Interviews & Features
Escape Velocity was written by local playwright and graduate student, Brad Henrie. The show ran four nights (Jan 25-28) and was produced in conjunction with TheatreWorks West and The Speedway Cafe. The show featured live music by avant-garde, industrial band The Clocks. This interview was with Director Kristina Thurmond, Playwright Brad Henrie and Principal Actor Justin Cambell.
SLUG: What are you trying to say about love?
Brad: It’s greatly misinterpreted and overrated.
SLUG: Is the fire a metaphor for another way of hurting yourself?
Brad: Basically, there are addictions to anything, and everything can be an addiction. It seems to me that a lot of times what’s going with addictive love relationships is that it’s like being addicted to hurting yourself. The name of the play comes from an idea of a project painting that this guy is going to do, where he splatters his girlfriend’s brains all over the canvas as sort of a record of how this whole relationship is going down the tubes. That’s what the play is too. It’s like watching someone’s insides splattered all over the stage in the most ugly way possible.
SLUG: Are the characters Burns and Claire based on any real life characters?
Brad: Yeah, about 5,000 bad relationships.
SLUG: Did you think this subject matter was something that everyone could relate to?
Brad: Anyone who has ever been physically, mentally or sexually abused or just kicked around by their old man should be able to relate to this play.
SLUG: The character of Claire — what Burns did to her was demeaning. Was this sexist or just extreme?
Kris: I don’t think he was being sexist or chauvinist—just insane. He lost it. It was anger. I’m a woman, and I’ve let out some hateful things on men and I’ve done some really demeaning things to men that I loved. Am I sexist? It’s just the irrationality that goes with it.
SLUG: Were you compelled to take this character’s action to the extreme that you did?
Brad: You read about shit like, somebody goes home and kills his estranged wife and kids. You wonder how that happens. I think that the play is written in such a way that even if you don’t agree with what Burns is doing, at least you can see what he is doing and why. It’s like getting inside of his head. Everyone looks at things from their own perspective. Everybody creates their own reality. Burns has created a reality that is somewhat different from yours or mine. Even though there was one particular fucking woman who I fantasized about putting a gun to her head and making her do the dishes.
Kris: A lot of times when actors have to get on stage and kill somebody, they have that problem of how are you going to make it real. Everybody at one instant of their lives, even if it is just for a second has wanted to kill someone. There are times when you have said, “God, I just want to kill him.” Most people come to their senses and realize that they don’t really want to kill them, but for that instant you really wanted to.
SLUG: What do you think happens to them from the ending on?
Brad: I think Burns pulls his head out. I think he lives. Burns may not go into therapy but he doesn’t kill himself.
Kris: There were three different endings. Originally he shot himself, then he burned himself. I had more faith in the character. I thought he’d get his shit together. I don’t want to see him kill himself.
Brad: Here’s something I want to ask Justin about; I happen to know you as a very kind, sweet, gentle person who would feel awful for saying something nasty to somebody. You doing this shit every night, how does that make you feel.
Justin: (laughs) It’s really hard for me. I believe everybody has these feelings inside of them somewhere and through this play I am forced to deal with them and bring them out. I have to find those feelings in me and use them. It is very frightening. It is hard to deal with for a long time after the play. I don’t know how many times I have told Kathleen, who plays Claire, that I’m sorry for the things I did to her on stage.
Kris: That’s one of the hardest things about being an actor; you’ve always got to find something inside yourself that would relate to the character, and sometimes you find things you don’t want to and then you’ve got to deal with it!
SLUG: What was the most difficult part of the script to direct?
Kirs: Actually, the quieter parts with Burns and Phyl to get that friendship out; that intimacy to be realistic and believe. I didn’t have a hard time directing Justin in his final scene because he’s a good actor and he just went with it. Also, to show that he and Claire really did love each other was hard to direct.
SLUG: What about influences when you were writing the play? I couldn’t help thinking of Sam Shepard plays.
Brad: I have read a lot of plays by Sam Shepard also by Alfred Jarry. When I was writing this play I was listening to a lot of speed metal.
Kris: There were a lot of conservative people in the audience tonight. You see something in a play like this and then you can see it in yourself. It’s really scary. That’s what theatre is supposed to do: make you see something in yourself and also how you relate.
Escape Velocity was the first play ever to be performed at the Speedway Cafe. It had a fairly good turnout and we would hope that Speedway will consider more alternative forms of entertainment like this. The play will be showing two more nights this month on Feb 2-3. Try it.
Here are some more SLUG articles about local plays:
Lighting the Flame of Your Own Baptismal Fire: Passing Strange at SLAC
Play Review: Egress