyone who doesn’t know the story (young people, perhaps?), Tommy is about a boy who loses his sight, hearing and speech after witnessing something terrible. He then travels a long road of abuse and cruelty before becoming a global sensation for his talent for playing pinball. The rock opera was an immediate sensation when The Who performed it in its entirety at Woodstock in 1969. Since then, it has seen success as a movie and a Tony-winning production on Broadway.

Drama Dock’s production, directed by Elise Morrill, is a stellar interpretation of Tommy. There are numerous shining stars in the show.

Since this is a rock opera, first props must go to the tight band. It includes Christopher Overstreet on keyboards (and as music director, no easy feat), Jesse Whitford on drums, Gavin Ford Kovite on bass and the fantastic Andy James on guitar, doing some windmills and wearing Townshend garb. The band is not background. It is one of the stars. And they deliver the music with pounding excitement.

Another highlight is Allison Shirk as "Mrs. Walker". Shirk is an island songwriter and singer of rock and country. In Tommy she nails her numbers, especially “It’s a boy” and “I Believe My Own Eyes.” She has a great voice for stage and made the part her own.

The ensemble was solid, including standouts Elise Ericksen and Julea Gardner, who each have a great number. Another notable player was Sarah Howard, who belted out “Acid Queen” in a way that gave Tina Turner (who sang it in the movie) a run for her money.

But the true stars of the show were the "Tommys" — three great actors who played "Tommy" at age 10, 16 and 18.

Phoebe Ray, as the youngest "Tommy", is a study in loneliness and shock and her performance touches the heart. Gabriel Dawson, as Tommy at 16, has a fantastic voice and a charming stage presence.

The oldest "Tommy" was played by Hailey Quackenbush, a revelation for Vashon theater fans, even those who remember him as a talented presence in Vashon High School shows just a few years ago. He holds the stage like the wizard he is portraying — acrobatic, charming, full of stage presence and with a fantastic and pure voice. Hearing Quackenbush sing “Sensation” as he danced around the stage or echo the famous “See Me, Feel Me” was pure magic.

Nitpicks: the music was a little loud for some of the folks in the audience. Bring earplugs if you have sensitive ears. Also, the grimmest parts of the plot have not changed, but the times have. They are hard to watch, even though they have been updated and softened slightly. And some of the harmonies missed a note or two on the group numbers, which will undoubtedly be tightened up before the second weekend.

But these are small nits in a show that is a clever, innovative and impossible-to-not-sing-along-with effort by Drama Dock.

Tommy is a beautiful story of innocence lost, of redemption, and loving yourself in spite of what life offers you. It is also still a beautiful ode to rock, to songs that stick in your head long after you leave the theater — and to the talent of a guy named Townshend.

Performances of The Who’s Tommy will continue at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 7, at Vashon Center for the Arts. Buy tickets, $25 general, $22 seniors, students, VCA and Drama Dock members, at vashoncenterforthearts.org. Parental guidance for those 13 and younger is suggested due to mature content.


VASHON-MAURY ISLAND

BEACHCOMBER

February 13 By Elizabeth Shepherd


On Friday night, Drama Dock will open a run of the female-centric version of Neil Simon’s long-lasting comic gem, “The Odd Couple,” giving islanders who were snowbound in the past week a chance to get out and enjoy a show.

In this version of the play, the famous characters of lovable slob Oscar Madison and his fastidious roommate, Felix Ungar, are cast as women named Olive Madison and Florence Ungar, and the duo’s cadre of friends are women as well. The characters of the English-born Pigeon sisters — would-be love interests to the mismatched roommates — are in this version the debonair Spanish-born Costazuela brothers.

The cast of Drama Dock’s production, directed by Drama Dock veteran Chaim Rosemarin, includes island thespians Cate O’Kane, Dedra Dakota, Bonny Moss, Thea Vernoy, Chai Ste. Marie, Sue DeNies, James Norton and Russell Baker.

Cate O’Kane, a native Brit who arrived on Vashon in 2016, will play the role of Olive, the sloppier and louder of the two roommates. She has had a transcontinental career that has included making advertisements for cars, shampoos and mobile phones across Europe, Asia and Southern Africa. In her short time on the island, she’s made the most of Vashon’s theater scene, appearing in comic and serious roles in “All in the Timing,” “The Normal Heart,” “The Vagina Monologues” and the “14/48” short plays festival.

O’Kane said that since she had not grown up in the United States, she was not as familiar with the show as an American actor might have been. But coming to the play fresh, she said, made her aware of “how bloody funny it still is, and how it goes to the heart of human relationships and friendship dynamics.”



Dedra Dakota, playing the part of the neat-freak Florence, has also had a wealth of theatrical experience, having attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, where she lived for eight years. She acted in many off-off-Broadway plays as well as performed in TV commercials and on the soap opera “Loving.” She moved to the other side of the camera in Los Angeles, where she became a professional makeup artist for 23 years. Since moving to Vashon three years ago, she has performed in Torena O’Rourke’s recent play, “My Mother, MySelf.”

The Odd Couple will be her first show with Drama Dock — one that she said she is excited to perform, both for its comedy as well as its deeper meaning.

“Neil Simon is an incredible playwright,” Dakota said. “You just have to say the words because the lines are so well-written and funny, and this women’s version is all about sisterhood — it’s like you’re hanging with your best friends, and you just feel so supported and loved.”

“The Odd Couple” is one of the best-known works in the vast constellation of Simon’s hit shows, and it has proven remarkably adaptable over the years. The plot of the play revolves around the hi-jinks that happen when unlikely and wildly unsuitable-for-each-other roommates are thrown together in the wake of a divorce.

The show opened its Tony-winning Broadway debut in 1965, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix. In 1968, it was adapted into a successful movie starring Jack Lemmon as Felix and once again, Walter Matthau as Oscar. And in 1970, “The Odd Couple” became a long-running TV sitcom, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. An all-African-American version of the show was presented at the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles in 1968, directed by James Wheaton and starring Nick Stewart and Morris Erby.