News Releases - Stage & Theatre
Written by Tyson Danner   
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 09:41

From May 16 through June 1, Davenport's QC Theatre Workshop will present Sam Shepard's True West, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's lauded comedy about two contentious, long-separated brothers. Yet in a risky and exciting area experiment, neither the production's patrons nor its actors will know who is playing which leading role until just before the play begins, as the casting of siblings Austin and Lee, for each performance, will be determined by an audience member flipping a coin.

True West will be staged at the QC Theatre Workshop (1730 Wilkes Avenue, Davenport, IA) Fridays through Sundays, May 16 through June 1. Friday and Saturday performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. with the doors opening at 7 p.m., and the Sunday shows start at 3 p.m., with doors opening at 2:30 p.m. Due to occasional strong language and violence, the play is recommended for patrons of high-school age or older.

A 2000 Tony Award nominee for Best Play, True West is an intense, funny, explosive tale of polar-opposite brothers: Austin, a mild-mannered screenwriter hoping to score his big break, and Lee, an unpredictable and volatile drifter hoping to score any way he can. Shepard's play opens with the men meeting again after five years apart, and over the next 90 minutes, True West explores the maddening, hilarious, and dangerous bonds shared by family, resulting in a work the New York Times praised as “a great American play, arguably Mr. Shepard's finest.”

True West's Broadway engagement famously had leading actors John C. Reilly and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman – both of them Tony-nominated – alternating the roles of Austin and Lee throughout the show's run. This inspired QC Theatre Workshop director Tyson Danner to try a similar approach for his production of True West, but with an added caveat: Instead of scheduling which actor would play which role in advance, the casting would be determined by a flipped coin mere minutes before each performance.

“We wanted to find a way to keep the performances spontaneous,” says Danner, who also serves as the Workshop's Artistic Director. “And because I was already crazy enough to ask the leading actors to play two characters, I decided we might as well go all the way with it and let the audience in on the fun.”

Alternating the roles of Austin and Lee are local actors Jeremy Mahr and Mike Schulz. Although True West marks his first appearance as an actor in a Workshop production (having previously served as a crew member in Private Eyes), Mahr previously performed at the venue in the Prenzie Players' Bear Girl and The Rover, and has also been seen in area works including the Green Room Theatre's Doubt, the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's Arcadia, and the Curtainbox Theatre Company's Wit. Schulz, meanwhile, performed alongside Mahr in The Rover and the Prenzies' Cyrano de Bergerac, appeared in the Workshop productions How I Learned to Drive, A Green River, and Red, and co-created and directed the company's 2013 musical revue Last Call: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim.

Says Danner, “It's rare to find actors willing to tackle such complicated, dynamic roles – not to mention two roles at the same time. Without Jeremy's and Mike's vast experience, talent, and guts, there's no way we'd be able to attempt such a unique and exciting approach.”

Filling out True West's four-person cast are two area performers making their Workshop debuts: Brent Tubbs, who plays the Hollywood producer Saul, and Susan Perrin-Sallak, who portrays Austin's and Lee's mother. Tubbs is a frequent performer with Rock Island's ComedySportz troupe and an instructor at Davenport Junior Theatre, and was a longtime member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, for which he toured Holland, Belgium, and across the United States. And Perrin-Sallak is a familiar presence on local stages, with credits including Next Fall and Other Desert Cities for New Ground Theatre, Doubt for the District Theatre, and Electra and The Winter's Tale for Genesius Guild.

“I am beyond excited for the opportunity to present this one-of-a-kind production in our community,” says Danner. “As a director, I usually enjoy rehearsals more than performances, due to all the fun and experimentation that can happen in the rehearsal room. But this may be the first time that the performances will be more unpredictable than the rehearsals!”

As with the Workshop's seven previous productions, True West will be presented under the Workshop's “Pay What It's Worth” pricing policy in which guests see the play first and then pay on their way out, allowing viewers to determine what the experience was worth to them personally. This innovative strategy was designed to create a wholly accessible theatrical experience for patrons regardless of financial means, and the policy's great success – ever since the Workshop's 2012's debut presentation Red – has allowed it to continue for True West.

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True West Performance Schedule

Friday, May 16, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 17, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 18, 3 p.m.

Friday, May 23, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 24, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 25, 3 p.m.

Friday, May 30, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 31, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 1, 3 p.m.



QC Theatre Workshop

1730 Wilkes Avenue

Davenport, IA, 52804



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