JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Water by the Spoonful is a contemporary work. It’s gritty. It’s urban. As a production, it’s a play that probably shouldn’t wander far from Bleecker or Broad street. Yet here it is, just a little off Broadway (on S. Cache), in the heart of Jackson.
It’s a play with pedigree. Credentials include a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, enshrining author Quiara Alegria Hudes into an elite list that also boasts writers of Lost in Yonkers, Driving Miss Daisy, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Fences.
It’s a play with its challenges, too, difficult to cast and tougher to stage.
“The play itself is challenging because you have these two concurrent worlds that are existing at the same time. You have the real world and the virtual world, the chat room world,” explained director Karin Waidley, who was handpicked by Off Square Theater Company to put on Water by the Spoonful. “And trying to find a way for those two worlds to live on the same set, in the same time and space of the play itself, using the mise-en-scène to be able to differentiate between the two worlds. That was something that was really challenging for me and unique and exciting about the play.”
Wanting to respect Hudes’ work, Waidley insisted before taking the assignment to stage Water in Jackson Hole that, if it couldn’t be cast as authentically as possible, she would not do it.
“The diversity makes it a challenge,” Waidley admitted. “We wanted to cast this as close to the ethnic and racial background as we possibly could.”
The resulting auditions drew five actors from outside the Jackson Hole area, and two locals. RoseAnn McNamara splits time between LA and JH, and Tyler Harlow was formerly a Moose hockey player who has plunged headlong into acting with this demanding role as Fountainhead.
The production will grace the boards of the Black Box Theatre at Center for the Arts. A long way from any major metropolis where the material may be more apposite, and a long way from Philly where the story is set.
“I have been wanting to produce this play in Jackson for several years. We wanted a diverse play that addressed themes very relevant to contemporary life and that would resonant with demographics younger than our regular audience members,” said Off Square’s artistic director Natalia Macker. “I was also especially curious about pushing the envelope, technically, with our design, and producing a project that was different than anything you’ve see with Off Square. It’s an excellent play.”
Waidley said rehearsals began only three weeks ago. In fact, the full troupe has only been together since April 18. She’ll have it ready to go, though. As far as how it plays in the Hole, that she’s still not sure about.
“It’s very contemporary. I don’t know. I will be interested to see,” Waidley said. “I don’t always like to use the term ‘universal themes’ because I do think this is a very site-specific piece, and it’s connected to the geographic locations of the people who inhabit the story. But it also speaks to the struggles we all have about identity and location, and the restrictions of space and the isolation of space, and how that happens even in the virtual world. That’s sort of a long explanation to say ‘I’m not sure how it will translate.’ I have struggled a little bit with sort of finding that urban grittiness in this performance from the set design to the costuming.”
The Black Box (Center for the Arts): Thursday – Saturday, April 27-29, 7pm; Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6, 7pm.