The Performant: Rep flow

Nick A. Olivero and Brian Trybom are alternating roles nightly in Sam Shepard's "True West."

Boxcar Theatre gets hardcore with Sam Shepard

Every year it feels like it’ll be impossible for the ever-inventive Boxcar Theatre company to top their last season, and somehow each year they pull it off. After launching an ultra-ambitious repertory program of four Sam Shepard plays, to be performed in two separate locations over the course of the next two-and-a-half months, artistic director Nick A. Olivero -- who isn’t just producing the festival, but also directing “Fool For Love,” and co-starring in “True West” -- still made time for an internet interview about “Sam Shep in Rep.”

The Performant A couple of years ago you guys presented a three-play repertory program of Tennessee Williams plays. What made you decide to up the ante to four for Shepard?
Nick A. Olivero Because I'm insane. People should know that by now…

Performant What is it specifically about those two playwrights that makes them so appealing to be tackled in such a manner?

Olivero They are both amazing writers… Rep is not easy, any actor will tell you that, and you won't convince an actor to give up four months of their acting life for crummy roles. Williams and Shepard write rich characters that just about every actor is foaming at the mouth to play.

Performant You yourself are alternating the roles of Lee and Austin in “True West” with Brian Trybom. What attracts you about each role? What daunts you?

Olivero Have you ever heard the phrase, "It sounded like a good idea at the time?” This show is exhausting. And invigorating. Lee has this incredible physical journey and is completely spontaneous, it's fun to play that on stage. Austin's journey is much more emotional; the descent into madness (and drunkenness)… Although audiences historically tend to love Lee… it is actually Austin who is the tougher role to play. Anyone can go out there and start slapping people around, it takes precision to figure out the mental roller coaster of Austin who loses it all. It's precisely that which attracts and scares the hell out of us at the same time.

Performant Originally you had planned to stage “Fool for Love” in an actual motel, but are now working on building space for it in your Boxcar Studio space. What were some of the complications in trying to arrange for an offsite presentation?

Olivero I would still love to do it in a motel room, but with everything going on in this project it became a larger headache then it was worth… Plus this new space as been an idea of mine for some time now and it made financial sense to invest that motel rental money into a permanent venue that other groups can benefit from as well.

Performant  Tell me a bit about the staged Sam Shepard reading series. What plays will you be reading and who will be involved?

Olivero We are presenting Icarus' Mother, Savage Love, Curse of the Starving Class, Suicide in B Flat, Action, 4-H Club, and Cowboy Mouth throughout March at the Studios. We are working with Eileen Tull, Barry Eitel, Ellery Schaar, Mark Mieklejohn, Will Hand, and Ben Randle

Performant Ever think to yourself that life would be so much simpler if you had just gone into Dentistry?

Olivero I have no idea why I do this except there is some stupid part of my brain that says "wake up and go into the theatre and do dumb stuff"… truth be told, when the houses are packed I never give it a second thought …. nowhere else in the world is someone stupid enough to craft a rep experience like this where, as an audience member, you can dig deep into a Contemporary American treasure like Sam Shepard and fully explore the themes and characters he has created. Dentistry has got nothing on a visit like that.

“Sam Shep in Rep”
Through April 26
Boxcar Playhouse and Boxcar Studios
505 Natoma and 125A Hyde, SF.
(415) 967-2227

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