by Mary Donofrio
Life is largely about choices, and the decisions we make have an impact on the trajectory of where our lives take us. From morality and destiny, to forgiveness, this year’s Stage III season interrogates the very real and human aspects of choices, and how seemingly small moments can have a huge, life-altering impact. Florida Studio Theatre brings audiences three contemporary plays that address important social issues and provide opportunity for personal existential reflection.
Set in a fast-paced, cut-throat Manhattan kitchen, our season opener, How to Use a Knife by Will Snider, offers a unique take on a difficult decision. When Steve, an East African dishwasher, reveals his harrowing past and intimate involvement in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, his boss, Chef George, is forced to confront his conception of right and wrong. Should Chef George turn Steve into immigration authorities despite the unlikely friendship they’ve built, or let things go? A recipient of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere in 2016-2017, How to Use A Knife brings the high-stress world of a restaurant to life, and asks us all to consider the limits of our moral code.
Although the connection between a New York restaurant and the political conflict in Rwanda seems tenuous at first, both elements fit in seamlessly along with the play’s abundance of cultural collisions. Playwright Will Snider pulled from his own experiences of working for a non-governmental organization in East Africa and restaurant kitchens in New York as a runner and a busboy to set the stage in a believable way. “A lot of my plays are concerned with cross-cultural interaction,” Snider said in an interview with Nuvo Online, “I am always concerned with trying to find public spaces where that happens. And I thought of a restaurant kitchen as a place where that happens.” Directed by Associate Artist Jason Cannon, How to Use a Knife begins January 17th.
Our second Stage III play explores the endless paths a life can take from one small meeting. Marianne is a quantum physicist. Roland is a beekeeper. On the surface, they don’t have much in common, but their meeting creates infinite possibilities for the trajectory of their relationship and lives. Winner of the 2012 Evening Standard Award for Best Play, Constellations by Nick Payne explores the unpredictability of life and love, and how one small moment can change everything.
Nick Payne, a British playwright, is well-known for his smart, insightful work which often addresses scientific concepts. Constellations is his first American hit, and tackles the multiverse theory, which argues that there are alternative universes including our own. Stephen Hawking, Erwin Schrödinger, and Neil deGrasse Tyson are just a few of the scientists who popularized this mind-bending theory. Payne was inspired by the multiverse in the content of the play, but also in its structure.
Just as the multiverse has infinite possibilities for our world, we see different versions of Marianne and Roland’s relationship, and all of the possible ways it could have worked out between them. Also directed by Jason Cannon, Constellations begins February 21st.
Following Constellations, our series finale adapts personal narratives into a one-man performance that discusses the cost of war and power of forgiveness. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, adapted for the stage by Jim Stowell, is based on the classic collection of short stories written by O’Brien and his experience in Vietnam as a soldier in the 23rd infantry division. O’Brien’s singular perspective is amplified onstage. Unlike the book, the play commands unwavering attention. “Reading the book, if something is getting a little too strong for you, you can put down the book. Not in a play,” said adapter Jim Stowell. “And a play has the human voice. The human voice is huge difference.” The Things They Carried premiered at St. Paul’s History Theatre in their 2013-2014 season, and has since been performed throughout the country because of the connection with a much beloved literary work and heartfelt depiction of one of the most important events in American history. Directed by Kate Alexander, The Things They Carried begins March 21st.
Since its inception in the 2004-2005 season, Stage III has challenged audiences to confront long-held ideals, has introduced new ways of thinking, and has fostered reflection around the human experience. FST has just extended the full series by adding a fourth week of each production. Florida Studio Theatre is proud to present all three of this season’s challenging works in Bowne’s Lab Theatre. For more information please call the box office or visit us online at floridastudiotheatre.org.