The Backstage Beat is looking forward to the premier of a new play by Decatur Playwright Hank Kimmel, and hopes you will have a chance to check it out! Kimmel’s new play Divided Among Themselves, premiers Sept 22, 2011 at the Academy Theater in Avondale Estates. Directed by Atlanta theater mainstay Robert Drake, the production promises to bring both the laughs and insights that are Kimmel’s trademarks.
Paige Steadman, Actress
I recently had the chance to chat with Kimmel and Robert Drake to discuss the show.
TBB: How would you describe your play in a few sentences?
Hank: Divided Among Themselves is a dramatic comedy that explores the differing views in America toward money, charity and self-reliance. When a father devise a will that brings her daughters together, Samantha Marcus, a 38-year-old rabbi, must decide whether it is necessary to compromise her values in order to protect them.
TBB: What about your characters? What is their struggle? How do they relate to each other?
Hank: There are six characters, played by five actors. The protagonist is Samantha Marcus, a 38-year-old rabbi. Samantha tries to be the glue that holds together a family that includes her older sister Clark (successful real estate developer) and her younger sisters Johnna (underemployed tennis pro) and Alex (a spiritualist). A male actor plays the roles of Samantha’s father (Abraham Marcus) and her father’s attorney (Robin Lester). Each character relates to the world in a different way. Samantha’s mission is to heal the world. Clark destroys in order to build. Johnna thinks big, but barely manages to get by day to day. Alex lives from breath to breath, at least she tries to. Dad is a realist, whose acts of goodness are measured by their net effect. Lester, trying not to be beaten down by the world, looks out for himself. In one sense, this is a play about how a dysfunctional family gets along. In another sense, it’s a dramatization of differing philosophies. At its core, it’s about who gets the money.
TBB: You are a prolific writer of plays, how does this play fit into your overall body of work?
Hank: All of my plays are about how the main character tries to overcome some kind of immobilization (religious, physical, political, emotional), and this play follows suit. The protagonist, a rabbi named Samantha, is bound by her oath to uphold certain standards, standards which her father and family question at every turn. By the end, Samantha must decide whether she is for them or for herself, and she must determine how much she can straddle between the two.
More personally, I see this play as my transition to longer form. I’ve spent years using short plays to develop my craft and I’m ready to apply these dramatic tools in a more in depth way.
TBB: There is so much good to be said about local theater, what would you like readers to know to excite them to come to the play?
Hank: Most basically, you’ll be out of the theatre in less than two hours and there’s plenty of free parking. I also hope the premise and characters will engage — and that the audience will relate to each of the characters in some way. Most ambitiously, it is my hope the play will entertain…and help take people’s minds off the self-destructive Braves.
TBB: What about the play clicked most for you, Robert?
Robert: The play tells the story of 4 sisters who reunite to divide their father’s estate, and they each have their own distinct philosophies. At first, it was the clash of those philosophies that attracted me, but as we’ve gone through the process, I have really come to relish the interaction between the people behind the philosophies. It’s fun to watch the actors make the dialog spark! And the sparks really fly here!
TBB: What were you looking for with this production with the Academy Theater? How have your expectations been realized?
Hank: The production at the Academy has been an ideal for me. I’ve been working on some version of this play for more than 20 years, and after having readings and workshops, I am gratified to have a production to see what’s there — and to build the play for the future. As president of Working Title Playwrights, I have cherished the business relationship we have developed with Academy, but this is my first time working with them in-depth as an artist. And no matter what the result of the play, my words, voice and characters have all been honored. I wish for all playwrights to have this kind of experience, and I thank everyone at the Academy for that.
TBB: How did Robert become involved as the director?
Robert: This arrangement came about as ‘Divided Among Themselves‘ was workshopped in the Academy Space as part of our partnership with Working Title Playwrights. Hank presented the second act twice and both times I helped with the production. I knew I wanted to bring the fully realized show to our main stage!
TBB: Tell me about the cast? What are the standout performances to look for?
Robert: We have a great cast! Lorilyn Harper has been with the project as long as I have and is a powerful actress. I knew I wanted her and was thrilled when she said yes. The key was to choose actors who could match her presence and energy! Tafee Patterson plays the lead character Sam and she has really helped create the great chemistry we have! Tafee appeared in ‘An Ideal Husband’ with the Academy & Lyceum project, so it’s lovely to have her return. Jacquelyn Wyer is a new comer to Atlanta theater! She was in our Summer Shorts program in a show I directed so I knew she could become the caffeine hyped sister I needed her to be. Paige Steadman spent a year as an intern with us and has really come a long way. She’s really taken to the role of the peaceful youngest sister. Joe McLaughlin had never worked at Academy so he is the new member of the family. I really love how he is able to play his two roles so distinctly! He plays both the father and the attorney for the estate. Because Joe is an actual attorney he can speak the language with authority and make the part come alive.
Anything else you want folks to know about Divided Among Themselves?
Hank: The play is primarily dramatic, but both the characters and set-up inherently contribute to comic moments, if things go the way I hope. In one sense, I see Divided Among Themselves as a philosophical clash between Ayn Rand, Deepak Chopra, John Daly, and my Uncle Eddie — where one viewpoint, to the main character’s surprise, will prevail.
TBB: What can audiences expect at the Academy Theater in October?
Robert: Divided Among Themselves runs through October 16th. (You get a discount by buying on line here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/194553) On October 8th, the Prestige will precede the show with a performance and reception. Matthew Trautwein has been doing a lot at Academy and we love having him. We also will feature the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s Halloween show October 29 & 30. They are participating in the National Sleepy Hollow Project with a new version of the tale written by Kelly Ceccato!
TBB: What else would you like to say about Divided Among Themselves and the Academy Theater?
Robert: I so proud of the whole team working on ‘Divided’. I think it will be the kind of show that’s really entertaining, but also leads to great conversations after the show at a place like the James Joyce! Our goal is to really make people think about what they’ve just experienced and ‘Divided Among Themselves‘ is a show that really lends itself to argument! I am so grateful to Hank for writing it!
The Academy Theatre is the longest running professional theater in Georgia! We were founded in 1956 and have been in Avondale Estates since 2005. We continuously strive to give our audience new experiences and points of view to think about. We love reaching out into the community and our work reflects that. We help Atlanta playwrights get new work seen. We empower older people with our senior ensemble. Our outreach programs work in youth detention centers, schools, and with other community partners, and we’ve been able to launch several new theater companies.
Dates and Times
- September 22 through October 16
- Every Thursday through Saturday at 8
- Sunday at 2:30
Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/194553 Online Tickets are $17 at the door $25!
We have hot and cold beverages, some of which are adult, light snacks both sweet and savory! Because we have characters named Clark and Sam, we’re going to try to sell Clark Bars and Sam Adams!
The Academy Theatre
119 Center St.
Avondale Estates 30002
4O4 474 8332