Theater Talk: Co-host Anthony Chase to kick off 12 'one night only' performances of WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour
The Alleyway Theatre has announced the cast for their first play of their 42nd season. It turns out that twelve Buffalo actors will take to the stage, one at a time, in WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT by Nassim Soleimanpour, over four consecutive Thursday-Friday-Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. beginning with Theater Talk's Anthony Chase on September 9.
How's that you ask? WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT is a one-person play, where a different actor each night is presented a script sealed in an envelope on stage in front of the audience. While the actor will have been given a short list of vocabulary to learn pronunciations, once on stage the actor opens the envelope and performs a play they have never seen before.
According to the Alleyway, the play is a worldwide smash hit, having been performed thousands of times in more than 20 languages since its premiere in 2010. Never before seen in Buffalo, the play will be performed by, in the Alleyway's words: "twelve of Buffalo’s bravest actors."
Joining the cast for one performance each are (in alphabetical order) Todd Benzin, Melinda Capeles, Anthony Chase, Charmagne Chi, Don Gervasi, Peter Horn, Victoria Pérez, Darryl Semira, Norm Sham, Joyce Stilson, Alexandria Watts, and Brandon Williamson. For their order of appearance (one actor per night, never to perform the play again) see below.
“It’s the true meaning of one-night-only,” says Artistic Director Chris J Handley. “RABBIT is a play about obedience and power. It asks the audience to question our surroundings, beliefs, and reasons for following rules, following advice, following the pack. It basically says, ‘Everyone is jumping off that bridge. The question isn’t do you or don’t you join them, but are you even able to make up your own mind?’”
Sounds vaguely political doesn't it? Whether on the left or the right of the political spectrum, for decades we've all seen one side or the other portrayed as mindless dupes. That's why the playwright and his agents require the following disclaimer in all press releases:
"URGENT: All media and press agents: This play is NOT overtly political, and should not be portrayed as such. It operates on a deeper, metaphoric level, and very expressly avoids overt political comment. We therefore ask the press to be judicious in their reportage."
Okay. We can do that. And, speaking of press releases, the Alleyway continues to inform us that: "Soleimanpour wrote the play while in exile in his home country of Iran, where he was a conscientious objector to the government mandated military service requirement. Stripped of his passport, he wrote the play so his words could travel even if he could not. WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT is a large metaphor, investigating what happens when we are free to make our own choices and what happens when we aren’t."
Handley continued: “It’s funny, it’s serious, it’s daring, it’s full of surprises … it’s everything great theatre should be. Plus, it relies on the instincts of each actor to share it with us, totally moment by moment.” “I can’t wait to see what happens every night.”
Each actor will perform the play only one time. Once someone has seen the play or performed it, they are never allowed to perform it again – anywhere – so, every night is an opening night.
The Alleyway schedule is below. All performances at 7:30pm. For a "friends" discount, enter the last name of the actor who will be on stage on the night (or nights) or your choosing, for example, during Week One that might be CHASE or perhaps WATTS or perhaps SEMIRA. There is no limit on the number of performances an audience member can see, but you will need to purchase a ticket for each night attended.
Anthony Chase September 9
Alexandria Watts September 10
Darryl Semira September 11
Melinda Capeles September 16
Victoria Pérez September 17
Todd Benzin September 18
Peter Horn September 23
Don Gervasi September 24
Joyce Stilson September 25
Charmagne Chi September 30
Brandon Williamson October 1
Norman Sham October 2
The Alleyway Theatre is located at 1 Curtain Up Alley, Buffalo NY 14202. The alley connects Pearl Street with Main Street and follows the back stage wall of Shea's Performing Arts Center. Individual tickets $42. Under 30: $30. Visit alleway.com or call 716-852-2600.
While regular subscriptions to see all four 2021/22 shows at the Alleyway are $150, discount subscriptions available for industry professionals, teachers, frontline workers, members of the military, and those under age 30.
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Nassim Soleimanpour is an Iranian playwright, theatre maker and the Artistic Director of the Berlin based theatre company Nassim Soleimanpour Productions. His plays have been translated into more than 30 languages and performed globally in over 50 countries. Best known for his play White Rabbit Red Rabbit, written to travel the world when he couldn’t, his work has been awarded the Dublin Fringe Festival Best New Performance, Summerworks Outstanding New Performance Text Award and The Arches Brick Award (Edinburgh Fringe) as well as picking up nominations for a Total Theatre and Brighton Fringe Pick of Edinburgh Award. White Rabbit Red Rabbit had a 9 month Off-Broadway run casting celebrated actors like Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, Martin Short, Bobby Cannavale, Wayne Brady, F. Murray Abraham, Cynthia Nixon among other notables.
Nassim’s second play Blind Hamlet commissioned by the London based Actors Touring Company premiered at The LIFT 2014 and has toured in the UK and was received well in Edinburgh, Bucharest and Copenhagen. His third play BLANK premiered in November 2015 simultaneously in Amsterdam, Utrecht and London and so far has been performed in the UK, Australia, Spain, Mexico, US, Argentina, India, Finland, Denmark, Canada and etc.
His most recent play NASSIM produced by the Bush Theatre in London was premiered in August 2017 and won a Fringe First Award followed by more than 300 shows in 12 languages across the world. NASSIM had a successful five-month Off-Broadway run featuring celebrated American actors like: Michael Shannon, Zachary Quinto, Tracy Letts, Carrie Coon, Kate Walsh, Carla Gugino, Cory Michael Smith, Kathey Najimi, Richard Kind, Reed Birney and others. NASSIM won the 2019 Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Unique Theatrical Experience.
Soleimanpour’s recent play Down by the Creek was published by New York Times as part of America 2024. He’s been commissioned to write a new play for the audiobook platform Audible.