Contemporary Classic 

Boise Contemporary Theater heads into its 10th season

It's been 10 years since Boise Contemporary Theater (BCT) opened its stage doors under the artistic direction of Matthew Cameron Clark, still at the helm today. "When I started BCT, my personal goals were to have a full-time job in the theater and to do good work," says Clark. "Ten years later, the first goal has been met, and though the second one is subjective, I think the company meets it with every production."

Starting a new arts organization is always risky, but after a decade, BCT has become part of the fabric of Boise's theater community. "This is a fantastic place and the perfect time for a company like BCT to flourish. I am very proud of BCT's success so far," says Clark. "Last season's world premiere of The Physics of Regret and establishing partnership with Don DeLillo (Valparaiso, White Noise, Underworld) are among the highlights of our first decade."

BCT has begun to make a name for itself nationally. Playwrights, directors, actors and artistic directors from around the country are starting to take notice. So is Boise, which has settled comfortably into the landscape as a semi-sophisticated theater-loving city.

However, shows at BCT don't usually fall into the "comfortable" category. Clark balks at words like "edgy," but most of BCT's plays are not easy nor fluff; they make audiences think. They examine socially taboo topics, while remaining entertaining. Some are even disturbing--in that old evangelical way of "afflicting the comfortable." Says Clark, "Admittedly, I tend to gravitate toward the dark and poetic, so I have to search harder for comedies that work for me. But it's important to build a diverse season that tells a variety of stories in a variety of styles. I don't try to be edgy, I just try not to be boring."

That said, the first show of the season, Love-Lies-Bleeding by Don DeLillo, is "well, dark and poetic," according to Clark. The play centers around a man named Alex Macklin, who has suffered two major strokes, the second one severe. The character is played by two actors: John Patrick Lowrie (of Seattle) plays Alex at two different stages of his life, before and after the stroke. Stitch Marker plays The Sitting Figure, who represents, according to Clark, "Alex 'in extremis' after a second devastating stroke." Other characters include Alex's ex-wife, played by Lynn Allison; his current wife, played by Sita Frederick; and a son played by Clark--all of whom face the decision about whether to end Alex's life.

The play, which runs through October 23, is a perfect opener for the 10th anniversary season: This production is the Western U.S. premiere, a worthy high note in the history of BCT. The title may sound familiar--BCT did a staged reading in 2005 directed by the author. "I had directed his play Valparaiso in 2003," says Clark, "and become a huge fan of Don's writing as a result."

Love-Lies-Bleeding is directed by the insightful Tracy Sunderland, who first gave Clark a copy of Valparaiso to read. "I would trust Tracy to direct anything. She's smart, she's funny. And she's what Lanford Wilson [Burn This] would call a 'crackerjack feeler.' This play is important and it needs someone with all those qualities. Whatever it is that makes DeLillo's plays speak to me, Tracy hears it too."

Next up is The Memory of Water (running November 29 through December 23) by Shelagh Stephenson and directed by Gordon Rienhart, who brought the play to Clark years ago as an idea for BCT. "I'm thrilled we're finally producing it. It's great for a lot of reasons. But it caught my eye because it has four great roles for women over 30. Sadly, that's a rarity in the theater and Boise has a fantastic pool of talent in that category," says Clark. The cast includes Kathryn Cherasaro, Tracy Sunderland, Christina Lang and Ann Klautsch, plus Richard Klautsch and Arthur Glenn Hughes.

The play won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy for its hysterically funny treatment of a normally sad scene. Three sisters return home for their mother's funeral, only to rehash old quarrels, find new ones, discuss the important issues of life and sort out memories of their mother.

The New Year rings in with a one-woman show written and performed by former Daily Show correspondent Lauren Weedman. Directed by Allison Narver, Bust (running January 10 through February 3) had its world premiere at The Empty Space Theatre in Seattle last summer, so like Loves-Lies-Bleeding, Bust receives its equally important second production at BCT this season. The show is based on Weedman's time as a volunteer in a prison for women. This is her sixth one-woman show, and Clark promises audiences who would prefer local actors will not be sorry to see Bust.

Closing out the season (April 4 to 28) is The Drawer Boy, winner of the Canadian Dora Award for Best Play, written by Michael Healey. Already being touted as a contemporary classic, the play follows a young Toronto playwright on a research trip. He encounters two older men who are lifelong friends and WWII veterans. Slowly, they open up to him and reveal the essence of their lives. Clark directs Boise favorites Dan Peterson and Stitch Marker.

"The Drawer Boy was part of our 5X5 Staged Reading Series two years ago. Danny and Stitch read it then, and I instantly put it on the list for full production," says Clark. "It's about sharing our stories and finding common ground."

It should be exciting for audiences to watch two actors who have been on Boise stages for so long. "There aren't two actors in the world I would rather have playing those roles," says Clark. "I don't always include a directing project for myself, I didn't direct anything last season. But working with Stitch and Danny on this play made it an exciting choice for me."

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