The Truth of the Matter
- By gentleguide
- On Sat 18 Nov 2017
All we’re sure of is that an awful thing happened near Dead Dog Park. Was it a terrible accident? Or a deliberate act? An unfortunate fall, or was the young boy pushed from the fourth-story of an abandoned building? The cop says one thing, the family says another, and the boy in the hospital bed is too injured to talk. What really happened? What is the truth?
Dead Dog Park is the latest show presented by Open Door Rep, beginning December 1st. Known for creating theatre in “pop-up” locations appropriate to the theme and subject of the material, Dead Dog Park is being performed at The Barnum Factory. Once abandoned, the Factory (former home to Iowa Paint back in the early 2000’s) is being currently being renovated into artist and musician spaces for creators in the area. There’s a large open room on the top floor of the building that is the perfect setting for Dead Dog Park, and Josh Visnapuu of Open Door knew it was the right place for this show.
“The Barnum Factory is a tremendous space with an incredible amount of character,” says Josh. “We want the audience to feel like they are present at the scene of the inciting incident right from the top of the show, as we drive hard through a difficult topic.”
“This is going to be what you might call ‘environmental theatre’ - as an audience member, you shouldn’t expect to walk into a comfortable place with a bright, shiny set; you are going to be coming into something raw, elemental, and be put through an emotional wringer.”
One of the actors in Dead Dog Park is Jamaal Allan, who looks forward to the stark reality offered by the unique venue. “The location of our production adds a very rich level to the storytelling - instead of doing this in a flashy, comfortable theatre, we are taking the story where it happened. The story itself is very raw and dealing with subject matter that many find uncomfortable to confront or talk about. It is only appropriate the venue mirrors these aspects of the story.”
You Are There
Jamaal is playing Officer Rob McDonald, and, as the aforementioned cop involved in the “incident”, is the only one who was actually there that can speak to the events that transpired. But even McDonald is unsure of exactly how things went down, and what his role in all of this was... or how he should now react. Which means Dead Dog Park brings a different kind of acting challenge for Allan.
“To portray any character with honesty, it is important as a actor to find the core and the truth of the human being,” Jamaal observes. “A character such as Rob, in a story such as this, presents a whole new level to that journey, as he himself is attempting to find the truth of who he is and what he has done. The question becomes whether Rob is searching for reassurance, validation, or truth.”
“Rob is in a state of disequilibrium trying to reconcile who he knows he is and who he is being told he is, and what he may or may not have done. He is left searching just as much as the audience is. As an actor this really makes this role more of a journey than destination - where do you go when you are unsure of or afraid of what you want?”
Some may wonder why Rob wouldn’t be sure of his actions at the time, and what really did happen. But Jamaal knows this isn’t always true. “Basic human psychology tells us when in heightened emotional states our memory pathways get hijacked and we can remember exactly how we felt, but not necessarily what we said or did, verbatim. In this state, we all tend to resort to believing we did or said what we KNOW we would have done or said in such a situation.”
That’s what we believe we would have done. But is it what really happened? Is it the truth? And will that truth be enough for everyone?
Needing To Believe
Some things are going to be true, no matter what. A mother’s love for her son is a constant and vital thing. Davida Williams plays Sharonne Chapin, whose son Tyler is the one lying in the hospital bed. As a mother, that means the events in Dead Dog Park are seen by Sharonne from a particular, yet universal, point of view.
“Tyler is her world. He is her reason to never give up. He is her light of hope in a world that has already given her the cold shoulder, prejudged her and her abilities. He is a brighter future. I imagine him as a typical latch key kid who has been looking up to the wrong people and found himself making the wrong choices.”
Her search is one of redemption, of retribution, of resolution. “I don’t believe she tries to balance anything,” says Davida. “She just wants someone to pay. She wants the people responsible to hurt even more than she and Tyler are hurting. She wants it fixed in any way that is possible.”
“In her going to a lawyer, she feels that someone will be forced to be monetarily responsible. However, that’s the quick fix. She wants jail time, loss of job security, loss of any security in life to be the punishment. In her mind, this will satisfy her ‘eye-for-an-eye’ need for redemption.”
Eye of the Beholder
Ultimately, Dead Dog Park is most concerned with how one event can affect so many different people in differently devastating ways. And in bringing that concern to an audience, it means to challenge viewers to examine their own motivations.
According to Josh Visnapuu, Open Door Rep is right on target with their goals for the local theatre they produce, and Dead Dog Park fits their desires perfectly.
“This is not easy theatre because this is not an easy topic to discuss, but it is a discussion we need to have. This show is going to raise a lot of questions, cause a lot of reflection, and hopefully get the audience talking a lot after it’s done.”
Jamaal Allan agrees. “The brilliance within the script is that it is both a story of individual issues within the flawed human beings we all are, as well as a look at our flawed society. Our story challenges all of us to ‘hold a mirror up to ourselves, as ‘twere, as well as up to nature.’ This show will force audience members to confront their own biases and beliefs as much as it tells a story.”
“I want people to see a point of view that is different from their norm,” concludes Davida. “Get into the other person’s shoes. Feel the pain of someone you wouldn’t readily identify with. I don’t believe this script was written to show how to overcome bias, but more to show that we have to take it upon ourselves to do just that.”
“This amazingly talented cast is skilled at showing you everyone hurts because of these biases. I’m pleased to do my part to bring a voice to this struggle. I feel fortunate to be involved in a project that forces me to take a look inside at my own perspectives and find flaws as well.”
It’s a confrontation that everyone should make in their own lives, honestly and truthfully. And maybe that’s the real truth to be found in Dead Dog Park.
Open Door Rep presents Dead Dog Park, with performances on weekends from December 1 through December 10. Shows will be at The Barnum Factory, located at 97 Indiana Avenue (just north of I-235 downtown). Tickets are available from the Open Door Rep website (and are very affordable at only $10 apiece!)