Conceived & directed by Bret Fetzer
Thu-Sat at 8 pm, Oct 21-Nov 19
$15 general / $10 TPS, senior, military / $5 student
PWYC Industry Night: Monday, November 7
Annex Theatre invites you on a journey to 1993, the year River Phoenix died, WWF’s RAW was launched, Bill Clinton was inaugurated, and Whitney Houston convinced the world she would always love them.
Bret Fetzer and his ensemble of local performers present a moody musical mash-up, a retrospective with modern resonances. There will be singing, there will be dancing, there will be wrestling, there may be a few answers, but the fun will lie in asking questions.
c. 1993 (you never step in the same river twice) began with the death of troubled young man, who happened to be a huge celebrity. Bret Fetzer found himself unexpectedly saddened by the death of River Phoenix; Fetzer had always liked Phoenix, but hadn’t realized the emotion and hope he’d projected onto the young actor. Looking for a way to examine the cultural impact of icons and celebrities, Fetzer turned to theater; looking for a larger frame for this exploration, he turned to 1993, the year Phoenix collapsed on a Los Angeles sidewalk and died of a drug overdose.
1993, it turns out, was a pretty busy year. While sifting through its cultural remnants a second theme began to emerge. One cannot examine celebrity without the media nor can one examine the media without noting their focus on sexual politics and their disparate portrayals of men and women. From the graphic Bobbitt headlines, to the music of P.J. Harvey and Billy Ray Cyrus, to the romanticism of Sleepless in Seattle; tensions, contradictions and double standards were in fine form in the early 90’s. While River Phoenix’s overdose only added to his mystery and sex appeal, Courtney Love’s struggles made her an object of ridicule; a drunken clown.
Once c.1993 was cast, the production began to take shape during development workshops in August. The 15 performers and nimble crew gathered to experiment and brainstorm, drawing on the research and initial ideas of the director as well as their own memories. (Not every member of the cast was old enough to have vivid recollections of the cultural climate of the 90s. In fact, not every member had been born by the show’s title year.)
The beauty of ensemble generated work lies in the contribution of each member to both the creation and execution of a project. This is also the challenge of ensemble generated work. c.1993 thrives from the strength of a collective consciousness working under a unifying vision. The result is a non-linear, highly musical performance piece; more theatrical essay than a well-made play.
History, even recent history, fascinates with its unique mixture of the alien and the familiar. We may have sleeker haircuts and wardrobes with considerably less flannel, but we still build cultural movements around new musicians. We still pin our hopes on Presidential candidates offering change, only to be disappointed. We continue to blur the lines, not only between sports and entertainment, but between entertainment and any situation, competition or career that will compel viewership. And we still get sucked in to the sexy, soulful drama of self-destructive young men, while shaking our heads and clicking our tongues at their female counterparts.
Among the fine ensemble, Phoenix and his My Own Private Idaho castmate, Keanu Reeves, are portrayed by actresses Danielle Daggerty and Emily Lockehart, respectively. Daggerty skillfully employs Phoenix’s mannerisms, like the constant brushing back of his hair and tendency to look away from his interviewer. The brash foil to Phoenix’s tender-hearted soul is none other than Courtney Love (the luminous Melinda Parks), who commands the stage in fierce red undies while powering through Hole’s “Violet.” Somehow Parks makes Love both vulnerable and tough, reclaiming a multidimensional woman from clownish caricature. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.
About Bret Fetzer
Bret Fetzer is a playwright, director, and performer who’s been working in Seattle theater since 1987. His plays—which include Planet Janet, The Story of the Bull, Blind Spot (co-written with Juliet Waller Pruzan), and Clubfoot, or, Tales from the Back of an Ambulance (co-written with Stephen McCandless)—have been produced by theaters in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and other cities around the U.S. He was commissioned by Seattle Children’s Theatre to write a play for young audiences: Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like. He has recently directed Hearts Are Monsters by Kelleen Conway Blanchard for Macha Monkey Productions and solo performances by Matt Smith and Stokley Towles, as well as all five episodes of Scot Augustson’s late night serial Penguins for Annex. His collections of original fairy tales, Petals & Thorns and Tooth & Tongue, are available through www.pistilbooks.com. He has been the artistic director of Annex Theatre, the theater editor of the Stranger, the building manager of Richard Hugo House, and a vacuum cleaner salesman. He was also a field agent for the Barbie Liberation Organization, who, in 1993, switched the voice boxes of Teen-Talk Barbies and talking GI Joes, resulting in toy soldiers who said “Let’s go shopping!” and sprightly blonde dolls who said “Dead men tell no tales.”
Riot Grrrl, Interviewer, ensemble
River Phoenix, ensemble
Bee Girl, Tom Hanks’ kid, Cadet, ensemble
Wrestler, Meg Ryan, ensemble
Gus Van Sant, ensemble
Bill Clinton, Wrestling Announcer, Cadet, ensemble
Keanu Reeves, Reporter sick of penises, ensemble
Wrestling Referee, Double Dare Host, Tom Hanks, ensemble
Courtney Love, Academic discussing Madonna, ensemble
Lorena Bobbitt, Oscars Host, ensemble
Kurt Cobain, ensemble
Whitney Houston, Wrestling Announcer, Shannon Faulkner, ensemble
John Bobbitt, ensemble
Martha Plimpton, Wrestler, Howard the teddy bear, ensemble
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1100 E. Pike St.
(11th Ave. at E. Pike St.)
Seattle, WA 98122 Map
1122 East Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98122-3934