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Behind the Scenes: 'Parallel Lives'

May 2, 2013 8:51 a.m.

KPBS arts reporter looks at the Oceanside Theater Company's production of "Parallel Lives."

Related Story: Behind The Scenes: 'Parallel Lives'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: The Oceanside Theater Company offers a world premiere, a kid’s musical, and a sketch comedy in its second season of productions. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with the company’s creative team as well as a pair of supreme beings about the changing face of community theater.

Community theater sometimes gets a bad rap. So Christopher Williams is working to challenge the notion that community theater is silly or amateur.

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS: So I’m trying to bring a professional work ethic.

Williams is artistic director at the Oceanside Theater Company. He’s an actor and teacher, and feels we’ve lost a sense of the master and apprentice in art.

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS: And we need to bring it back. We need to have those teachers within the work environment not just in an educational facility but to practice in the work environment and so that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to bring in professionals to work with people that are not as experienced so that we can build a culture and build artists here in our community.

Williams founded the Oceanside Theater Company in 2011 and convinced the city to give him the recently refurbished Brooks Theater as the company’s home base. Now in its second, the Oceanside Theater is currently staging “Parallel Lives.” The play begins with a pair of supreme beings creating the world.

CLIP Okay let’s go on, roles and rules.

Director Tracy Williams says these beings set the stage for an evening of unconventional theater.

TRACY WILLIAMS: It’s really one scene that just kind of sets us up for a universe that’s going to get a little bit wacky and maybe a little bit out of control. And a couple of angels creating this world that want to give us choices.

CLIP Why rules, let’s give them a choice… You told him our plan?

GERILYN BRAULT: I think it’s a really clever way to introduce the types of topics we’ll be discussing during the night, but kind of sneaky.

That’s actress Gerilyn Brault, she plays one of the supreme beings in what is essentially a Saturday Night Live style sketch comedy. The play was written in the 80s by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney. It was a personality driven piece so the Oceanside Theater knew it had to find actresses with the right chemistry to bring the play to life, actresses like Brault and Virginia Gregg

VIRGINIA GREGG: It’s not a traditional play where you have an arc you have a conflict a resolution, so it’s nice every scene needs to be its own full spectrum.
GERILYN BRAULT: And if you don’t like one there’s another one after it.

Gregg and Brault have known each other for almost a decade and tend to finish each other’s sentences, precisely the kind of dynamic to make a two-person sketch comedy work.

VIRGINIA: And we knew we would play with each other. If I was going to do a choice you’d come along with me.

For the play they tackle a combined total of 41 roles – both male and female -- with few props or costumes to help define the characters.

GERILYN BRAULT: For the most part it’s just us, our voice and our bodies.

With little more than wigs and glasses, the two actresses vividly create a pair of older ladies looking to broaden their horizons.

CLIP Maybe we should introduce ourselves, I’m

Through characters like Mad and Syvvie, the play introduces its more serious themes.

CLIP Hell I got used to the microwave oven, I can get used to the idea of you being a gay person.

Director Tracy Williams likes the way the play tackles hot button issues.

TRACY WILLIAMS: This is a piece that shows you how we behave, and shows you how we think, but never tells you how you should.

Brault appreciates that as well.

GERILYN BRAULT: We want people to come out and have a discussion we don’t want to tell people what to think. It’s very easy for us to transition to the serious moments that still have humor throughout.

And the Oceanside Theater Company wants to be able to make similar transitions says Christopher Williams.

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS: Our next production after “Parallel Lives” is an original work by Aimee Greenberg, she’s a local playwright… and it’s Holocaust based and in our second season we have a world premiere, I’m very excited.

After Greenberg’s “Light Falling Down” will be the children’s musical “A Year With Frog and Toad.” Williams hopes the diverse programming is just another way to help redefine how people see community theater.

TAG: “Parallel Lives” continues through May 5th at the Brooks Theater in Oceanside.