Adam Rapp’s “The Metal Children” Premieres Next Week

by Tyler Jasper

photo via Spencer Bertelsen

photo via Spencer Bertelsen

Ashland, Ore. – The Theatre Arts program of the Department of Performing Arts at Southern Oregon University presents “The Metal Children” by Adam Rapp in the Center Square Theatre on the Southern Oregon University campus. Performances run Thursday-Saturday, May 22-24 and May 29-31 at 8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, May 31-June 1 at 2 p.m.

“The Metal Children” focuses on the extraordinary events that ensue when a burned-out New York writer, who specializes in young adult fiction, journeys to a small Midwestern town, where his novel, called “The Metal Children,” has been banned by the school board. He finds himself idolized by a cult of girls who treat his fiction as holy writ and vilified by the town’s religious-conservative faction, whose lunatic fringe includes a crazed vigilante.

The play premiered off-Broadway in May 2010 and won praise from The New York Times for its “charged eloquence” and “twisty, twisting plot.” Author Rapp, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his earlier work “Red Light Winter,” based the play on his own experience: his young adult novel “The Buffalo Tree” was similarly censored by a school board in Pennsylvania.

Director David McCandless said that Rapp’s dramatization of America’s culture wars is murkier and more ambiguous than one might expect. “Rapp returned from Pennsylvania with a kind of grudging respect for his adversaries. He found them to be sincere, civilized people and ended up wondering if they were right.”   

According to McCandless, the play also offers a fascinating exploration of the relationship between art and life. “The play’s protagonist finds himself in this weird wonderland where the world of his novel essentially comes to life, because his cult of admirers actually tries to emulate the behavior of the characters in his novel,” he said. But the writer himself feels oddly disconnected from what he wrote and is stupefied by the intense passions it has provoked. Because of this disconnect, said McCandless, “the play becomes a variation on the theme of characters in search of an author.”  It also, he says, asks the question of what kind of responsibility, if any, an artist bears for his art.  

McCandless is in his fourth year teaching at SOU, having previously taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and Carleton College. Last year he directed his own play, “Invisible Threads” and previously helmed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “You Can’t Take It with You.”

The cast of “The Metal Children” includes Truett Felt, Patrick Gonzales, Esau Mora, Joseph Murley, Scott Padian, Emily Serdahl, Robin Waisanen, Devin White, Samuel Wick, and Aleah Zimmer, along with understudies Nicole Bruno and Cesar Perez-Rosas. The scenic designer is Marc Wheeler, costume designer is Clara Painter, lighting designer is Evan Carbone, and sound designer is Jonathan Pratt. Stage manager is Cory Jewell and assistant director is Danny Walker.

Tickets are $21 regular admission, $18 senior, and $6 for students. Subscribers to three or more plays receive a discounted price of $17 regular admission and $15 senior. The Performing Arts Box Office is located in the Theatre Arts Building lobby. Box office hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and two hours prior to each performance. Tickets can be purchased with a credit card over the phone by calling 541-552-6348 or online at sou.edu/performingarts.

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