With just days away from the opener of the Rogue Theatre 2020 virtual theatre festival, a festival of short new works, we introduce the playwright behind the opening production, Language Games in celebration of their work.
In this interview, Playwright Barbara Yoshida discusses her inspiration, process, and experience during this pandemic environment. Rogue Theatre Festival founder, Allison Hohman talked with each of the folks involved, and in this first interview shares her discussion with LocalTheatreUSA.com Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times?
Barbara Yoshida: Our process for Language Games was radically different, due to Covid-19. We figured shooting outdoors would increase everyone’s safety, even though that meant we had to deal with changes in light, the effect of wind, and problems with noise. A building was under construction next door and of course there were the usual NYC sirens and helicopters. To maximize social distancing, we mostly filmed one actor at a time. And our crew was kept to a minimum. In addition, one of our actors is SAG, so that added all kinds of hurdles—we hired a Health Safety Specialist to be on set, there were strict rules to follow and limited windows of time for cast and crew to be tested for the virus, we needed more than the normal amount of PPE, and there were all kinds of Health Safety documentation required by SAG that we’d never dealt with before. This made sure everyone was safe, so we didn’t mind, but it did add a lot of extra time and work. We think this film will forever be seen as a testament to what theater could create during the pandemic of 2020!
Allison Hohman : Where did you get the inspiration for writing your piece?
Barbara Yoshida: I have always loved words and language, and this short play has given me the opportunity to explore gestural and non-linguistic forms of language as well as the philosophy of language. I turned to Alexander Stern’s The Fall of Language for insight into Wittgenstein and Benjamin on immanent and designative language, or name and sign. I thought it would be amusing to see these super-intellectual guys playing Mah Jong, a game like gin rummy. You’d think they’d be playing chess or bridge, right? And of course, the Mah Jong game is a metaphor for the other game being played. Shepard provides a good counterpoint to the philosophers’ conceptual obscurity—his take on the origins of language is so down-to-earth. And then there’s Beuys: he combines the immanent language of art with mythology. The hare was his animal—he carried a hare’s foot in his pocket, and he even had a hare as a hood ornament on his car! Sheela probably represents myself, always skeptical about “high-falutin’ mumbo-jumbo.” Stylistic influences include Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett (I loved “Beckett by Brook”), Eugène Ionesco, and The Wooster Group, although they might be more aspirational than evident in my piece.
About the author.
Barbara Yoshida (Playwright), a multi-disciplinary artist, has exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally. Language Games first appeared in Issue 6: https://fleasonthedog.com. Her writing was also published in her book of megalithic standing stones, Moon Viewing. After taking Peculiar Works Project production and publicity photos for over a decade and editing too many grant applications, she began working as dramaturg on projects such as Planet X (Black Mountain College), 2 Jane Jacobs (Cherry Lane Theater) and Son of Cock-Strong (La MaMa). Most recently, she co-adapted America’s first play, Androboros (Fraunces Tavern Museum). She has served on the Board of PWP since its inception in 1993.
About the play.
By: Barbara Yoshida
Set in a fictional world of philosophy and language, Sheela arrives for a spirited game of Mah Jong with three great thinkers from the past. As they play, the spirit of artist Joseph Beuys appears as a mythological hare. Invisible to the players, he interjects cultural incantations while the players contemplate how language evolved from naming animals to representing them with signs, and how the arts and myth serve the human need to imagine. Tensions mounts and physical chair-play builds to a crescendo, until Sheela challenges a basic philosophical theory and wins the game, while Beuys has the last word.
Buy Tickets: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/40483
Cast and Crew List
Matthew Trumbull (Ludwig)
Christopher Borg (Walter)
Nikki Calonge (Sheela)
Kevin R. Free (Paul)
Desmond Dutcher (Joseph)
Barbara Yoshida (Playwright)
Ralph Lewis (Director)
Barry Rowell (Photographer)
David Castaneda (Key Grip, Best Boy)
Heather Olmstead (Production Manager)
Mike McCabe (Editor)
Michelle Beshaw (Wardrobe)
Nathan Davis (Composer)
Phyllis Chen (Pianist)
Ward Sutton (Artwork)
Akia Squitieri (Health & Safety Specialist)
Peculiar Works Project (Producer)
Ralph Lewis, Barry Rowell, & Catherine Porter (Co-Producers)
Amanda Hurn, Bowery Union (Location)