WHO WOULD BE KING

Violence and betrayal, angels and prophets, villains and kings…and chickens. Who rises to rule and how far will he fall in the great clown kingdom of Who Would Be King? This epic production by Liars & Believers swings from absurd buffoonery to high tragedy, with kinetic physicality, silliness, swords, and live synthwave music. Who Would Be King tells the story of a good man given an impossible task and asks, what separates good from great and what lies in the chasm between?

NEXT STOP: NEW YORK

ARTISTIC TEAM

DIRECTOR - Jason Slavick

Jason Slavick is the Artistic Director of Liars & Believers. For the LAB, he conceived and directed Who Would Be King, Yellow Bird Chase, and ICARUS (honorable mention for book and design, NYMF 2013). He wrote and directed Le Cabaret Grimm: a punk cabaret fairy tale {sans fairies} (best featured performer, best design, honorable mention for choreography NYMF 2012) and Song of Songs: a LoveRomp. Jason directed 28 Seeds, a collaboration with the steampunk band, Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, and he directed the LAB’s experimental project, Talk to Strangers. Jason was commissioned to write and direct Heaven & Hell: The Fantastical Temptation of the 7 Deadly Sins, at The Boston Conservatory in 2007. As a company member of Boston Theatre Works, Jason directed Othello (Elliot Norton Award nominated for Best Production and Best Actor), The Tempest, Antony & Cleopatra, and Macbeth. He developed and directed Emily Mann’s critically acclaimed Meshugah, Olga Humphrey’s Veronika Vavoom Volcanologist, and his own play J: a one-act improvised tragi-comedy. He also directed numerous developmental workshops and readings including Joyce Carol Oates’ The Tattooed Girl. Jason has directed throughout New England, in Tel Aviv, and in Philadelphia. Jason has also written and directed The Golem, Icaphish, and Alice: a Grotesque Turn in Twelve Scenes. Jason earned his MFA in directing from The Trinity Repertory Conservatory in Providence, where he had the great fortune to work with Oskar Eustis, Brian Kulick, and Kevin Moriarity. He also studied at the Dell Arte International School of Physical Theatre, the Eugene O’Neill National Theatre Institute, and the Warsaw Theatre Academy in Warsaw, Poland.

COMPOSER, MUSIC DIRECTOR - Jay Mobley

Jay Mobley is a Boston-based composer, music director, and performer. He is thrilled to return to the stage singing and playing in Who Would Be King in its third run. Previous music direction credits with Liars and Believers include ICARUS (NYMF/Cambridge/National Puppetry Festival). Regional music direction credits include Beowulf (The Poets’ Theatre) and NYSTI Summer Theatre Institute. He also produced podcasts for Sacred Space(Exchange Artists, Austin, TX) and was musical consultant for Der Vampyr(OperaHub, Boston). Jay’s music spans a wide range of genres has been performed by musicians throughout New York and New England, and on tour in Spain. Jay holds a MusB in music composition from Fredonia State University, and studied composition at New England Conservatory and conducting at Bard College Conservatory Conductors Institute.

DRAMATURG - Amanda Faye Martin

Amanda Faye Martin is a theater practitioner who has worked in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dublin, Boston, and toured nationwide. Favorite dramaturgical projects include A Big Mess and A Bright New Boise at the American Repertory Theater Institute, Waitress at the A.R.T, and Lessons from Lenny Bruce at Brandeis University. In addition to working with LAB, she writes and produces work as co-artistic director of Wormwood Theatre in Denver, CO, and is a freelance script and copywriter for various companies.

Aaron Sherkow

Aaron Sherkow is a designer who has been working with the LAB for the better part of a decade. He first collaborated with the LAB while pursuing his MFA at Boston University. He works as Technical Director and Lecturer at Lawrence University. He continues to collaborate on projects outside the department including Icarus with Liars & Believers, Twilight LA with Next Act Theatre, Romeo et Juliette with the Boston Opera Institute and Road to Mecca with Boston Center for American Performance. Working with the LAB on Who Would be King is exciting and he is thrilled to be working with this team to bring this performance to life.

COSTUME DESIGNER - Kendra Bell

Kendra is a full time member of faculty at Tufts University, where she teaches costume production and technology.  She has worked for Huntington Theater Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Glimmerglass Opera, and Hubbard Street Dance. Her design work includes 28 Seeds and Icarus (LAB), The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Company One), The Magic Flute (Raylynmore Opera), Peter (Braintree Films) and New England based professional wrestlers. She is honored to have received ACTF Award for Excellence in Costume Execution and a Elliot Norton Award for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Kendra holds a BFA in Studio Art from Millikin University and a MFA in Theatrical Design from Rutgers University.

SCENIC DESIGNER - Marc Ewart

Marc Ewart has worked in many departments of theatre production throughout his education and start of his career. He attended Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, NH where he graduated in 2005 cum laude with a B.A. in Theatre Arts with a concentration in directing. During his four years at F.P.C. he performed in many productions while also working in the costume and prop shop. There he appeared in productions of You Can’t Take It With You, The Laramie Project, Vertical Talking, Blood Brothers, and The Death of Don Juan. In 2003 he was honored to be a cast member in but the rain is full of ghosts by Robert Lawson, which attended the American College Theatre National Festival and performed on stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He has worked on many productions around Boston in many different departments including stage management, carpentry, set design, lighting design, costume design, and also selling tickets in the box office. He currently works freelance technical theatre and ushering in the Boston area. He is also the site manager of Pioneer Village: Salem 1630 in Salem, MA. With Liars&Believes he has stage managed Song of Songs: A LoveRomp and was ASM for Le Cabaret Grimm. He attributes much of his success in technical theatre to owning a pick-up truck.

FIGHT DIRECTOR - Ted Hewlett

Ted Hewlett (Fight Director) Liars & Believers: Who Would Be King (LAB debut). New York: Bill W. and Dr. Bob (Off-Broadway), Mettawee River Co., Pan Asian Rep, Lincoln Center Institute. Boston: Huntington Theatre, SITI Co./ArtsEmerson, American Repertory Theatre, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, New Rep, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Ballet, SpeakEasy Stage, Company One, Merrimack Rep, Gloucester Stage, Stoneham Theatre, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Children’s Theatre, Publick Theatre, Vineyard Playhouse, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Nora Theatre, Boston Theatre Works, Shakespeare Now, Commonwealth Shakespeare Co. Regional: Shakespeare Theatre, Shakespeare & Co., Syracuse Stage, Kennedy Center, Elm Shakespeare, Westchester Broadway Theatre, Fulton Opera House, Berkshire Theatre Festival, New Century Theatre, NYS Theatre Institute. Film: Gray Area. Training: MFA in Acting from Brandeis University; Academy of Theatrical Combat. Faculty: member of the full-time Acting Faculty at Emerson College.

PRODUCER - Becca Leifer

Becca Leifer is a director, designer, stage manager, producer, and theatre educator in the Greater Boston area. Becca earned a BA in Anthropology from Columbia University in New York and a BA in Bible Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Previous credits include: Le Cabaret Grimm (LAB), Marisol (Columbia University), Caligula(Time Square Arts Center), The How and The Why (One Bird Productions).

SOUND ENGINEER - Grace Oberhofer

Grace Oberhofer is a Tacoma, WA native and a Tufts graduate (s.c.l.) who works as a composer, performer, sound designer, and music director.  Since moving to Brooklyn, she has worked with the Adirondack Theater Festival, New Ohio, and the Tank, among others. Current compositions include choral play trilogy ICONS/IDOLS, musical After I Was Free, and A Doll’s House: A New Opera. Grace is a current member of the BMI Musical Theater Workshop, and is thrilled to be working with Liars & Believers on this beautiful show.

ASSISTANT LIGHTING DIRECTOR - Bethany Naylor

Bethany Naylor is thrilled to working in NYC with Liars & Believers. Previously she has worked as an intern, lighting designer and assistant designer at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London (Twelfth Night, Made2Move Dance Show), as an assistant designer at Door Shakespeare (Julius CaesarA Midsummer Night’s Dream) and as a lighting designer at Lawrence University (Much Ado About Nothing, Gaines Student Playwright Series). In addition to Who Would Be King, she is also working on designing Next to Normal at Lawrence University.

STAGE MANAGER - Julia Fioravanti

Julia Fioravanti graduated in May 2016 from Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, TN. While at TWC Julia acquired a wide variety of skills including acting, costume design, set design, directing, and stage managing. In working onstage and off at TWC Julia found a love particularly for stage management and focused on building her SM resume with credits including Our TownAs You Like ItA Night of Blacker Darkness, and Twelfth Night. In 2014 Julia helped found the Children’s Theatre of Athens and worked as an instructor and resident SM. Throughout college Julia also worked with Salt & Light Dance Studios on a variety of productions ranging from dance recitals to fully realized musicals. Julia recently completed the 2016 Stage Management Apprenticeship Program with Gloucester Stage Company working as ASM and run crew on all of the main stage productions and continued as ASM for the New York run of Man in Snow at La Mama. Since her apprenticeship Julia has worked with the Boston Children’s Theatre, Fresh Ink Theatre, and now LAB. Julia is very excited to be given the opportunity to work with this amazing group of theatre artists and to bring Who Would Be King to the New York stage!

SET BUILDER - Ben Lieberson

Ben Lieberson is a Boston-based freelance technical director as well as a scenic designer. He has recently built sets for Bad Habit Productions, Fort Point Theatre Channel, and Brown Box Theatre Project. Design credits include Really (Company One Theatre), Brilliant TracesThe Taming of the Shrew, and Echoes (Brown Box Theatre Project), The Good Body (Hub Theatre Company), Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo(Flat Earth Theatre), It’s Not About My Mother (Fresh Ink Theatre).

www.benlieberson.com

ADDITIONAL SCENIC DESIGNER AND PROPS - Rebecca Lehrhoff

Rebecca Lehrhoff (Sam, Scenic Designer) is a LAB company member based in Somerville MA whose work ranges from acting, theater devising and dance to set design, art installation and mural painting. Rebecca first appeared dancing Butoh in the company’s co-lab production, Interference and has been a part of Who Would Be King since it’s conception. Rebecca holds a MFA in Contemporary Performance from Naropa University and a B.S. in Theater from Skidmore College. Previous acting credits include: The Princess & The Pea, Princess Posy (Imaginary Beasts), Beowulf, thane (Poets’ Theatre), Sacred Spaces Redux(Exchange Artists), Enigma Variations, Eric Larson (Flat Earth Theater), The Good Woman of Setzuan, Mrs. Mi Tzu (Fort Point Theater Channel), King Arthur, Aurelius (Poets’ Theater), Beck: Song Reader(Chimera Lab Dance Theater), and Mad Forest, Lucia (Naropa University). Select scenic design credits include: How Soft the Lining (Bad Habit Productions), From the Sea (Flotsam Productions), Polish Joke (Titanic Theater Company), The Farnsworth Invention (Flat Earth Theater- IRNE Award- Best Fringe Show) and Chalk (Fresh Ink Theater).

CAST

D - Veronica Barron

Veronica Barron creates & performs physically exuberant theatre, using puppetry, clown, and the human body. With Liar& Believers, she performed as The Balladeer/Lead Puppeteer in ICARUS (Off-Broadway: Signature Theater/NYMF; Regional: Oberon @A.R.T., Outside the Box Festival; Puppeteers of America National Festival), and created original works forInterference and Talk To Strangers (Oberon @A.R.T.). She has toured as a puppeteer with Kid Koala’s multimedia live film Nufonia Must Fall (Regional: Walker Arts Center, University Musical Society, & others), and appeared on Boston stages with the Huntington Theatre Company (Ether Dome), the Central Square Theater (Arabian Nights), and others. She composed new music and vocal arrangements for Central Square Theater’s Her Aching Heart, and for Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom Whistler in the Dark Theater. Her original short Winning Higgins’s Love: A Clown Tragedy, with co-creator Aimee Rose Ranger, has been presented at Puppet Showplace Theater, Boston’s First Night and Outside the Box Festivals, and others. She also facilitates street dance experiences for young and old with the School of Honk community brass band. Veronica holds a BFA in Theater Arts from Boston University, where her studies included collaborative playmaking, a physical approach to acting, and classical Indian dance-theater.

veronicabarron.com

JONATHAN - Jesse Garlick

Jesse Garlick is a theatre maker and educator located in Boston. Previous Liars & Believers credits include Who Would Be KingYellow Bird Chase and Talk to Strangers. Off-Broadway credits include Good (PTP/NYC). Regional credits include GoodAssassins (New Repertory Theatre), Journey to the WestArcadia (Central Square Theatre), Beowulf (Poets Theatre), Salome (Bridge Repertory Company), A Midsummer Nights Dream (Classic Repertory Company). Jesse is also a faculty member at the ECI department at Boston Ballet and is the freshman drama teacher at Newton South High School. He received his BFA in Acting from Boston University and has studied at the Dell’Arte Program in Arezzo, Italy.

SAM - Rebecca Lehrhoff

Rebecca Lehrhoff (Sam, Scenic Designer) is a LAB company member based in Somerville MA whose work ranges from acting, theater devising and dance to set design, art installation and mural painting. Rebecca first appeared dancing Butoh in the company’s co-lab production, Interference and has been a part of Who Would Be King since it’s conception. Rebecca holds a MFA in Contemporary Performance from Naropa University and a B.S. in Theater from Skidmore College. Previous acting credits include: The Princess & The Pea, Princess Posy (Imaginary Beasts), Beowulf, thane (Poets’ Theatre), Sacred Spaces Redux(Exchange Artists), Enigma Variations, Eric Larson (Flat Earth Theater), The Good Woman of Setzuan, Mrs. Mi Tzu (Fort Point Theater Channel), King Arthur, Aurelius (Poets’ Theater), Beck: Song Reader(Chimera Lab Dance Theater), and Mad Forest, Lucia (Naropa University). Select scenic design credits include: How Soft the Lining (Bad Habit Productions), From the Sea (Flotsam Productions), Polish Joke (Titanic Theater Company), The Farnsworth Invention (Flat Earth Theater- IRNE Award- Best Fringe Show) and Chalk (Fresh Ink Theater).

SAUL - Glen Moore

Glen Moore is delighted to take on the role of Saul once again, after a successful run at the Philly Fringe Festival. As an artistic ensemble member with Liars & Believers, he helped devise this production over the course of 2015. He was last seen in the New England Regional Premiere as Gene in The Last Schwartz with Gloucester Stage Company. Boston area credits include; BLINDERS (Flat Earth Theatre), The Importance of Being Ernest (Moonbox Productions), Of Mice and Men(Boston Children’s Theatre), CLOSER (Bad Habit Productions), Of Mice and Men (Moonbox), The Time of My Life (Zeitgeist Stage Company),  And Nither Had I Wings to Fly (BHP),  Arcadia (BHP), Eurydice (Independent Drama Society) Regional Theatre; Speech And Debate (Curious Theatre Company). He holds a B.A. in acting from The University of Northern Colorado and also studied briefly at The National Theatre Conservatory. Glen is an Equity Membership Candidate with AEA and has worked as an acting coach in Boston and Denver both privately and with Model and Talent Management Agency. He would like to thank his friends and family for all their support.

AGNES - Rachel Wiese

Rachel Wiese, LAB Artistic Associate: Who Would Be King. Regional: Metamorphoses, and Wildflowers (Zach Theatre). Boston area: Beowulf (Poet’s Theatre). Austin area: Lifelines and Hometeam (Vetworks), Sacred Space Redux and A Streetcar Straight to Hell(The Exchange Artists), Frankenstein and The Jungle (Trouble Puppet Theatre), Marvelous Things, People Will Talk About You Sometimes, and Her Little Prince (Poison Apple Initiative), Oceana (The Vortex). Filmography at imdb.com. She is also the Producing Artistic Director of The Exchange Artists, exchangeartists.org.

BEHIND THE SCENES

A note from the dramaturg

BY AMANDA FAYE MARTIN

Who Would Be King is not a theatrical translation of a biblical tale, but a story reimagined, inspired by the idea of a man who tries his best but is swallowed by insecurity. While the culminating world premiere may seem no different from a play rehearsed with a pre-written script, it was uniquely created between collaborative theater artists and their continued dialogue with the public. Through an artistic residency at Oberon, Liars & Believers began the devising process by improvising around concepts in the Bible’s account of Saul, the largely forgotten king before David, the hero who slayed Goliath. Throughout three month-long workshops and two public presentations with post-show audience feedback, countless revisions have been made over the course of the eighteen-month developmental process. The play has inspired numerous discussions and subsequent modifications, but the establishment of a cohesive through-line and the relationship between physical and spiritual worlds presented interesting dramaturgical challenges.

While the Bible interweaves the stories of Saul and David, Who Would Be King has become less about tracking the crown and divine favor, and more about the universality of Saul’s predicament. The first few drafts presented multiple, switching protagonists; we tracked Sam the prophet, Saul, and then D (our iteration of David). The current form reflects feedback we received after the first staged reading, which indicated the need to focus on a character and theme. During revisions, we revisited the catalyzing impulse to retell this story, which was to explore how Saul’s condition reflects the all-too-familiar sense of desiring success and being unable to find solace. Though he leads a prosperous kingdom for twenty years after losing God’s favor, Saul feels like a fraud, always on the verge of being discovered. Without divine support, Saul becomes insecure, certain he will never be good enough. His downfall was not a result of ineptitude, but self-doubt.

In addition to narrowing in on Saul’s journey, divine presence has become a core area of investigation and change throughout the process. In both our story and the Bible’s, we see God thrust Saul, an ordinary farmer, into Kingship after the people of a lawless region demand a leader. Though originally skeptical, Saul settles into his role after defeating opposition, but loses God’s favor by failing to blindly follow commands. Instructed to not only destroy a village, but “wipe out the memory” of a people, Saul appeals to a sense of personal rather than divine morality and makes a series of choices that a modern audience would consider reasonable. Rejecting Saul, God anoints D, who follows the Lord’s law to the letter.

The God in this story seems elusive, and somewhat callous. If omniscient, why would God ordain Saul, if his best couldn’t be good enough? Doing so would imply that God either lacks knowledge, or punishes an innocent man by pushing him into a necessarily unwinnable situation. God’s actions raise questions, but the character remains mysterious, its motives unseen and evaded. God’s messages are twice removed; an angel relays God’s commands to a prophet, who communicates with Saul. In Who Would Be King, the feeling of this distance has increased over the play’s many iterations. In the beginning of the process, the word “God” was uttered by both divine and mortal characters, but is only directly mentioned by the angel and prophet in the final version. The people are influenced by God, but seem to have no concept of or attachment to an omnipresent Lord. Though Saul cares deeply about divine favor, his relationship with God is distanced, confused, and frustrating; he often asks for help, but is largely met with silence.

The development of Agnes the angel proved to be a significant challenge as we explored God’s presence and absence in the world. Dramaturgically, the angel isn’t necessary to further the plot; the angel and prophet could combine to form one messenger of God. In the first public presentation of the piece, Agnes seemed distracted, providing information and comic relief, but conveyed little about theological issues. While Agnes momentarily faced obliteration or transformation into a nonhuman stage device, she transformed into a character that not only delivers messages, but also seeks to provide comfort in the world. Though Agnes still occasionally mentions the name “God,” she no longer indicates God’s gender, and frequently uses sobriquets to describe the big “now and later.” Such language better establishes the angel as a symbol of divine distance. Additionally, we now witness God dismiss Saul and Agnes simultaneously – once Agnes’ task of making Saul king is terminated, she finds herself adrift and must find a new place in the universe. No longer an angel of God, Agnes becomes silent, physically representing morphing spirituality. At the second staged reading, Agnes inspired fervent conversation amongst audience members, who found her to be a fascinating, provocative demonstration of God’s evolving presence in the play.

The key to understanding Agnes was to give her a distinct objective and explore how her predicament parallels that of the central character; both Agnes and Saul have a job to do, seem to be given little guidance, but go on despite uncertainty and rejection. Many characters in Who Would Be King have a job and do it, despite feeling totally alone and uncertain how to succeed. They keep going because there’s nothing to be done in a role you fell into, other than doing what you can, even if you don’t know what is good or bad, or why you fell into the situation. Such an idea is both biblical and distinctly post-modern, echoing Beckett’s sentiment; “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on” (The Unnamable).

Our process as devised theater makers is as difficult as it is fun. Like Saul, we continually desire to be better, and constantly revise as we negotiate how to effectively communicate the ideas that inspire us within the source material, and what we were moved by in the first place. We go on because of stories like this, that echo the past and resonate in the present, and desire to impart the same sense of empathy and wonder we feel while exploring the characters and world that keep us coming back.

HISTORY

May 18, 2015 – Who Would Be King had a workshop presentation at OBERON in Cambridge, MA.

September 2, 2015 – Staged reading at OBERON in Cambridge, MA.

November 2015 – Who Would Be King premiered at OBERON in Cambridge, MA .

September 2016 – It played at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

PRESS

“…a re-mixed trove of biblical tales told in a compelling and timeless way with great humor, and great humanity.”

Danielle Rosvally, NE Theatre Geek

“…the buffoonery is delightful… ingenious score… fight choreography is stellar… Liars and Believers make this challenging journey from the sunny to the sinister with impressive ease.”.”

Jess Viator, Arts Fuse

“It’s gorgeous, immersive, ambient spectacle… Who Would Be King is a silly, subversive show with something profound at its core, a sharp wit and a big heart…”

Madison Friend, New Worcester Spy

“Liars and Believers draws once again on their bulging theatrical tool kit…. This is a show with a heart, a mind, and red plastic noses all around.”

Kilian Melloy, Edge Media Network