1501 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
THE ALIENSby Annie Bakerdirected by Lila Neugebauer
An artful and indelible drama about two young, affable slackers behind a Vermont coffee shop and the teenager they take under their wing.
The dingy back alley of a sleepy Vermont coffeehouse is home to trash bins, weathered patio furniture, and two affable slackers. KJ and Jasper fill their languid days with Bukowski references, low-key jam sessions, and ‘shroom-spiked tea. When a new employee—the smart but awkward teen Evan—attempts to evict them from their makeshift perch, KJ and Jasper recruit him as their unlikely summer protégé. Praised by The Village Voice as “an eloquent meditation on creativity and time’s passage,” this drama is a subtle ode to the truth and compassion hidden in unexpected people and places. From the critically acclaimed writer of Circle Mirror Transformation.
“You know, I thought The Aliens was a good title until people started saying, “Hey, I’m really looking forward to seeing Alien” or “How’s Aliens going?” and then I realized people think I’ve named my play after a Hollywood movie.” —Annie Baker
It’s almost too easy to imagine The Aliens as the name of an action-packed outer space thriller, but Baker’s indelible ode to music, art, and unlikely friendship draws its title from a different kind of extraterrestrial: poet Charles Bukowski.
Called the “laureate of American lowlife” by Time Magazine, Bukowski wrote over forty books of poetry, prose, and fiction in his lifetime . “The Aliens”, in which an incredulous narrator marvels at the carefree existence of others, appears in The Last Night Of The Earth Poems, Bukowski’s last published collection before his death in 1994. When Baker’s play premiered at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in 2010, she considered including a copy of the poem in the program, but decided “it would be kind of insufferable.”
Beyond its title, the ethos of the poem and poet permeates the play. It is also one of the many proposed names of the laid-back protagonists KJ and Jasper’s loosely defined band (Beat-inspired writer Jasper, who titles his sprawling novel after another Bukowski poem, lobbies hard for The Aliens over Nefarious Hookah or Joseph Yoseph, but KJ swiftly rejects his suggestion as “boring”). As the two take hapless barista Evan Shelmerdine under their wing, one of Jasper’s first bits of advice to the impressionable seventeen-year-old is, “You gotta read Bukowski. He cuts away all the bullshit.”
The Bukowski canon is indeed stripped of conventional techniques and themes. Ken Tucker, former Village Voicebook critic, characterized Bukowski’s style as “a crisp, hard voice; an excellent ear and eye for measuring out the lengths of lines; and an avoidance of metaphor where a lively anecdote will do the same dramatic work.” His raw, emotional work drew from his own hard-living lifestyle in Los Angeles, confronting isolation, recklessness, and the plight of the down-trodden. “Bukowski’s poems are best appreciated not as individual verbal artifacts,” explains Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker, “but as ongoing installments in the tale of his true adventures, like a comic book. They are strongly narrative, drawing from an endless supply of anecdotes that typically involve a bar, a skid-row hotel, a horse race, a girlfriend, or any permutation thereof.”
For a man who made his reputation in fringe journals and newspapers, Bukowski’s legacy endures in millions of books sold worldwide. Still, his commercial success never fully propelled him into mainstream consciousness; he remains the patron saint of the underground. As Stephen Kessler in the San Francisco Review of Books notes, "Firmly in the American tradition of the maverick, Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society.” From their own frayed edge, these outsiders still look to this cult hero—and his bullshit-free vision of life in all its dangers and idiosyncracy—to speak to, and for, them.
Scot McKenzie (KJ) returns to The Studio Theatre having previously appeared as Mickey in Mojo, Alex in A Clockwork Orange, and Keith in Betty’s Summer Vacation. As Producing Artistic Director for Capital Fringe, Mr. McKenzie co-wrote and appeared in Hoodoo at The Shop and Run Through the Unquiet Mind at the National Museum of the American Indian. Other local credits include 1984 and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Ensemble) with Catalyst Theater; Cardenio Found with Taffety Punk; Caucasian Chalk Circle with Open Circle Theatre; Shakespeare’s R&J, Macbeth, She Stoops to Conquer, and Othello at the Folger Theatre; Rhinoceros with Rorschach Theatre; and Knoyugogh, Rough & Lively, and The Two-Character Play at the Little Globe Theater. His regional credits include Henry IV Part 1, Love’s Labor’s Lost, Comedy of Errors, Julius Caesar, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the American Shakespeare Center. Mr. McKenzie’s film credits include The Snowflake Crusade, Five Lines, The Kumbio Takedown, and Irretrievable Loss of Heat. He has written and directed multiple short films and is currently in post-production on Plita & Chiclu.
Brian Miskell (Evan) is making his Studio Theatre debut, and is excited to revisit The Aliens after its West Coast Premiere this spring at SF Playhouse. His New York credits include BARN and Keep Calm and Carry On at Jimmy’s No. 43, Ghetto Babylon at Soho Playhouse, Antrobus at the Brick, Ghost Life as a Playwrights Horizons Resident Workshop, The Un-Marrying Project with Purple Rep, The Stray Dog with Rising Phoenix Repertory, The Sunken Living Room at Theater 80, and The Mike and Morgan Show at the Access Theatre. Mr. Miskell’s other regional credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and Daniel Talbott’s Afghanistan Zimbabwe America Kuwait with Encore Theatre Company and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. He has performed A Hatful of Rain in Warsaw and Requiem pour Ionesco in Paris. He received New York Innovative Theatre nominations for Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role and Outstanding Ensemble in J. Stephen Brantley’s Eightythree Down. Mr. Miskell is a Literary Associate at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and a company member of Rising Phoenix Repertory. He studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute and graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Peter O’Connor (Jasper) is thrilled to make his Studio Theatre debut. Mr. O’Connor appeared in the West Coast premiere of The Aliens at SF Playhouse. His Off Broadway credits include two productions of Jailbait (Cherry Lane, OBIE award); O’Neill’s Beyond the Horizon at Centerstage; Sexual Healing at the Mint Theatre; Balaton at Urban Stages; Sexual Neuroses of our Parents at Wild Project; A Bitter Taste, Echo Echo, and Behind the Blind at Ensemble Studio Theatre; and Kidstuff and Letters to the End of the World at Theatre Row. Other New York stage appearances include The Shape of Things (New York Innovative Theatre Award Nomination), Richard II, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Ionesco’s Killing Game. He played the lead in the feature film Viola (Golden Palm/Mexico International Film Festival). His other feature films include PS I Love You and Sweet Lorraine. Mr. O’Connor’s television work includes a three-year recurring role as Tony on As the World Turns and appearances on Mercy, Ed, Book of Daniel, Law & Order, and Guiding Light. He played St. Michael in the game Grand Theft Auto IV. Between gigs, he drives for Al Pacino. Mr. O’Connor is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
Lila Neugebauer (Director) previously directed The Aliens at the SF Playhouse (West Coast premiere), as well as Ms. Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation at The Juilliard School. Her upcoming projects include the world premieres of Dan LeFranc’s Troublemaker at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Mallery Avidon’s O Guru Guru Guru at the 2013 Humana Festival. Ms. Neugebauer’s recent directing work includes the world premieres of The Valley of Fear at Williamstown Theatre Festival; Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War at Ars Nova, The Brick, and The New Ohio Theatre; The Sluts of Sutton Drive at Ensemble Studio Theatre; Eliza Clark's Edgewise at The Cherry Lane Studio Theatre; Make It A Double and Home, both in collaboration with The Civilians, at Williamstown and Arts Emerson, respectively; and new works by Kristoffer Diaz and Molly Smith Metzler in The Wii Plays at Ars Nova. She was the Associate Director to Adam Rapp on Karen O’s Stop the Virgens at St. Ann’s Warehouse and Sydney Opera House. Ms. Neugebauer is an alumna of the Drama League, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, and Lincoln Center Directors Lab. She is Co-Artistic Director of The Mad Ones, member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, Time Warner Fellow with The Women’s Project, and New Georges Affiliated Artist
Daniel Conway (Set Design) has designed sets for 25 shows at The Studio Theatre. Last season he designed Sucker Punch, directed by Leah C. Gardiner. Recent designs include The Diary of Anne Frank, directed by KJ Sanchez for Milwaukee Rep; Sunset Boulevard, Hairspray, and Chess directed by Eric Schaeffer and Dying City directed by Matt Gardiner for Signature Theatre; Sabrina Fair for Ford's Theatre; the world premiere of The Game's Afoot by Ken Ludwig directed by Aaron Posner for The Cleveland Playhouse; a new version of Cyrano by Michael Hollinger for The Folger Theatre; August: Osage County directed by Terry Nolen for The Arden Theatre and The Merry Wives of Windsor directed by Stephen Rayne for The Shakespeare Theatre. Nominated 12 times, Mr. Conway was awarded the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Set Design in 2000 and 2009. He is the head of the MFA in Theatre Design program at The University of Maryland.
Matthew Richards (Lighting) is pleased to be making his Studio Theatre debut with The Aliens. Upcoming projects include the Broadway production of Ann at Lincoln Center and Abigail/1702 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. His New York credits include projects with The Atlantic, Brooklyn Academy of Music, MCC, Playwrights Horizons, Primary Stages, and Second Stage. Regional credits include work at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, Baltimore Centerstage, Cleveland Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Ford’s Theatre, The Goodman, The Guthrie, Hartford Stage, Huntington Theatre Company, La Jolla, Long Wharf, The Old Globe, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Westport Playhouse, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. Mr. Richards is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Meghan Raham (Costumes) is a set and costume designer with a strong interest in the development of new work. Her recent credits include The Conference of the Birds (sets) at the Folger Theatre, The Wings of Ikarus Jackson (sets/costumes) at The Kennedy Center; Little Shop of Horrors (sets/costumes), Circle Mirror Transformation, Broke-ology, and The Borderland (sets) at Kansas City Repertory Theatre; CLAY (sets) at Lincoln Center Theatre; Venice (sets/costumes, both Ovation nominated) at Center Theatre Group; Fedra (sets) at Lookingglass Theatre Company; and Frankenstein (costumes) with The Hypocrites at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Ms. Raham is a company member at The Building Stage in Chicago, where she production designed The Ring Cycle, NOIR, and Moby-Dick. She recently co-created and designed S/he is Nancy Joe at the Zero Point Festival of Physical Theatre and Dance in Prague. Ms. Raham received her MFA from Northwestern University and is a Professor of Stage Design at American University.
Stowe Nelson (Sound) makes his Studio Theatre design debut with The Aliens. He has developed new works with Dance Exchange, The Mad Ones, The TEAM, and he most recently designed the world premiere of SITI Company’s Cafe Variations. Other recent designs include Language from the Land with Dance Exchange, We Play for the Gods at the Women’s Project, and What’s the Penalty in Portugal? at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre. He develops work with director David Consion and actor Matthew Baldiga as part of [scaffold]. Mr. Nelson’s design for The Mad Ones’ Samuel and Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War won the 2010 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Sound Design and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in 2012.
About the Playwright