Language unites ‘II Plays’
Steamboat Springs — Seth Bograd was about to give up on his sixth direction in six years when he found producers David Ives’ and Shel Silverstein’s scripts staring him in the face.
“I wanted to make it something unique,” Bograd said of rediscovering directing.
But he wasn’t about to direct “The Universal Language” and “The Devil and Billy Markham” without understanding the meaning of the plays and how well they fit together.
Bograd is directing “II Plays,” consisting of Ives’ 1993 production of “The Universal Language” and Silverstein’s 1989 production of “The Devil and Billy Markham.”
Bograd discovered language is the common element in the plays the first being about uniting people through language and the second being in verse.
After struggling with performance rights to “Harold and Maude,” Bograd didn’t know whether to go on with his direction. But when a scene from Silverstein’s piece was so well ingrained in Bograd’s mind, he couldn’t resist when other plans fell through.
But finding a mate for Silverstein’s raunchy, hour-long script was tricky. Bograd found that Ives’ “The Universal Language” made a complementary fit.
“II Plays” begins with Ives’ story about a woman seeking to learn a universal language she read about in the newspaper Unamunda. Dawn, played by Aly Matthews, finds happiness and freedom with her newfound language, but her teacher Don, played by Brandon Amato, reveals the school of this new language was a fraud.
“It’s light and very funny,” Bograd said. “There’s a lot of innocence to it. It’s sweet.”
The rhythmical piece takes the English language and creates Unamunda from gibberish that is understandable but undoubtedly comedic.
Matthews said she’s had previous acting experience but auditioned for this piece because she wants to be as involved in community theater as she possibly can.
Matthews said “The Universal Language” probably was the most difficult script she’s ever had to memorize considering its length.
“This just fell in my lap. I built a set a couple years ago,” Amato said of his experience with the theater. “I wanted to get involved with theater.”
Doug Lockwood, who plays the young man at the end of the play, has only one line. But after rehearsing with Matthews and Amato on the new language, he said he’s content with just one line in English.
“I find myself speaking it occasionally,” Lockwood said.
Bograd said the first piece is about 25 minutes and allows the audience to appreciate the actors before illuminating them with Silverstein’s thought-provoking piece.
“The Devil and Billy Markham” pertains some language and content that may not be suitable for children.
Every show has a message and Bograd said he thinks the second play conveys the idea that things are not always black and white, good and evil (hence the gray-painted stage).
Billy does a little gambling with the devil and finds that things always aren’t what they seem.
“There’s a lot of morals in the play but it’s not a morality play,” Bograd said. “It’s a story with a beginning and an end and morals just come out along the way.”
Bograd initially thought he would play the backpacker in Silverstein’s epic poem but realized it was time to let Ben Eilers get a stab at the solo act.
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