As Easter & Passover draw near, thoughts turn to stories of persecution, liberation, and rebirth. Joshua Crone’s award-winning play examines those themes against the background of the 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College.
Crone’s stage/screen hybrid tells the story of a school shooter who invades the lives of a teenage evangelist, a juvenile delinquent, and a youth pastor with a troubled past, forcing them to ask whether faith is worth dying for — and if not, how to go on living.
Crone’s WASHED in the BLOOD, his second west-to-east coast transfer, will premiere at the NuBox Theater. Winner, Encore Producer’s Award at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival, it was called “A tightly-wound piece that packs considerable emotion into its brief run time” by Kurt Gardner, ArtsBeatLA.
The NuBox Theater at John DeSotelle Studio, 754 9th Ave, New York City.
ONE WEEK ONLY: Friday, April 26 @ 8 pm, Saturday, April 27 @ 3 & 8 pm, and Sunday, April 28 @ 3 & 8 pm – Tickets: $25/$15
Joshua Crone leads a fascinating life. While he’s here, we sat down with Joshua Crone about his show and his artistic mission.
Josh, welcome. Tell us about you and your mission.
I started writing plays as a Marine in Southern California and spent the next decade supporting my habit with jobs as a carpenter, programmer, fisherman, teacher, before settling on a career in Polish and German translation. Along the way, I produced plays in Krakow, Berlin and London, earned a Masters in philosophy from the Jagiellonian University and studied directing at the Polish National Film School in Lodz. Then I moved to Los Angeles, where I crewed on half a dozen films at AFI, produced several plays, including Washed in the Blood, and shot my first feature. Last August I moved to New York and produced Squatters, a two-hander about 9/11. My mission is to develop a hybrid art form that remains true to the theatre’s roots in poetry, myth, and ritual, yet takes advantage of the technical and narrative possibilities of digital projection, augmented reality, motion capture, and animation.
What was it about the Umpqua Community College shooting sparked you to create this play?
There was something deeply moving in the reports of students answering yes when asked at gunpoint if they believed in God. I’ve always admired those who are willing to suffer, even die, for their beliefs, religious or otherwise. As I read the reports I asked myself: What would I have done as a younger man with fewer doubts? And if, in the moment of truth, I had denied my beliefs like Peter or Galileo, what then? That was the point of departure for Washed in the Blood.
Why did you choose to use film sequences?
I spent my thirties bouncing between the formal extremes of pure theatre and pure film. Case in point: my LA premiere Solitaire. It grew out of a short film script about Abu Ghraib, written in Poland for John Steppling‘s Death Penalty Project. Years later, in Berlin, that screenplay became the germ of a full length play called Solitaire. And when I moved to LA in 2014, I combined both approaches into a stage play that relies heavily on found footage shot guerilla-style at an actual Marine Corps Graduation. The lessons from that experience were fresh in my mind when I wrote Washed in the Blood, and I developed a story that could only be told effectively in hybrid form.
You do stage and film. What makes you decide what is be made into a play and what is to be a film?
If a story can be told in images alone, then film is the right medium. If only language can capture the nuances of meaning and feeling, it’s probably a play idea. And if the heart of the matter lies in the dialogue between image and text, as in ancient alchemical writings, Blake’s illuminated manuscripts or Jung’s Red Book, then a hybrid approach is best.
What do you hope to accomplish by this presentation?
Whether I’m writing about a torturer (Solitaire), a potential terrorist (Manifesto), or, in this case, a school shooter, my goal is to humanize those who are easily dismissed as monsters–not for shock effect or to justify their behavior, but to get to the root of the problem of human suffering. Society tends to be reactive, to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. What has always drawn me to playwrights like Brecht is their will to see past individual psychology and diagnose society through the individual, even if I disagree with their diagnosis. In a nutshell, I want to make people think and feel.
Where will it go next?
The goal for this production is a double bill with my New York debut Squatters, ideally a full run at a larger venue like The Tank.
Where do you go next?
I have a short play premiering May 1 at The Tank as part of You Are Not Alone, a festival of short plays directed by Squatters costar Dori Levit and centered around the anguish, stigma and difficulty of coping with mental illness. My contribution, The Jail at Philippi, was inspired by the true story of a therapist arrested for treating depression with magic mushrooms. In a similar vein, I recently wrote The Journey, a psychedelic comedy about a conservative young man who decides to take ayahuasca with his fiancée’s family to earn her father’s blessing. It’s very much an LA story, but I’d love to premiere it at the New York Fringe Festival. Then there’s Ashes, Ashes, my new play about the bombing of Hiroshima. A reading of it recently took place in LA with Japanese-American actress Kazumi Aihara and acclaimed theatre and film director Robert Allan Ackerman. The goal is to premiere the play in 2020, the 75th anniversary of the bombing. And finally, I’m still looking for financing for my second feature, A Farewell Tour. It’s a film about the death of a Japanese-American tour guide, an estranged member of an ancient family of Noh actors.