• Fucking A- The Mayor refuses his wife's desire to have a child. - Fucking A at The Studio Theatre, Washington, DC.

  • Fucking A- A moment of grief overcomes Hester after she killed her only son, Boy. - Fucking A at The Studio Theatre, Washington, DC.

  • Fucking A by Suzan Lori Parks

    Parks' Brechtian take on The Scarlet Letter puts the play in a ruthless contemporary "everywhere" in which those who speak against the government or commit even the smallest crime are rarely (if ever) heard from again. Using biting sarcasm in short, direct-address musical moments, Parks emphasizes the cyclic oppression of the haves on the have-nots.

    Due to her class and lack of education Hester is forced to become the town abortionist but soon finds a sliver of hope after her son Boy escapes from prison. However, as they are both pursued by merciless bounty hunters, Boy begs Hester to kill him and save him from impending torture.

    At the climax of the play Hester kills Boy, but we recognize her loss for only a short moment. Almost immediately, Hester picks up her surgical implements and returns to work, demonstrating the cyclic oppresion of her world.

    Design Context

    Fucking A is a difficult play that deals with a number of sensitive topics including class, sex, abortion, misogyny, mass incarceration, and government oppression. Parks uses a number of techniques to confront the audience with the action, but she does not allow the audience to have a direct emotional attachment to any of the characters. The use of sarcastic songs in which characters break from the action of the play and directly address the audience creates a disconnect between the action of the play and the audience's ability to emotionally engage. The play has is full of disturbing material, heart-wrenching realtionships, and it takes place in a horrific world that represents a kind of "everywhere."

    As a design team, we reflected upon the cold and harsh texture of Parks' text, and we discovered a world of literal darkness. This is a place where nobody wants to go, in which criminals lurk in the shadows and those in power will do anything to increase their wealth and opportunities. The materials of the set were directly chosen to reinforce that darkness. We exposed the framework of the set to utilize lighting that created hard shadows across the space in which performers could lurk and hide.

    Just as the world was dark, dank, and harsh, I utilized lighting tools to create the same feel. Most of the lighting tools had long and low throw angles that cast light through the steel framework. Each location had a single key lighting idea that created shadowplay on the actors and scenery. I even focused systems to intentionally prevent an even stage wash, allowing performers to wander in and out of light as if they were walking down an empty road through a few bare street lights.

    However, the music of the play jolts the audience out of the action, and I needed to find a new look for these song-breaks to help acknowledge that these moments were not part of the action of the scene. At the same time, the songs are sarcastic and dark, not unlike the world these characters inhabit. Ultimately, I chose to bury a few 3" Fresnel Inkies throughtout the set to use as a strong footlight for these song moments. This allowed for a look completely opposite from that of the action of the play. The inkies also cast the performers' shadows upon the scenery, reinforcing the shadowed and dark world of the play.

    Stage 4 at The Studio Theatre

    Stage 4 at the Studio Theatre is a small, transformable space that seats about 150 patrons. For Fucking A the space was arranged into a proscenium format, although no framing arch was present.

    The space has a few interesting quirks, such as two concrete columns that rise through the middle of the space. For this production, those columns were in the visible stage space and utilized by many of the parkour athletes in the cast.

    Secondly, the space has a low light grid, just over thirteen feet from the concrete floor, which allowed for a number of long, low throw angles for lighting to achieve long shadows.

    Finally, the space has large, industrial windows that are exposed to the outside world. One of these windows was uncovered which allowed for the authentic street light to pour into the space from the house left/stage right side. All performances started at 8:30 to allow for the sun to set to achieve an appropriate level of city light to enter the space.

    Production Photographs

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    Fucking A Production Photographs

    Washington City Paper Review

    By: Glen Weldon

    Posted: July 29, 2009

    "It's certainly not missing a grimly satisfying visual style- Studio's design team has seen to that. Giorgios Tsappas's iron cages and gunmetal-gray sliding doors rise from Justin Thomas's vast shadowy murk, where a row of operating tables stands like a seawall and the yellowing antiseptic tiles of an abortionist's examination room look, if anything, pro-septic."

    For a copy of the full review, click here: W_City_Paper_Review

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