Chief Players to present Zach Braff play ‘All New People,’ which touches on mental health, suicide
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Last summer, local thespian AJ Jennings proposed a scene from “All New People” for the Chief Players’ A Weekend of One Act Plays. It was so good the group decided to put on that scene — and the entire rest of “All New People” — as its own separate production.
“All New People” premiers at the Chief Theater on Friday, March 22, and it is directed by Jennings. The show includes mature content and is not recommended for children younger than 15 years old.
It’s the dead of winter on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island. Charlie, 35, played by Chris Wadopian, is interrupted in his suicide attempt at a friend’s upscale property by an ex-pat British realtor, Emma, played by Sarah Laping-Garland, who happens to stop by in the nick of time.
They’re soon joined by friendly LBI fire chief and town drug dealer Myron, played by Michael DeNova, and, later, an airheaded, animated escort slash aspiring singer named Kim, played by Danielle Schwarz, who was hired and sent to cheer up Charlie by the rich friend who owns the beach house.
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From there, melancholic Charlie demands everyone leave him alone, but they all stubbornly stick around, full of irritatingly cheerful small talk and questionable suggestions for Charlie. It’s absurd, it’s sad, and it’s hilarious, punchy and relatable.
“There are a lot of heavy subjects, but it’s not a heavy show,” said Laping-Garland. “We’re not making light of these subjects, but we’re finding levity in them, because that’s life. People who come to this show are going to laugh and have a good time.”
“You might even cry,” Wadopian said.
“All New People” is written by Zach Braff. It was his first play, released in 2011. Braff is most commonly known for his starring role in the medical comedy series “Scrubs,” and for writing, directing and starring in the film “Garden State.”
“I think this play is more true Zach Braff,” Wadopian said. “It’s edgier than other plays the Chief Players have done before.”
In bringing the play to life, the cast worked through frequent discussions of finding balance in portraying the play’s sensitive issues.
“At first, I was reading the script as a much more serious play,” Wadopian said. “As we worked together, the humor came out more.”
What: “All New People”
When: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show begins at 7 p.m. March 22, 23, 29 and 30
Where: The Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
“We’re all coming from a place of compassion,” Jennings said.
After the show, representatives from Mind Springs Health and Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, or REPS, will be participating in a Q & A talkback about mental health awareness and resources available in Routt County.
Awareness and education were some of the show’s community goals, Jennings noted.
“But also to entertain. It’s a really funny show,” she added.
“This will hopefully bring mental health and suicide into the conversation,” said Mind Springs program coordinator Gina Toothaker. “It’s a different medium to talk about these topics.”
“I want people to walk away realizing that people they know might be going through something that they don’t know about. There’s not always obvious signs,” Wadopian said. “Try to be more aware of that mental health issue.”
“Even at your worst, you can always get better,” DeNova said. “No matter how bad things feel in the moment, if you wait a little longer, your life will turn around.”
“Everybody has baggage; everybody has bad things in their life,” Laping-Garland said. “Just being there can help somebody who’s going through a bad time.”
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