The House of Blue Leaves

The House of Blue Leaves

The House of Blue Leaves

By John Guare
Directed by Barbara Damashek
Main Season · Roda Theatre
September 6–October 20, 2002

Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission

“The Pope at Yankee Stadium-some guy. Boy, isn’t that Pope some guy! You ever met him in your travels?…You Watch. That gang war in Vietnam—over tomorrow.”

Artie Shaughnessy is thirsting for change. Emboldened by his girlfriend, Bunny Flingus, Artie dreams of leaving Queens behind to compose music for Hollywood movies. However, several obstacles stand in the way: his zookeeper job, his mentally unstable wife Bananas, and his AWOL son Ronnie, who is plotting to bomb the visiting Pope! The fabulously creative Barbara Damashek (Rhinoceros) returns to Berkeley Rep to direct this hilarious dark comedy about a family consumed by elaborate ideas of fame. One of the defining stories of its era, The House of Blue Leaves captures the flavor of the sixties—a time of transition, turmoil, heartbreak and opportunity.

Creative team

John Guare · Playwright
William Bloodgood · Scenic Design
Beaver Bauer · Costume Design
York Kennedy · Lighting Design
Matthew Spiro · Sound Design
Barbara Damashek · Director / Musical Direction
Lynne Soffer · Dialect Coach
Gregory Hoffman · Fight Coordinator
Luan Schooler · Dramaturg
Amy Potozkin · Casting
Michael Suenkel · Production Stage Manager
Cynthia Cahill · Stage Manager
Elisabeth Millican · Assistant Director
Thaddeus Pinkston · Pianist

Cast

Wilma Bonet · Head Nun
Jeri Lynn Cohen · Bunny Flingus
Bill Geisslinger · Billy Einhorn
Jeffrey Hoffman · Man in White
Adam Ludwig · Ronnie Shaughnessy
Jarion Monroe · Artie Shaughnessy
Craig Neibaur · Military Policeman
Margaret Schenck · Second Nun
Susannah Schulman · Corrinna Stroller
Mollie Stickney · Little Nun
Rebecca Wisocky · Bananas Shaughnessy

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Prologue: from the Artistic Director

The last twelve months have been tumultuous, to say the least. As a country, our physical and economic security has been deeply shaken, our definition of patriotism has been forcefully challenged, our confidence in the future has faltered. We are engaged in a struggle to preserve our freedoms—of speech, religion and assembly—while also preserving our security, a struggle that has led some to declare that when besieged, it is wrong—even treasonous—to question the actions of our leaders. Yet even in this environment, when the urge to make stark divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ has been strong and the desire for unity has occasionally been overridden by a drive for conformity, it is clear that good citizenship relies on our ability to continually question, examine, argue and change the rhetoric and practices of our society. The Greeks believed that catharsis was at the heart of democracy, that the act of purging spiritual or emotional darkness by bringing it into the communal light enabled the polis to act with justice, wisdom and beneficence. Catharsis not only promotes right action, it is also a healing balm for terror, anxiety and sorrow. Certainly we could do with such restorative qualities now.

In planning the upcoming 2002–03 season, we selected plays that we hope will help bring about catharsis. It is a mix of new and older plays whose ideas have become imminently important in light of contemporary events. Regardless of the style or tone of any individual play—realistic, epic or fable—each one seeks a meaningful understanding of our lives. Our first three productions—The House of Blue Leaves, Menocchio and Haroun and the Sea of Stories—are vested with an essentially comic spirit, even as they probe compelling issues. Playwright/director Lillian Groag populates Menocchio with a host of wildly eccentric characters whose behavior becomes literally hysterical when confronted with the ruminations of an independent thinker. Salman Rushdie wrote the novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories (from which our play is adapted) for his young son; it’s the story of a young boy’s quest to save the world’s story-source from destruction. Haroun raises questions about fascism, conformity and the immigrant experience, all within the context of a sweet-spirited tale of fantastical adventure. The House of Blue Leaves is John Guare’s black comedy about the perils of living with an overweening hunger for fame. A modern American classic, this play captures the psychic disconnect between mundane reality and a dream life that is governed by Andy Warhol’s maxim that “everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” Three very different plays with very different styles, each seeking catharsis—a release that seeks to enable us to move forward.

We hope that these plays will both entertain you and provoke conversations about the way we live in the world today. Perhaps through such conversations we can find catharsis. Thank you for coming to Berkeley Rep.

Tony Taccone

Fame

“Many have deplored the effects of entertainment and celebrity on America, and there is certainly much to deplore. While an entertainment-driven, celebrity-oriented society is not necessarily one that destroys all moral value, as some would have it, it is one in which the standard of value is whether or not something can grab and then hold the public’s attention. It is a society in which those things that do not conform—for example, serious literature, serious political debate, serious ideas, serious anything—are more likely to be compromised or marginalized than ever before. It is a society in which celebrities become paragons because they are the ones who have learned how to steal the spotlight, no matter what they have done to steal it. And at the most personal level, it is a society in which individuals have learned to prize social skills that permit them, like actors, to assume whatever role the occasion demands and to ‘perform’ their lives rather than just live them. The result is that Homo sapiens are rapidly becoming Homo scaenicus—man the entertainer.”—Neal Gabler, Life the Movie, How Entertainment Conquered Reality (Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1998)

“Nowadays if you’re a crook you’re still considered up-there. You can write books, go on TV, give interviews—you’re a big celebrity and nobody even looks down on you because you’re a crook. You’re still really up-there. This is because more than anything people just want stars.”—Andy Warhol

“The acquisition of my tape recorder really finished whatever emotional life I might have had, but I was glad to see it go.”—Andy Warhol

“If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”—Andy Warhol

“If I’d gone ahead and died ten years ago, I’d probably be a cult figure today.”—Andy Warhol

America 1965

Mr. Blackwell’s Worst Dressed Women of 1965

  • Princess Margaret Rose—A grand revival of Charlie’s Aunt with a rock ‘n’ roll beat.
  • Barbra Streisand—Ringo Starr in drag.
  • Brigitte Bardot—It’s a good thing no one recognizes her with her clothes on because she dressed like Eve Fleeing the Garden of Eden one step ahead of the cops.
  • Mia Farrow—Stretch pants on angel food with hot fudge frosting. She dresses like a 12-year-old and dates Frank Sinatra.
  • Phyllis Diller—Early disaster. One look at her and birds are ashamed of feathers.
  • Julie Andrews—Box pleats and old lavender direct from the 1940 Montgomery Ward catalogue.
  • Madame Charles de Gaulle—Behind every successful man there is a woman, and this one is about twenty years behind.
  • Lucille Ball—Halloween trick without the treat. Lucy, dear, shoulder pads went out with the black bottom.
  • Bette Davis—Whatever happened to Baby Jane? She became Tallulah Bankhead cast as Marshal Dillon.
  • Elizabeth Taylor—In tight sweaters and skirts she looks like a chain of link sausages.

Top 10 Songs of 1965

  • “The Sound of Silence,” Simon and Garfunkel
  • “We Can Work It Out,” The Beatles
  • “My Love,” Petula Clark
  • “Lightnin’ Strikes,” Lou Christie
  • “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,” Nancy Sinatra
  • “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” Sgt. Barry Sadler
  • “Soul and Inspiration,” The Righteous Brothers
  • “Good Lovin,” The Young Rascals
  • “Monday, Monday,” The Mamas and the Papas
  • “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Percy Sledge

Top 10 TV Shows of 1965

  • Bonanza
  • Gomer Pyle, USMC
  • The Lucy Show
  • The Red Skelton Hour
  • Batman (Thursdays)
  • The Andy Griffith Show
  • Bewitched
  • The Beverly Hillbillies
  • Hogan’s Heroes
  • Batman (Wednesdays)