Rick Burkhardt's Conversation Storm, a giddy shotgun marriage of Chekhov and Brecht, reunites three friends in a quiet cafe after a 20-year separation. The friends quickly resume their custom of ideological parry and riposte in an examination of the question of torture. As they talk, an intricate game evolves, entailing time loops and role-playing. They imagine the unimaginable, save Manhattan, fail Manhattan, conjure atrocities, salvage humanity and try to get a glass of water from an inattentive waiter, all while attempting to answer the question, "Are people fungible?"
In recent years, listening to voices in the U.S. mainstream having a "conversation about torture" felt to me like being trapped in a train car with a bunch of people who are having a "conversation about cannibalism."
Rick Burkhardt studied music composition at Harvard University, the University of Illinois, and the University of California, San Diego, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2006.
Named Best New Play at the 2007 San Francisco Fringe Festival, Conversation Storm jolts audiences from detached definitions of officially sanctioned interrogation techniques and confronts us with the real world consequences of our choices.
Burkhardt is the co-creator of Three Pianos, which completed a triumphant run at New York Theatre Workshop and which the Wall Street Journal described as "a hilarious, yet wise, examination of friendship, depression and classical music." We feel that Conversation Storm is the ideal piece with which to introduce ourselves to the Los Angeles community, in that it simultaneously interrogates urgent political matters, the limits of friendship and the theatrical situation itself.
Burkhardt has received commissions, grants, and performances from organizations and performers such as the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture, the La Jolla Symphony, Ensemble Surplus, the Boswil Foundation, Janos Nagyesy and Paivikki Nykter, Ensemble Ascolta, Red Fish Blue Fish, the NOISE quartet, the past(modern) duo, sfSound, Toca Loca, Mark Menzies, the Olympia Chamber Orchestra, the American Composers Forum, and Ensemble Chronophonie. During the early 1990's, he toured the US, Germany, and Swtizerland performing new music and theater with the Performers' Workshop Ensemble. In 1997, he began studying music with Chaya Czernowin and took classes in poetry from Rae Armantrout. He spent the following years inventing idiosyncratic methods for producing critical interactions of oddly integrated music and text. His hobby, the satirical political cabaret duo the Prince Myshkins (with virtuoso guitarist, singer and lifelong collaborator Andy Gricevich), became a full-time job in 2002, once the "War on Terror" had provided an alarming overflow of material to satirize, and he began dividing his time between completing his studies and touring nationally, recording two CDs of his original political songs which have been covered and recorded by musicians across the US. He is a founding member of the Nonsense Company, an experimental music / theater trio dedicated to new works and new venues. The Nonsense Company has performed in over 30 US cities, presenting new music and theater in unexpected combinations for a wide range of audiences. Their concert in Darmstadt in 2004 was hailed as "one of the most solid, free, and critical aesthetic propositions... of the festival." Their 2008 performance in NYC's Frigid Theater Festival was reviewed as "the must see show of the festival" and won Best Show and Audience Choice awards. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Charles Mee's The House of Cards is an astounding meditation on the simultaneous presence of sheer beauty and terrifying atrocity in our world. While building a house of cards, a woman unfurls parables of spellbinding mystery and terrifying violence. What will happen when the house is finished? For whom is she building it? How long will it stand? Come join us to find out!
I like plays that are not too neat, too finished, too presentable. My plays are broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges, filled with things that take sudden turns, careen into each other, smash up, veer off in sickening turns. That feels good to me. It feels like my life. It feels like the world.
-- Charles Mee
Charles Mee is known for his radical reconstructions of existing texts and his inimitable collage-like style of playwriting. His plays incorporate music, dance, and video and have explored themes as wide ranging as history, politics, gender dynamics, and love. Charles Mee was raised in Barrington, Illinois and educated at Harvard University. Following his graduation from university in 1960, Mee moved to New York City where he wrote plays for Off-Off-Broadway and supported himself as an editor and writer for the hardcover arts magazine Horizon. Between 1972 and 1993 he wrote eleven books on world history and American international relations, including Meeting at Potsdam (1975); The End of Order: Versailles, 1919 (1980); The Marshall Plan: The Launching of the Pax Americana (1984); Rembrandt's Portrait: A Biography (1988); and Playing God: Seven Fateful Moments When Great Men Met to Change the World (1993); and a memoir, A Nearly Normal Life (1999). In 1986 Mee wrote the libretto for choreographer and director Martha Clarke's dance-theatre piece Vienna: Lusthaus, a meditation on turn-of-the-century Vienna. He used his skills and impulses as an historian to create a collage-like text by directly lifting material from historical sources and combining it alongside personal descriptions of his own dreams. This patchwork combination of found texts and his own imagination became the template in which he would compose all of his future plays, a technique inspired by the collage painting of surrealist painter Max Ernst and contemporary artist Robert Rauschenberg. Mee's plays have been inspired by classical and modern texts, including ancient Greek drama, drama from the Yuan dynasty of China, Indian dance drama, and the works of William Shakespeare, Moliere, Anton Chekhov, Bertolt Brecht, and Maxim Gorky. His Greek play adaptations include Orestes 2.0; The Bacchae 2.1.; Agamemnon 2.0; Trojan Women 2.0; Big Love; True Love; and Iphigenia 2.0. Mee is the resident playwright of the SITI Company with whom he has written bobrauschenbergamerica; Hotel Cassiopeia; Soot and Spit (the musical); and Under Construction, which explore the work of contemporary artists Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell, James Castle, Jason Rhoades, and Norman Rockwell. Other plays include The Investigation of the Murder in El Salvador; Time to Burn; Full Circle; Summertime; First Love; Wintertime; Vienna Lusthaus (Revisited); Limonade Tous Les Jours; Salome; A Perfect Wedding; Belle Epoque; Fetes de la Nuit; Mail Order Bride; and Gone. Charles Mee's plays have been produced in New York at New York Theatre Workshop, The Joseph Papp Public Theater, Second Stage Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Lincoln Center Theater. His work has premiered at the Mark Taper Forum, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Repertory Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse, the Humana Festival for New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, as well as in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna, and Istanbul. Charles Mee is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award in drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two OBIE Awards for Vienna: Lusthaus (1986) and Big Love (2002), a Laura Pels Foundation Award for Drama, and a TCG grant. His work is made possible by the support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher and Richard Fisher and his plays can be found at http://www.charlesmee.org.