Highways Performance Space & Moon Mile Run Present
The World Premiere of Michael Kearns'
A Cathartic Theatrical Event That Peers Through the Dark Lens
Of America's Obsession with Sex & Violence
In Santa Monica, CA
Friday, April 10 - Saturday, April 25, 2015
Blood Will Be Spilled
LOS ANGELES, CA – March 25, 2015 – Highways Performance Space and Moon Mile Run present the world premiere of Bang Bang, the newest addition to Michael Kearns' compelling arsenal of theatrical work. Opening on Friday, April 10, 2015, Bang Bang is a character-driven play that examines societal "headline" contentions with intensity and passion. Inspired by the myriad responses to gun violence in America – from Sandy Hook to Ferguson – Bang Bang, directed by Mark Bringelson, weaves a battered, shredded tapestry from individual lives torn apart when a trigger is pulled. The six performances are on Friday and Saturday nights from Friday, April 10 to Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 8:30pm at Highways Performance Space (18th Street Arts Center, 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404). General admission tickets are $20 in advance ($15 for students, Highways members, and seniors) and can be purchased here. Reservations may also be made by calling 310-315-1459. Additional information is available at www.highwaysperformance.org.
"This is epic theatre, unlike anything I've ever experienced – it goes places a lot of art doesn't go," says Mark Bringelson, the director of Bang Bang, "The play gets into the heads of its characters to explore some very timely and difficult subject matter with sensitivity, dark humor, and pathos for a cathartic experience. Yet, oddly enough, it's also surprisingly positive – the audience will leave with a sense of empowerment and hope."
Bang Bang Synopsis –
Peter, one of the play's main characters, is a documentary filmmaker and his film-in-progress (titled Bang Bang) reveals the heartbroken lives of the viscerally wounded. The documentary that is being filmed becomes the play: a collage of confessionals and testimonies, intimacies of sexual rage, and arias of palpable loss.
A man loses his black son in a white cop shooting; a woman loses her husband and daughter in a random school shooting; an elderly man plans to off his wife, who is in the throes of Alzheimer's; a prostitute murders her boyfriend-pimp; a gay therapist morphs into a meth-addicted serial killer; a cop relives his experience of removing children from a schoolroom that was "a sea of blood."
But Peter's film shoot is interrupted by Padric, a charismatic Irish con-man who steals not only hearts, but stories...
Peter, played by Michael Matts, is an African American documentary filmmaker who has fallen under the spell of Padric, played by Mike Ciriaco, a con-man from Ireland who claims to be the son of "Bang Bang," Dublin's legendary street performer. Photo credit: Gina Long.
Bang Bang is both a departure and a familiar undertaking for Kearns. His motifs – addiction, sexuality, familial unrest, HIV/AIDS, Hollywood – are extant in this endeavor. Bang Bang was initially workshopped last year, in two separate incarnations, at Skylight Theatre Company, as part of its INKubator Play Reading Series.
The Cast of Characters
Mike Ciriaco plays the narcissistic but charming anti-hero Padric with dark intentions, who claims to be the "bastard faggot" son of Bang Bang, the legendary Dublin street performer whose act consisted of pretending to shoot people.
Michael Matts plays Peter Lange, a black, hip documentarian who lost a lover to AIDS and then adopted a baby boy, who was later killed at age fifteen by a white cop.
Burke Byrnes plays Gunther, who is losing his wife to Alzheimer's disease, lost his son in the Gulf War, and is fighting for health insurance and home care.
JoNell Kennedy plays Bea, a black hooker addicted to crystal meth, who kills her boyfriend-pimp when she discovers him sexually abusing her nine-year-old daughter.
Lizzie Peet plays Sandy, who lost her daughter and her husband to a killing spree on a high school campus.
David Pevsner plays "DrJackL" and "MisterHide&Seek" (the character's online screen names), a gay therapist who unravels into a meth-abusing serial killer.
Ryland Shelton plays Laurence Jr., a cop who lost a twin brother to a blood transfusion when he was two years old. More recently, he rescued survivors from a local elementary school shooting.
"Despite their flaws, most of these characters are understandable," says playwright Michael Kearns. "When it gets right down to it, the play asks if any of them are truly monsters and where that line is... at the same time, it also asks the question: Aren't we all, at least to some degree, culpable for the environment that we live in, a country obsessed with sex and violence? America is angry and often ugly."
Michael Kearns, Moon Mile Run Partner & Playwright -
Michael Kearns is a successful American actor, activist, writer, director, teacher, producer, and single parent. He is known for, among other things, being the first openly gay actor and the first openly HIV positive actor in Hollywood. For decades, Kearns has been active in the Los Angeles art and politics communities, while also maintaining a mainstream film and television career as well as a prolific career in the theatre. His activism is deeply integrated into his theatre works. The volume of work he has created is marked by an uncompromising desire to make statements while making art.
Long before coming out of the closet was considered a career move in the entertainment industry, Kearns was the first Hollywood actor on record to come out in the mid-1970s, amidst a shocking amount of homophobia. He subsequently made television history in 1991, announcing on Entertainment Tonight that he was HIV positive. Then, in 1992, as an openly HIV-impacted actor, he guested on a segment of ABC TV's Life Goes On, playing a character with the virus. He also played Cleve Jones in the HBO adaptation of Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On, appeared in A Mother's Prayer, It's My Party, and had a recurring role on Beverly Hills, 90210: a variety of shows that depicted HIV/AIDS. Prior television and film credits include Cheers, Murder, She Wrote, The Waltons, Knots Landing, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, The Fall Guy, Kentucky Fried Movie, and Brian De Palma's Body Double. Most recently, he starred in the 2015 short docudrama Stonewall Nation, which explores gay male culture in the 20th Century.
His produced plays and solo pieces include The Truth Is Bad Enough, intimacies, more intimacies, Rock, Attachments, and Tell-Tale Kisses. The highly lauded intimacies projects, in which Kearns portrays a dozen culturally diverse people with HIV/AIDS, were both produced in more than a dozen cities in the U.S., England, and Australia.
Among his philanthropic accomplishments was the co-creation of Southland Theater Artists Goodwill Event (S.T.A.G.E.), which, since 1984, has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS services and charities throughout Southern California. Additionally, he co-founded Artists Confronting AIDS and served as its Artistic Director for a decade.
LA Weekly, PFLAG, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Chapter of the ACLU, National Coming Out Day, and the Victory Fund have all honored Kearns. He has received grants from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the Brody Arts Fund, and PEN Center USA West. He also received the 2002 Playwright's Arena Award for Outstanding Contribution to Los Angeles Theater, which acknowledged three decades of work. Over the years, he has also won the Bay Area Theater Critics Award, a Drama-Logue Award, a Robby Award, Back Stage West Garland Award, Playwrights' Arena Lifetime Achievement Award, the Robert Chesley Lifetime Achievement Award, and a S.T.A.G.E. Producers Award.
Kearns' writings have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Frontiers, LA Weekly, LA Parent, and the Advocate. He is also the author of six theatre books including T-Cells & Sympathy, Acting = Life, and The Drama of AIDS. Both T-Cells & Sympathy and Acting = Life were nominated for Lambda Literary Awards. His searing autobiography, The Truth is Bad Enough: What Became of the Happy Hustler?, was published in 2012.
Kearns attended the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, Illinois, graduating in 1972. In 1992, the Mayor of St. Louis, the artist's hometown, proclaimed November 19, 1992 as "Michael Kearns Day." In 1993, he started proceedings that resulted in, against all odds, adopting a child in 1995 as a single HIV-positive man.
He is currently the Education Director of Spoken Interludes, an arts organization that brings professional writers into high schools. He also serves as an Artistic Associate at Skylight Theatre and helms QueerWise, an organization that he founded of GLBT seniors who write and do spoken word performances throughout Los Angeles. He lives in Los Angeles.
Mark Bringelson, Moon Mile Run Partner & Director -
Mark Bringelson is a multi-award-winning director who works in theatre, film, television, opera, and music videos. The Los Angeles Times has described his various directing work as "sparkling," "fascinating," "sexually-charged," "sensitive and entertaining; unerringly deft and subtle, Bringelson never panders to his subject matter," and Theatre Magazine wrote, "Bringelson uses the large stage as a canvas on which to dazzlingly paint pictures." LA Weekly awarded him a special New Directions in Theatre Award, and the long list of World Premieres he has directed for the stage include Tom Jacobson's Bunbury, nominated for a GLAAD Media Award as Best New Stage Production.
Ryland Shelton, Moon Mile Run Partner & Actor -
Ryland Shelton is a producer, actor, and musician. His two roles in Bang Bang solidify his partnership with Bringelson and Kearns; the threesome helm the newly formed Moon Mile Run and Shelton also plays Laurence Jr. in the new play. Shelton's film and television credits range from playing a killer on the run to a hairspray-addicted aspiring rapper in Rialto, to roles in Off-Season, Tell Her No, Gingerbreed, The Divas, Black Sunshine, Hot Guys With Guns, and, perhaps most notably, Damian in Old Dogs & New Tricks on its first and second seasons. His training includes New York University, the William Esper Studio, and with Elizabeth Mestnik in Los Angeles. He also sings, writes, and plays piano with The Amber; the band's debut EP was released in 2014.
Moon Mile Run -
Moon Mile Run is a new production company, formed by Bringelson, Kearns, and Shelton. Its first undertaking, Bang Bang, exemplifies the founders' goal to break artistic boundaries by telling stories that might otherwise be silenced.
Highways Performance Space -
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Leo Garcia, Highways Performance Space is Southern California's boldest center for new performance. Now in its 26th year, Highways continues to be an important alternative cultural center in Los Angeles that encourages fierce new artists from diverse communities to develop and present innovative works. Described by the Los Angeles Times as "a hub of experimental theater, dance, solo drama, and other multi-media performance," Highways promotes the development of contemporary socially involved artists and art forms.
Highways Bang Bang Event Page
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Bang Bang Calendar Listing
Venue: Highways Performance Space
18th Street Arts Center
1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Dates: Friday, April 10 to Saturday, April 25, 2015
Opening Night: Friday, April 10
Schedule: Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30pm
Tickets: $20 in advance ($15 for students, Highways members, and seniors)
Playwright Michael Kearns
(photo courtesy of the artist)
PHOTO CAPTIONS & CREDITS:
Lizzie Peet plays Sandy, who lost her daughter and her husband to a killing spree on a high school campus. Photo credit: Gina Long.
Ryland Shelton plays Laurence Jr., a cop who lost a twin brother to a blood transfusion when he was two years old. More recently, he rescued survivors from a local elementary school shooting. Photo credit: Gina Long.