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Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Aliens deals in small-town philosophers

Vancouver’s Sticks and Stones Theatre presents Annie Baker’s award-winning play

Fresh off its production of The Zoo Story, Vancouver’s Sticks and Stones Theatre returns to the Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive with Annie Baker’s The Aliens.

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of The Flick, comes the story of two professional slackers and best friends, KJ and Jasper. Spending their days behind a Vermont coffee shop, the duo fills time talking about music and German-American writer, Charles Bukowski. Joined by seventeen-year high school student, Evan, they soon recruit him as their unlikely summer protégé.

We find out more about the upcoming production in this Q&A with producer and actor Zac Scott, who also plays KJ, and the show’s director, Kevin Bennett.

A version of this interview was originally published on OUTtv on January 8 and is reused with permission. This interview has been edited and condensed.

What attracted you to The Aliens? Why is your company producing it?

Zac: If you are self-producing, you are always looking for that next project to get invested in, and I had been looking for a while when I finally read The Aliens. As soon as I read it I knew I wanted to produce this show. The writing is so unlike anything that I had ever read before, so specifically strange, but so real. I feel like I know these guys. I feel like everyone knows these guys.

What attracted you to The Aliens? Why are you directing it?

Kevin: I saw a production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie in London recently and I started craving that kind of play: small cast, heightened poetic language, intense dramatic situations and a necessity to focus on the acting. I’ve also seen Annie Baker’s The Flick in London and John in Toronto so as soon as I saw that The Aliens was written by Annie Baker I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

What has been the biggest challenge in rehearsals?

Zac: Just trusting the text, and stripping away all of the B.S that I want to add to it, the little bits of business. This show is so specific, and silent and still, and it takes an odd amount of courage to stop doing business, and just let the text and the form that she creates with her use of pauses and silence be the show.

Kevin: Like all good writing a strict adherence to the form the playwright has created is needed to let the story spring to life, and a large part of Annie Baker’s writing is the specific pauses and silences she writes into the play. Finding methods to help the actors learn these moments as if they were lines of text, and also fill them with as much depth and life as one would a line of text has been the biggest challenge.

What has been your greatest joy in rehearsal?

Zac: The consistent laughter that the script brings. It is so odd, and these are such strange people, without ever being aware of it, or commenting on it, that it makes for some hilarious moments. And the daily new discoveries made about these people, and the dynamic that exists between them.

Kevin: In searching for the best methods to fulfill the form of the writing, the actors and myself have discovered just how brilliant this play is. Annie Baker is so subtle, so hilarious and so heartbreaking all in the same moment. Following the clues in the text and working with the very talented and playful actors in this company has been a great joy.

Why should people come to see The Aliens?

Zac: Because the play is simultaneously one of the funniest plays I have ever read, but is also achingly tragic. And audiences should experience Annie Baker. She’s going to be one of the all-time greats. She informs more with silence than most writers can with text.

Kevin: Annie Baker is fast becoming one of the world’s great playwrights. I think one day we will talk about her like we do Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee, as one of the great American voices in the theatre. In The Aliens, she has written three characters that are so lost, so funny, so real and so now that I challenge anyone who comes to the production to not leave floored by the poignant humanity on stage. I spend many rehearsals tearing up while hysterically laughing, and if that’s any sign of what the audience experience might be like, despite being in the smallest most intimate of playhouses, it will be an impact of epic proportions.

The Aliens plays the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) from January 25 to February 4. Visit for tickets and other information.

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