Monday, November 5, 2018

K2: Concluding the Season of Everything

When Executive Artistic Director Meredith Hagedorn had a rough lineup for the current season, she sent it over to me with all the scripts to get my impressions. This is something we've been doing for years and I really enjoy this part of working with Meredith at Dragon. It's like Christmas in April - new stories! The lineup usually includes ALL of the 2nd Stages pitches so it's always a good sized pile of scripts. I started by reading Insignificance, the first play of the season, which blew me away with its depth and complexity of story. For a "quick palate cleanser" I then grabbed K2 off the pile, and I was amused that two plays in a row had some serious discussion about Albert Einstein. I mean what are the odds really? They are two VERY different plays - Insignificance is a dark comedy that's a hypothetical meeting of major celebrities in a very fictional 1960s setting while K2 is a short drama that's loosely based on a true story and is about a life or death situation and mountain climbing. And it struck me that herein lies the theme for all the shows we presented in 2018. As the daughter of a physics and calculus teacher I was aware that Einstein died while trying to solve his "Theory of Everything" problem. Einstein essentially believed that everything in the universe is all tangled together and despite some very radical differences between large objects like rocks and small objects like atoms, he believed that there  is some yet unknown unifying principle that explains all of the differences and binds it all together. The universe is an incomprehensibly organized chaos, and it's beautiful. Some people take this to mean that everything in the universe is interconnected. We are breathing air molecules and drinking water particles that have been around for tens of thousands of years so we are connected to humanity through space and time. We are all connected under the skin thru DNA and chemistry.
I have always thought that live theatre excels when it takes a story and shows the audience that while this might not be a story of MY life, it's a recognizable story and I can find a very meaningful, personal connection to the story and the people on the stage. And maybe the audience can take an hour or two and BE those new people and UNDERSTAND their perspective, because as people, we have much more in common than we sometimes think we do. This is why I have chosen to work in the theatre for the past eight years. The stories that we tell here at Dragon are stories that fundamentally matter to our community because they seek to connect our common humanity and attempt to provoke some thought and discussion.

John Rutski, as the 2nd Stages producer of K2, has brought us a rarely seen Broadway play from the 1980s - it's his passion project for a reason and his true passion for this story has shown through even step of the way. I think that with the political landscape being what it is in America today, it strikes me today that it was a rather interesting pick. The themes of adversity and friendship are universal - it's just juxtaposed against an epic backdrop for this particular play. As he says in his producer's note "we all have our own K2s, our own figurative mountains that loom large above us like unconquerable peaks; it is how we choose to deal with them that allows us to grow and progress as humans." And that, I think is part of Einstein's universal truth. To borrow a line from Jurassic Park, because hey, I get to quote Jeff Goldblum now,  "life finds a way," but the human experience goes far beyond just mere survival. The most important part of K2, to me, is that NOBODY can climb these mountains alone. It's humanity TOGETHER that conquers K2. And if you happen to have a leg up on the mountain, you put your hand out to help the next climber up the sheer. I'd argue that the thing that entangles us all, more than quarks and strings, is empathy, compassion, and love.

Meredith HagedornI think that K2 is also an excellent way to close out Meredith Hagedorn's final season as the founder and creator of Dragon Productions Theatre Company. For 19 long years she's been climbing her own personal K2, the mountain that is running a non-profit theatre company in a market that is incredibly challenging. She may have started that climb alone in 1999 when she started filing the incredibly tedious papers to incorporate a 501c3 nonprofit, but now in 2018 she's built quite a family of artists, patrons, and arts makers right here in our home in Redwood City. As we begin our climb up that mountain in her footsteps, she's blazed us a terrific trail. I know that I speak for an entire community when I say Meredith, THANK YOU for leaving our piece of the world a little bit better than you found it. THANK YOU for creating nearly 100 great stories in your career. THANK YOU for all the opportunities for countless actors, designers, and people like me who just like to putter in the office creating support systems for all these community residents. And now maybe go jump in a sauna, warm up, and have a nice spiked hot chocolate and enjoy life for while before you move on to your Everest. Or maybe just think about walking a beach. With a margarita. You've more than earned it.

And to those of you that came out this season, THANK YOU for making live, local theatre a part of your life. We all hope that you enjoy K2. 2019 planning is already in progress so we'll be back with some funny, thoughtful, meaningful new stories very soon!

--Kimberly Wadycki
Managing Director, Dragon Productions Theatre

Sunday, November 4, 2018

K2: Loosely based on a true story

"It’s a savage mountain that tries to kill you." - American Climber George Bell

Also known as Chogori or Mount Godwin-Austen, K2 is located in Pakistan near the Chinese border. It is the second tallest mountain in the world and stands at a little more than 28,000 ft. over sea level. In comparison, Mt. Everest stands at about 29,000 ft. over sea level. It is a member of the "eight thousander" club, a grouping of 14 mountains in Asia that all rise more than 8,000 meters above sea level. 

Known as “the savage mountain” because of its extreme difficulty, K2 is less famous and less often climbed because it has racked up the second most fatalities among the "eight thousanders" and K2 has never been climbed in the winter because its terrain and weather is entirely too treacherous. Currently about 1 person dies for every 4 people that attempt the climb, because there's just a perfect storm of treachery on K2. 

In 1978 American climbers Jim Wickwire, a lawyer from Washington State, and his friend Louis Reichardt made the climb up K2. They reached the summit, took some photos, and began the descent back down. Riechart got ahead of Wickwire in the descent and with night rapidly approaching, and without a headlamp, Wickwire decided to spend the night where he was, at around 27,000 ft. Mr. Wickwire had no tent, no sleeping bag, and no water. His oxygen tank ran out in the middle of the night and his gas stove failed at some point too. Wrapped in an insulated sack with only what clothing he had on, the sack began to slowly slide downhill. Forced to get out of the sack to stop his slide he realized he was at risk of sliding into a chasm as he was at the edge of his stoney platform. Up until this point nobody had ever survived a night in these conditions. The temperature that night was estimated to be -35 degrees. The next morning two other climbers found him continuing slowly down the mountain. They assisted him down and Mr. Wickwire was helicoptered by the Pakistani army to a hospital. He lost two toes and underwent emergency lung surgery sure to blood clots on his lungs. He had also developed pneumonia and pleurisy. Several years later Mr. Wickwire was back on the mountains to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska to prep for an attempt at Mt. Everest. 

REI published a fascinating interview with both the climbers that's worth the read here

If you'd like to read more about the history of climbing K2, we can suggest a few links on this fascinating and incredibly dangerous sport: 

The World's Most Difficult Mountain May Soon Be Fully Conquered

Fast Facts About K2

Saturday, November 3, 2018

K2: A note from the director

“…after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” – Nelson Mandela

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot

I have had Sir Edmund Hillary’s words resonating in my mind over the past few months. “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Isn’t it funny how mountains are always metaphors for the human journey? On its surface, Patrick Meyers’ K2 appears to be a simple story about mountain climbing: two friends summit the second highest mountain in the world. However, at its heart, K2 is much more than that. It is an allegory about the human condition and how we choose to handle the challenges that we encounter in our everyday lives. As the character Harold states, “Mountains are… the purest, simplest metaphors on this whole crazy planet. The higher you go the deeper you get… and when you can’t run away from where the hell you are… then guess what? You have to be there!”

We may not climb literal mountains every day, but we do still face our own mountains or seemingly insurmountable challenges. Personal, professional, local, global, economic, political, social – the list of trials that we encounter daily is endless, and while some of them are entirely unavoidable and out of our control, others are self-imposed. Few of us may ever face as tough a gauntlet as conquering K2, the second highest mountain in the world, but most of us do indeed set obstacles or smaller K2s for ourselves along life’s journey.

And so, dear theatregoer, as you watch this performance, I ask you: what’s your K2? Is it a personal goal that you’ve been yearning to accomplish but have been putting off? Is it a professional benchmark that you’ve been desiring to reach but haven’t done so yet? Is it a cause you’ve been wishing to champion but haven’t found the time? Is it an injustice that you’ve been wanting to right but were afraid to do so?

Remember, we all have our own K2s, our own figurative mountains that loom large above us like unconquerable peaks; it is how we choose to deal with them that allows us to grow and progress as humans. We can choose to settle on the easier trek because it has fewer risks. We can choose to succumb to the avalanche created by our fears and doubts and retreat to safety. Or we can choose to face our K2s head-on and tackle the difficult expedition to the summit, regardless of the sacrifices or rewards. And no matter where your challenges may be, whether they be on a mountain or in real life, ultimately, you will still need to approach them in the same manner that one climbs a mountain - one step at a time.

Enjoy the show!

--Janine Burgner

Friday, November 2, 2018

K2: Meet the Design Team

Janine Burgener (Director) is pleased to be directing her first show at Dragon. In the Bay Area, she has assistant directed Antigone (Broadway West) and Sherlock Holmes and…the Suicide Club (Silicon Valley Shakespeare). Other directing credits: Forever Plaid (Riverfront Theatre); The Whole Shebang and Les Pr├ęcieuses Ridicules (Nevada Repertory Company). Janine is also a proud member of Actors Equity. In addition to a national tour with Maximum Entertainment, she has performed in the Bay Area with 42nd Street Moon, San Francisco Playhouse, Playwrights Foundation, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, and the Willows Theatre

Larry Barrott (Assistant Director) K2 marks Larry’s first show with Dragon Theatre. A resident artist with Silicon Valley Shakespeare Company, he works as a director, fight choreographer, and actor throughout the South Bay. Larry is excited about this collaboration among such a talented team of artists and designers, bringing this powerful piece to Dragon’s stage. 
John Owens (Lighting Design) is a lighting designer for dance, theater, and live concerts. This is John’s first time working with Dragon Productions as a lighting designer. He has designed lights for the summer drama camp productions of Bring it On and School of Rock for the City of Pleasanton. John also designed lights for a concert for December People at Pleasanton’s Firehouse Arts Center. John has been working behind the scenes in theater professionally for over five years.  
Chrissie Schwanhausser (Stage Manager) is delighted to return to Dragon Productions! Last year she had the pleasure to stage manage multiple shows for Dragon, including The Further Adventures of Hedda GablerThe Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church, and Dead Accounts. Other past credits include stage managing for The Hood of Sherwood and Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Club for Silicon Valley Shakespeare and La Cage Aux Folles with Sunnyvale Community Players. She has also spent time as production assistant for Bay Are Children Theatre's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Elephant and Piggie.
Tom Shamrell (Set Designer) Tom is thrilled to be a part of this exciting team and have the opportunity to work with Dragon Productions. Tom didn’t discover his passion for theatre until later in life but has been working hard on making up for lost time in theaters around the bay area as an actor, director, teacher, set designer, property builder and much more. Tom holds a BA in Theatre Arts from San Jose State University and is a graduate of the Foothill Theatre Conservatory. 
Ambera DeLash (Costume Designer) is thrilled to be designing costumes for K2. De Lash received her BA in Theatre Arts and enjoyed making and designing costumes outside of performing on stage. Her credits are: All In The TimingA Murder is AnnouncedRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and I Hate Hamlet, with Broadway West; De Lash worked closely under the direction of Betty Pointdextor developing her skill-set by researching different time periods, creating costume renderings, and building costume pieces at San Jose State University. She also worked as the Wardrobe Supervisor for American Musical Theater on productions; Smokey Joe's Cafe, and Christmas Dreamland. De Lash is an educator during the day, and will continue completing her teaching credential and earning her Masters this year. Enjoy the show!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

K2: Meet the Cast

John Rutski (Producer / Harold) is thrilled to be working on the Dragon stage with his good friend Chuck as well as many of the crew members he has worked with in the past. Favorite roles include Benedick and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing, and Antipholus of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors (Silicon Valley Shakespeare); Marc in Art (Northside Theatre Company); and Gogo in Waiting for Godot (Fully Committed Productions / Santa Clara Players). Directorial credits: Antigone, A Few Good Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Broadway West Theatre Company); and Twelfth Night (Silicon Valley Shakespeare).

Chuck Phelps (Taylor) is thrilled and so very blessed in having the opportunity to debut alongside his old buddy John Rutski on the Dragon Theater stage. Our worlds collided in Waiting for Godot as Didi and Gogo, and a good 10 years later here we are again on K2 as Taylor and Harold. Favorite characters include Randle P. McMurphy in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Colonel Nathan Jessep in A Few Good Men, both of which were performed on the stage of Broadway West…we miss you Broadway West! The most magical show had to be Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s The Imaginary Invalid, where he inhabited the character of Argan, playing opposite Doll Piccotto’s Toinette. Fun, fun, fun! Other Silicon Valley favorites include Witch #3 and The Porter in the Scottish play, a drunk Pedant on stage throughout Taming of the Shrew, and their recent production of Romeo and Juliet where he played the patriarch Capulet. Chuck would also like to thank everyone who supports live theater. Without you, we would literally not be able to do this.