Aaron Elmore rehearses with the unfinished goat puppet that he is building for Perseverance Theatre's production of "O Lovely Glowworm." The play opens May 1 with pay-as-you-can previews on April 29 and 30.
Story last updated at 4/29/2009 - 11:13 am
Perseverance Theatre's final production of the season, "O Lovely Glowworm," opens May 1. Written by Glen Berger, the play explores the daydreams of a taxidermy goat. CCW sat down with director Weir Harman and Aaron Elmore, who plays several lead roles, including puppet master.
CCW: In reading the play's synopsis, there seem to be a lot of things going on. What is the play basically about?
WH: There's no elevator speech for this play. This is only the third production of it and it's hard to talk about because it's about so many different things.
AE: It's about life. It's about every single part of everybody's life. You can't go to this thing and not see yourself in it everywhere: as somebody who is in love for the first time, as somebody who is facing death for the first time, as somebody who is in pain or experiencing joy. It's all there. How you get there is absolutely delightful, completely original and unexpected. You're going into it through the mind of this puppet goat that stands on stage and thinks he was dead at one point and is now fairly certain that he's not dead anymore. He doesn't understand it. He can't see, he can't hear and he can't smell anything, but he imagines all of us, what happens to us when we go to war, what happens to us when we fall in love, how we manage to screw things up and yet how we manage to somehow transcend that as well.
WH: The goat character is in a lot of pain and is also extremely isolated and lonely. Everything he knows about the world is from the bits of ephemera that have blown by this trash heap that he was tethered to while he was alive. Now he has died and been stuffed by a taxidermist So, to relieve his pain and loneliness, he tells these stories, really vivid stories of what he imagines life is like for people. He stitches together this version of reality that is actually sort of fantastic because all he's lived is the life of being tied to the post.
AE: It's fantastic because it's so limited, the vocabulary of it has been narrowed down to advertisements and photographs in newspapers, dead bicycles and all this stuff.
WH: He has to invent it because he's never lived it. He tells these stories to relieve his pain and isolation. Then it gets funny, ridiculous, outsized, passionate and very sincere, with lots of singing. It's a highly theatrical play. Actors dig it because they get to do all the kinds of stuff they like to do in different plays just all rolled up into one. Fight scenes, love scenes, funny accents, crazy tricked costumes. It uses lots of high-key stage technology but in kind of a low-tech way.
CCW: How is the goat depicted?
AE: It's a full-sized goat, a puppet made from scraps and bits and pieces. It's wood and paper-mâché mostly, and cow hide and string. He stands about 29" tall and he's about four feet long from head to tail. His head moves around and his jaw flaps and that's about all he does. He just stands there. So when he needs to move, I pick him up and we gallop if we need to or run like a dog. He's up for anything.
WH: The reason Aaron knows him so intimately is he's building him. In another setting, we might hire an actor, then hire a props designer to build this goat. We'd have lots of conversations about what we want the goat to do, how we want it to look and how it engages in the scene, and then someone would go off and build it. With Aaron doing both things, there was this very quick merger of identities. And as Aaron figured out what he wanted the goat to be able to do, he installed subtle capacities and tricks in it that would never have come to me if I had just conceived it in isolation with a designer. There are a handful of other actors in the country who could do what he's doing in this role. Art (Rotch, artistic director) and I feel really lucky that he wanted to do this.
AE: And I'm having a ball.
CCW: Have you built puppets before?
AE: Yes, I've been doing it for about ten years. My thoughts coming into this piece and all the other puppet pieces that have been successful is I sort of start with the idea of what I want the puppet to do and accomplish. I wanted this to have some more expression than to just be a stiff animal with a flapping jaw. You can decide all you want about what a puppet will do, but once a puppet is done, it starts to show you things it can do that you didn't know it could. Tiny little movements are now possible just because the joints are loose. He really starts to come alive with those nuances. This isn't like I'm behind a black screen and there's a puppet out there that I'm moving. I'm right there with the puppet. The audience will see me the whole time and know that I'm there and they'll know that this is a fake puppet, but that's not going to be their experience. Very quickly, they're going to see a goat and they won't see me. With the right concentration, the audience forgets about the puppeteer.
CCW: Who are the other actors?
WH: Everybody is really good in this play. Christina Apathy plays a mermaid. Rory Stitt is in a slightly unusual role for him but doing very beautiful work. Enrique Bravo is playing a soldier on the run from the war. Dan Reaume is playing Enrique's character's best friend, a man's man, circa 1920. Emily Windover is playing two lovely roles, one is the mother or Rory's character in the first act, and in the second act she plays his lover. These are really great actors. I feel really lucky. They are all very accomplished in their own right and have all played prominent roles in plays.
CCW: Weir, you are up from Seattle to direct this play. How did you get involved with Perseverance?
WH: Art and I worked together on "The Wooden Breeks" (in 2002) and I have a long relationship with the playwright, Glen Berger. I've known him since undergrad and this will be the fourth play of his that I've directed. Art asked me if I would be interested in doing this play. Honestly, I was intimidated by it. Glen writes very comprehensive plays and this is the comprehensivest. It's really packed and full. But I couldn't turn down the chance to work on it and to come back to this community. I love being here. It's a special place to work. I think it's the thing that makes this company really special is that it's built around a very serious, very dedicated core of artists. The strength of the company is that on virtually every show, one or two out-of-towners come in and toss a new ingredient into the pot, mess things up a little bit and push people out of their comfort zones. The local crew just gets stronger, heartier and more resourceful. I'm honored to be one of those ingredients.
AE: The other thing about Juneau is once you visit twice, you never really get away. Now Weir is part of the team and it's all over. Perseverance brought me in as a guest artist 18 years ago for "Lady Lou Review," and that was all she wrote.
CCW: What is the most unique thing about this play in comparison to other plays of Glen's that you've directed?
WH: In a way, it's kind of a crystallization of what he does. It's got everything you see in his other plays sort of rolled up into this one. Pieces of all his other plays live in this one. I don't think he was sure that this play would ever be produced. It's very ambitious.
CCW: Aaron, how is this role different from other roles you've played, besides the fact that you carry a goat around?
AE: That is pretty different, I can't say I've done that. The chance to play multiple roles in a piece is always a treat. Parsing out a character is always fraught and incredible all at the same time. To do six or seven at once is that much better and that much harder. When I go to Perseverance to work as an actor, I leave go a lot of what I do all the time, as far as everything else I do like directing and designing. This was a great opportunity for me to do a couple of things I really like and only do those things. And it's also a fabulous piece. It's very hard to describe, but anybody who comes to see this thing is going to be completely delighted and really happy they came. They'll feel lucky that they saw something special.
WH: It is sort of a celebratory piece. There's a lot of life and energy and vitality packed into it. Even though the goat has his issues, it's not a downer.
AE: This is going to be one of those plays that people talk about for a long time.