WEST COAST PREMIERE! China is not kidding. It's time to go. It's 2017. Crushing national debt and debilitating unemployment have compelled the United States to sell Florida to China for five trillion dollars. The South Florida Christian Militia is leading an insurgency in the Everglades to oust the Chinese. How far will they go to keep the States united? This darkly comedic, high-octane political allegory is a West Coast Premiere.
RAVES FROM THE SACRED FOOLS PRODUCTION:
"Satire can make unpalatable truths digestible. Sacred Fools Theatre Company has always been one to push the boundaries... With their latest show, the west-coast premiere of Ken Ferrigni’s Occupation, they successfully lure frivolity into something more unsavory... While all performances are rich and believable, the women here are particularly magnetic... DeAnne Millais’ set effectively transports the audience... When you apply the play’s supposedly absurd circumstances to current events, the comedic veil lifts, leaving one with an Orwellian unease." -Stage Raw (PICK OF THE WEEK)
"I was enthralled from the git-go... witty and profound... Don't wait to see this West Coast Premiere! Everybody will be talking about it." -Discover Hollywood
RAVES FROM THE ORIGINAL PRODUCTION:
"Idiocracy-meets-Red Dawn doesn't begin to cover the result: The exciting young playwright Ken Ferrigni blends redneck caricature with hip-hop anarchy and giddy pessimism to create a suicide vest of a satire." -New York Magazine
"...a powerful, insightful, cynical, and timely take on survival. One sure footed absurdity follows the next. Language is sinewy with some speeches so unique and well crafted I find myself searching them out in a supplied script for the sheer pleasure of revisiting." -WomenAroundTown.com
Friday, April 10: DONATE WHAT YOU CAN. It's "Pay What You Can" with a twist! Half of all proceeds for this performance will be donated to Spirit of America, which provides humanitarian and economic assistance in response to needs identified by deployed US troops and diplomats serving in the world’s most challenging places. Tickets that night may only be purchased at the door. Call (310) 281-8337 to make a reservation.
Halle Charlton as Bets
Alyssa Preston as Kell Cartwright
Rebecca Larsen as Maria "Mei Mei" Burrus
K.J. Middlebrooks as Gare Cartwright
Robert Paterno as Deng Zedong
Brandon Bales as Florian Hale
Bruno Oliver as Bay Ray
Du'Ana Speights as Bets
Sharon Freedman as Kell Cartwright
Natalie Rose as Maria "Mei Mei" Burrus
Joshua Benton as Gare Cartwright
Kenny Leu as Deng Zedong
Scott Golden as Florian Hale
Lead Producer / Assistant Director - Shaela Cook
Producers - Angela Sauer & Addi Gaash
Stage Manager - Rebecca Schoenberg
Scenic Designer - DeAnne Millais
Lighting Designer - Matt Richter
Costume Designer - Jennifer Christina DeRosa
Prop Designer - Alicia Conway
Video Designer - Anthony Backman
Sound Designer - Ben Rock
Fight Choreographer - Mike Mahaffey
Tactical Advisor - Will McMichael
Marketing Associate - Julia Griswold
Casting Associate - Monica Greene
Production Associate - Erika Salomon
Lead Scenic Painter - Maria Bjorkdahl
Stagehands - Carolyn Mansager & Lacy Green
Performance Photographer - Jessica Sherman Photography
Key Art - Christopher Komuro
- Sacred Fools Company Member
Pick of the Week / Recommended
Satire can make unpalatable truths digestible. Sacred Fools Theatre Company has always been one to push the boundaries on what audiences can stomach (2014’s Taste about cannibalism in urban America, for example). With their latest show, the west-coast premiere of Ken Ferrigni’s Occupation, they successfully lure frivolity into something more unsavory.
Set two years in the future, the United States, crippled by debt and soaring unemployment, has sold Florida to China for five trillion dollars. (With global warming in full swing, the southern most leg of the state may be under water within the next two years anyway, right?) The impassioned rednecks of the South Florida Christian Militia (SFCM), led by Gare Cartwright (K.J. Middlebrooks), aren’t giving up without a fight. They are determined to kick the Chinese out of our homeland.
Included in the insurgency is the physically weakened, fervid spiritual leader of the camp, Florian Hale (Brandon Bales). Florian is driven by the memory of his martyred father, Bay Hale (played on screen by Bruno Oliver), who is a former car salesman and preacher who founded SFCM. Then there’s Kell Cartwright (Alyssa Preston), at first quietly questioning the rationale of the SFCM insurgency before throwing in a white flag to save the one person she loves most dearly, her husband, Gare. Bets (Halle Charlton) lives on the outskirts of the camp. Although she has been raped and impregnated by Chinese soldiers, she indefatigably sleeps with as many SFCM fighters she can, to rack up “uncles” who she can stick with take-care-of-baby-when-born IOUs.
Head of the Chinese-occupation in Florida (which is dubbed “An Lushan” -- named after the crazed general responsible for the rebellion against the Tang dynasty in 755), is the newly appointed Pro-Consul Geng Zedong (Robert Paterno). ‘Z’’s employee, once-American “Maria” now Chinese-citizen re-christened, “Mei Mei” (Rebecca Larsen) is the true brains behind the occupation. Mei Mei acquiesces to the Pro-Consul’s sexual and herbal predilections in order to project her imperialistic ideas onto the occupation . . . while also being paid seven figures a month.
While all performances are rich and believable, the women here are particularly magnetic. Larsen fully embodies the cool, professional power of Mei Mei, yielding with eye-rolls to her bath-robed boss. Charlton LAO gives a rigorous, multi-layered performance as the young Bets, simplistic in her needs and fearless in her steadfastness, sass, and ability to survive.
DeAnne Millais’ set effectively transports the audience between the insurgent camp and the Pro Consul office, while director and sound designer, Ben Rock, wisely chooses an invigorating hip-hop soundtrack to keep the energy charged in transitions. Though the play runs on the long side, the show accomplishes, as Rock writes in his director’s note, a “critical lens” by making American characters victims of the kind of colonialism that we’ve historically indulged in overseas. When you apply the play’s supposedly absurd circumstances to current events, the comedic veil lifts, leaving one with an Orwellian unease.
© 2015 Stage Raw
I had the opportunity to attend opening night of Occupation by Ken Ferrigni at Sacred Fools Theatre. The premise of the play is that Florida was given to China in exchange for relief from the national debt. Having lived in Florida myself and having met some of the real life versions of the characters depicted, I was eager to see this production. I was enthralled from the git-go.
The audience shared my enthusiasm and The Sacred Fools Theatre is the perfect venue for this production. The set designed by DeAnne Millais is "glorious" -so described the writer Ken Ferrigni. Florida was genuinely depicted on that stage-from trash to trees to office buildings to mosquitos. The sound design by Ben Rock brings you into the action with the subtle sound of mosquitoes and never fails to enhance the action.
The staged production on a whole is more mixed media. In order to get the back story, Occupation begins with a series of news flashes projected on sign boards. The video production created in house by Anthony Backman is brilliant and definitely enhances the production by presenting a lot of information in a short amount of time and is used to further the plot all through the production.
Director Ben Rock did a fantastic job of balancing the serious moments with the comic. Though the story of any occupied nation is one of tragedy, we laugh at the idea of Florida. The script could have easily gone slapstick but Director Ben Rock moved the flow between serious and comic relief with a sense of musicality and respect. I laughed, I got teary eye, and laughed some more.
The script is both witty and profound. "God's not retarded. We're made in His image so we're not retarded either." "What ever happened to the Saint Titty of motherhood? (Sanctity?)" The scariest moment for one character is the fear that he will become "Ungoogle-able." And the list goes on. T-Shirts can be made showcasing this script. While the subject matter is serious, Occupation cerebrally challenges while entertaining. It is fuel for the thoughtful, the perfect play and inspired much thoughtful discussion among the patrons. If you have social gatherings in your future see Occupation first. Lots of fuel for discussion in this story.
Occupation is an ensemble piece and every member of the cast was true to their character in every moment. Halle Charlton is no hold barred Bets doing her best to simply survive. Alyssa Preston brings a wholeness and richness to the character of Kell Cartwright who will do anything to save her husband. Rebecca Larsen is totally believable in her choices for survival as Maria 'Mei Mei' Burrus. K.J. Middlebooks is passionate and intense as Gare Cartwright who must juggle love of country with family. Robert Paterno as Deng Zedong is the most endearing and entertaining bad guy character I've ever met. Brandon Bales as Florian Hale was true to life and believable on every level. Bruno Oliver, I believe, is the first stage actor to make his appearance entirely on video. It was a memorable performance and very much important to the story. His appearance later on in the play on video as well was a choice of the director and added to the craziness of the moment in a way that his live appearance could not do.
Don't wait to see this West Coast Premiere! Everybody will be talking about it.
© 2015 Discover Hollywood