Killin’ it

The Yellow Springs Theater Company debuts new work

By Joyell Nevins

Photo: Thor Sage, who wrote “Killers,” also plays antagonist Kurt

Newly formed, The Yellow Springs Theater Company states it in its mission that it seeks to “fearlessly examine and illuminate the human condition” in theatre that challenges the mind and expands the heart. “Killers,” a comedic drama that depicts the story of one man’s battle against his true nature, is right in line with that mission.

“We expect people to talk about the show after they leave, questioning what they just saw,” actor and playwright Thor Sage said.

The two-man play opens with Todd, played by Ed Knapp. Todd is a hiker who has strayed off the well-traveled path into the woods and is now immobile. The antagonist character Kurt, played by Sage himself, may be able to save him, but only if Todd does what Kurt wants. Beware, though – in this play, not much is what it seems.

“The audience won’t be sure where the ground is,” Sage said.

Thomas explained the play can be watched on two different levels. “On the outside, it’s an unfolding of who the characters are,” she said. “But there are a lot of levels in the script that push you on a more intellectual basis.”

Thomas uses the analogy of a Disney film – how kids can watch one and enjoy it while adults can watch the same movie and appreciate a whole other level of humor and message. “You can watch what’s going on the stage and get it,” Thomas said of “Killers.” “But there is a whole other level you may or may not notice. Two people seeing the same show may have totally different conclusions.”

“Killers” actually started as a culminating project, similar to a thesis, when Sage was at Antioch College in the early 2000s. Sage was fascinated by concepts introduced by writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Hobbes about the sometimes brutal and selfish natural condition, or true nature, of mankind. His show is more of a character study than a plot-driven narrative.

“I wanted to show the structure and solidity in the characters without using any type of narrative,” Sage said.

He also wanted to play to the audience’s intellect.

“I was very interested in writing dialogue that is economical – I wanted to show the audience, not tell the audience,” Sage said. “Through getting to know the characters, we understand their primary motivations.”

The play was performed as a reading in front of his classmates, but Sage didn’t want “Killers” to end there.

“I didn’t want the play just to go in the drawer forever,” he said.

Fast-forward a decade, and when the The Yellow Springs Theater Company was determining what would be part of its inaugural season, “Killers” came back out of the drawer. The core company saw the show as a perfect complement to what it was trying to do, said company founder and “Killers” producer Lorrie Sparrow.

“We want people to have an opportunity to explore and push theatrical boundaries,” Sparrow said.

Sage related the rehearsals and readings of “Killers” to an extended workshop, as he was able to make changes to the show “as need be.”

“It causes a degree of transformation you don’t expect,” Sage said of his script.

Another layer is added by Thomas’ use of blocking and staging. As a dancer and choreographer, Thomas said she is used to telling a story without any words.

“I work a lot on the blocking and how it tells the story,” she said. “The actors are very good at intention. They tell the story through what they say; I tell the story through where they are.”

Whether it’s through what you see, hear or feel, “Killers” is almost guaranteed to provoke your mind and keep you engaged.

“It’s pretty darn interesting to watch,” Thomas said.

Please note, “Killers” contains strong language. The show will be held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7-8 and Nov. 14-15 at the newly refurbished Foundry Theater at Antioch College, 920 Corry St. in Yellow Springs. Showtimes are 8 p.m. on Fridays and 8 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets are $10 per person. There will also be a benefit reception on Saturday, Nov. 15 prior to the 8 p.m. performance. Space is limited to 45 audience members per show. For more information, please call 937.708.1255 or visit the The Yellow Springs Theater Company Facebook page.

Reach DCP freelance writer Joyell Nevins at JoyellNevins@DaytonCityPaper.com.Page

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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