Conversations with Five Makers of ‘Forgotten Kingdoms’ during Rorschach Theatre

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RANDY BAKER, Playwright

Michael: Introduce yourself, Rorschach, and a play Forgotten Kingdoms in underneath 140 characters. Go! No, usually kidding…just tell us something about yourself and about this crazy play you’re ascent (which runs to May 21).

Randy Baker, Playwright and Co-Artistic Director of Rorschach Theatre.

Randy: Forgotten Kingdoms dramatizes a strife of civilizations by a review of dual group from unequivocally conflicting worlds—an American Christian companion and a inner Muslim who has no seductiveness in being converted. Much of a play is desirous by my possess use and a stories we listened flourishing adult in Singapore.  My companion grandfather’s stories were always fantastical and mostly discouraging to my flourishing dignified relativism. But when we started essay Forgotten Kingdoms we did so as an try to know him. we wanted to write about him nonetheless visualisation and accommodate him on his possess terms.

Understanding another enlightenment can be formidable nonetheless so can empathizing with things closer to home—our country, a family. Sometimes bargain requires that we have consolation for someone who doesn’t reason a beliefs; infrequently it means that for a impulse we trust in someone else’s ghosts.

I adore that we’re premiering this play during Rorschach Theatre where we offer as Co-Artistic Director with Jenny McConnell Frederick, given Rorschach has never looked for easy answers. The name comes from a famous Rorschach test, that final that a studious demeanour inward, and that truth has always been an critical partial of a company’s mission.

Rizal Iwan and Natalie Cutcher in Forgotten Kingdoms. Photograph by Jennifer Knight.

The stories that shaped this play have been with me as prolonged as we can remember, nonetheless we started behaving it about 6 years ago. we started with a elementary doubt that always intrigued me—what would occur on a night when my grandfather met his match? What if his whole life unraveled given of it?

After submitting a play as my connoisseur propagandize topic in 2012, we had a series of workshops in Houston, New York and here in DC. When we motionless we would furnish this as Rorschach, we took a play home and grown it in Malaysia and Indonesia, culminating with a open reading in Jakarta. It was in Jakarta that we met Rizal Iwan, a Indonesian actor we have brought over to play a purpose of Yusuf in a full production.

How many of your personal life did we put into this script?

There are a lot of sum that are carried directly from my family’s stories—my grandfather told stories about a tiny lady on a verge of genocide that he brought behind to life with his recovering hands; my grandmother played a accordion on a behind of a lorry while a kids sang; they lived in a residence on stilts over a ocean. There are vast details—conscious and otherwise—that are taken from my use and from a stories of my family, nonetheless in many ways those stories are a artifacts of where we began this story. Somewhere along a way, impulse gave proceed to creation, and as we schooled some-more about these characters—especially by a partnership with directors, actors and devoted collaborators—they became something new.

Every outline of this play that we have read, no improved how brief, includes a line, “a wooden residence balances on stilts over a churning sea.” Is there something about that picture that strikes you?

When my grandparents were doing their companion work in Tanjung Pinang Indonesia, they lived in a Kampung Laut (Water Village), a common underline of coastal towns in Malaysia and Indonesia. Kampung Lauts are whole towns that are built out of timber on stilts over a sea and are connected to a mainland and to any other by creaking jetties. Sometimes they turn vast towns, infrequently there is a singular residence connected to a land.

I was generally drawn to a metaphor—the thought of a companion who lives in a place where he can always see a city in a stretch nonetheless never indeed be a partial of it.  we also adore a thought of an indeterminate component of a healthy universe inches next a quarrelsome conversation. As battles between civilizations are fought on a play above it, a risk of a churning sea threatens to devour them all.

What is it about Southeast Asia that speaks to we artistically?

It’s about memory. When we cruise about my use of childhood, we remember a sights and smells of where we grew up. Every artist is shabby by a memories of their past—mine usually happened to have taken place in another country.  Though we have experimented with regulating Asian melodramatic techniques in my directing—shadow puppets in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Suzuki-inspired transformation in Rorschach’s Very Still and Hard to Seethis play is combined in a unequivocally American style. It competence be set in Indonesia, nonetheless a clarity of a play owes some-more to Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill than it does to South East Asia.

My feelings on informative flawlessness are of march complicated. I’m an American who grew adult in Asia and has had family vital in Asia for 3 generations, nonetheless we am still American. we always try to proceed projects with a thought that they are a informative sell and not informative appropriation. we try to sojourn honest about a indicate of viewpoint with that we benefaction a uncover and a artists with whom we collaborate.


Michael: What’s a initial thing we do after we review a book that you’re going to direct?

Cara: we review it a second time! Then we start holding notes. we unequivocally respond to a disproportion in a block first, so we lift out all of a pivotal disproportion and phrases, anything that resonates with me emotionally or intellectually. From this list I’m customarily means to find some pivotal themes and vital thespian questions. For Forgotten Kingdoms, I cruise my list of phrases and questions was 3 or 4 pages long. That’s a denunciation that we afterwards use to start conversations with my designers. In this routine we was also propitious to have a playwright in a room, so we had a lot of questions for him, too, after my initial read: What do we adore many about this play, what scares we about it, what do we wish a assembly to feel when they leave a theatre, etc.

Forgotten Kingdoms expel members (from left:) L-R: Natalie Cutcher, Sun King Davis, Jeremy Gee, and Vishwas, with Director Cara Gabriel. Photograph by Jennifer Knight.

The American news media is so spooky with a Middle East that we cruise we forget that there are utterly a few Muslims who live in other places in a world, including Southeast Asia. Did your viewpoint on Islam change while operative on a play?

I have to contend that my viewpoint on Islam altered reduction than maybe my viewpoint on faith in general. Everyone in this play—regardless of religion—struggles with faith, forgiveness, grief, and what it means to be “healed.” If anything, we had some-more work to do overcoming my prejudices and preconceptions per Christian missionaries. we had to learn to adore and know a clarity of David in sequence to be satisfactory to any entirely formed, multi-dimensional character.

The lead purpose is played by Rizal Iwan, an Indonesia actor. Were there special hurdles operative with an actor from a conflicting country?

Rizal is amazing, as are all of my actors, honestly. They are inexhaustible and kind, funny, and super smart. Mostly I’ve been perplexing to learn as many as we can about Indonesian enlightenment nonetheless tokenizing Rizal or creation him a orator for all Indonesians. One of a things we’ve talked a lot about is how Indonesian enlightenment is a unequivocally respectful enlightenment (and in fact that facilities prominently in a play), so if there was any plea with Rizal, we would contend it is that he is so polite! American actors mostly have no problem revelation a executive that they’d like to try something conflicting or make an swap choice. I’m used to lots of contention and contradictions. But with Rizal, infrequently we would give him a block of instruction and he would demeanour during me for a impulse and afterwards usually say, “OK.” we would have to review him unequivocally delicately and infrequently press him to protest me. “Rizal, it’s OK if we cruise what I’m revelation we is terrible!” Then he would giggle and say, “OK, yeah, this creates no sense.” But once we got to know any other, he contradicted me all a time and became a finish rascal in a operation room… No, I’m totally kidding. He’s incredible.

DEB SIVIGNY, Set and Costume Designer

Michael: What is your routine for conceptualizing a set? Does it start with a space? The budget? The directorial concept?

Deb Sivigny, Forgotten Kingdoms Set and Costume Designer. Photograph by DJ Corey Photography.

Deb: With a play like Forgotten Kingdoms, a genuine environment formed in an tangible place, we start with researching any aspect of a environment—everything from how continue affects timber to a class of plants. we had an implausible event to transport to a Riau islands with Randy final year, so we was means to take cinema and douse myself in a play’s setting. Recreating realism aside, we knew we had to figure out how to make this thought work inside a Sprenger Theatre.

Cara, Jennifer, and we met a few months ago to share investigate and emanate a optimal belligerent devise for a play. we knew a hurdles of formulating a design: a unsentimental implications of regulating genuine water, a description of a “foreign land” that didn’t feel like a potentially argumentative appropriation, and a bill that was inexhaustible nonetheless didn’t concede for grant blanche. we came prepared with believe of Malay residence architecture, a list of priorities for a space, and some ideas of how we competence emanate “waterless” water. we cruise we drew 8 thumbnail sketches before a assembly and another sixteen sketches during that meeting. We spent a lot of time seeking “what if,” and we unequivocally acquire that in a early stages of a design. What is many sparkling to me is a collaborative inlet of operative towards a melodramatic space that utilizes all a best ideas of a team.

The set is dominated by a house-like structure that is not utterly inner and not utterly external. Was your idea to emanate as open a space as possible?

I wanted to emanate a space that authorised for a satisfactory volume of transformation nonetheless that combined tacit manners in where characters could go. The space consists of 4 vital elements: a jetty, a porch, a house, and a water/sky. The jetty is “public” space, where anyone is authorised to venture—and even get utterly tighten to a house. The porch requires that people be invited to it—it’s partial of a house, and while it’s a smallest viewed block footage, it’s where a infancy of a play takes place. It’s where a clarity of David has his meetings, and it’s curated by his mom Rebecca in sequence to emanate a right impression. It was critical to me that we see a clarity of a space by a seat and set dressing. There is an denote of life behind a door. From a audience, a residence looks incomparable than it unequivocally is—we container a lot into that small space. It’s a conflicting of a Tardis—it’s many smaller on a inside. So while it feels open and inviting, there are invisible territories. The final section consists of a water/sky. It’s a outrageous component that surrounds a house, and it hides lots of secrets.

Rorschach is famous for a radical use of space. Can we give us a spirit of what we have to demeanour brazen to this time?

Oddly enough, this competence be a many required set we’ve combined in some time. While a residence on stilts is no tiny feat, it’s still a residence with 4 walls and a door. we am vehement nonetheless about how a set utilizes a space itself. An altered proscenium of sorts, it’ll keep we feeling like a universe is usually a tiny askew.

RIZAL IWAN, Actor (Yusuf)

Michael: First of all, acquire to DC! What do we cruise of a satisfactory collateral city?

Rizal: Thank you. It’s my third revisit here, nonetheless a city’s giveaway entrance to so many sources of discernment and information about American story and enlightenment still fascinates me, and we find myself entrance behind to some of a places we have already visited before. But also, this time around we get to notice how colourful a museum stage in a city is, something we hadn’t unequivocally satisfied during my prior visits.

Rizal Iwan and Sun King Davis in Forgotten Kingdoms. Photograph by Jennifer Knight.

This play centers around colonial exploitation. Have we gifted some-more pointed forms of Western informative mastery and/or undisguised injustice here in America, and has that sensitive your bargain of your character?

Personally, we haven’t gifted any kind of injustice while we am here. But per Western informative domination, we cruise we am experiencing it, and not indispensably in a bad way. My era in Indonesia grew adult with American films and shows that we saw on TV, so when we came here, a American enlightenment feels infrequently familiar. In a way, it is what my character, Yusuf, is experiencing also. There’s a partial in a play in that Yusuf’s mindfulness with a radio set (and what it represents) becomes a pivotal indicate in his attribute with his father. It’s engaging to note this counterbalance in him—on one side questionable of unknown influences, nonetheless on a other side embracing them. But this is what happens to many Indonesians—including me, to a certain extent—and anticipating this side of me in Yusuf helps me know him a tiny better.

Your clarity is so many tangible by his homeland and his religion. Do we feel that strongly identified with those dual pieces of your identity?

Maybe not as strongly as Yusuf. we mean, I’ve always been unapproachable of Indonesia for many things, including a diversity. But this unequivocally farrago has also taught me to be open to other cultures and values in a world. As for religion, we come from a family of dual faiths. My father was a Muslim and my mom was a Christian. And my family has schooled to make this work and we honour any other. This has taught me toleration and kept my mind open to religions that are conflicting than mine. So, we never feel that we am ever tangible by my religion.


Michael: Why is this play required in a day and age when all eremite differences have been peacefully accepted, and all a vital countries have concluded to stop fighting in preference of a pacific agreement to provide any other with mutual respect?

Jonelle: Well, given we have no problems to solve … we cruise what we find so relocating about Forgotten Kingdoms is that it is a story so specific to a chronological and geographic context; nonetheless a dispute is undying and roughly outward of time. At a heart of any eremite conflict—or even any review about religion, really—is a tragedy between that that we reason loyal to a unequivocally foundations of a being and those “truths” that we have always felt doubtful about. Randy grabs us by a palm and kindly wades us out into those hilly waters. We get to be with Reverend Holiday and Yusuf as they work by their beliefs, their skepticism, and their ardent invulnerability of their respective, for miss of a reduction cliche word, kingdoms. In a specific context of today’s honestly terrifying domestic climate, we cruise it is required to have this tough review about how we clear destroying any other and destroying any other’s dedicated worlds given we are assured there can usually be one: ours. More specifically, we cruise it is critical for American audiences to try dispute between Christianity, Islam, and other religions in a Muslim nation outward of a Middle East. Forgotten Kingdoms asks us to enhance a meditative on dedicated worlds and cruise a diligence of belief. The diligence of gods, kings, and kingdoms that we poorly assume hardship can kill.

From left: Sun King Davis, Natalie Cutcher, Rizal Iwan, and Vishwas in Forgotten Kingdoms. Photograph by Jennifer Knight.

Indonesia has a clever melodramatic tradition, and I’m wondering how many of Indonesian entertainment use done a proceed into a play. I’m meditative generally of a fanciful shade puppet Midsummer that Randy did for Avant Bard.

What a fanciful question! we cruise it’s over my range of imagination to assume on how many of a abounding traditions of Indonesian entertainment and storytelling done it into Forgotten Kingdoms. we can contend that a play builds on Indonesian story and mythology in a proceed that should be sparkling to audiences informed and unknown with a culture. So many of Yusuf’s personal story is tied adult in a stories of good Indonesian heroes told to him by his father. we cruise it’s a pleasing together to what a storyteller Randy is and how he introduces assembly that competence not be capable in Indonesian enlightenment to a sold beauty.

There is also endless discourse in a play in Bahasa, a central denunciation of Indonesia. This is a initial time I’ve listened Bahasa in an American play, so we wish that competence also be an sparkling and new auditory knowledge for a audiences.

Why this play? Why now?

As we alluded to above, we cruise we are in a time of quite extreme tellurian dispute that is underpinned by eremite self-assurance and competition relations. There is, we think, a flourishing clarity that a disproportion between cultures or politics or competition is insurmountable; that we as Americans can never know Syrian refugees, North Korean dictators, or even a possess President. In a sense, we can't totally know any other. However, a work of being tellurian and coexistent on this planet—and, indeed, a work of Forgotten Kingdoms—is to quarrel as tough as we can to know any other as best we can. We will destroy often. Learning from that failure, owning a stipulations of a understanding, and availing ourselves of a idea that there is usually one universe (the one we see everyday) is a usually solution. we cruise a audiences—all of us—could use some humbling and vast perspective. Forgotten Kingdoms lets us look underneath a deceive between a bland and a cosmic.

Forgotten Kingdoms plays through May 21, 2017, during Rorschach Theatre behaving at The Paul Sprenger Theatre during Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 399-7993 ext. 2, or squeeze them online.

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