Oklahoma City Theatre Company is staging two original plays in its “New Voices” festival, including the semiautobiographical “Family Funeral,” written by actor, playwright, director and Oklahoma City University professor David Pasto.
The program got its start during OCTC’s second season in 2001, and according to Rachel Irick, associate artistic director, “helps fulfill the company’s mission to present an eclectic blend of theatrical experiences, including new works, that seek to enrich the lives of people in the Oklahoma City community.”
“While we haven’t always included new plays or a new play festival in every season, we are always seeking the opportunity to produce new plays and encourage playwrights in their craft,” she said.
above Melissa Griffith Edgmon and David Mays star in “Family Funeral.”
Pasto wrote the first draft of “Family Funeral” about 20 years ago, after the death of his grandfather.
“The events in the play are loosely based on things that happened in my family,” he said. “Some of the funniest lines were really spoken by members of my family.”
At a stage reading at OCU several years ago, Pasto realized his personal story connected with audiences.
“The response told me that my family was not unique, since many audience members identified with various characters,” he said.
Added Irick, “It’s a very specific story about a very specific family, but when we watch the play, we recognize behaviors, conflicts and characters from our own lives.”
“Funeral” is directed by newcomer Laura Ann Dougharty, who chose to stage the play as reality show with a video component comprised of live and prerecorded performances. The piece alternates performance dates with “Seven Interviews,” and the works share actors TooToo Cirlot and Johnnie Payne.
“Both of these actors are doing an amazing job with the amount of work they have had to do in both shows,” said Irick. “We are thrilled that a few of the actors who performed in a previous staged reading of ‘Family Funeral’ have returned to join the cast for this full performance, including David Mays as Grandpa.”
She said that the makeup and hair design by Suzette Sroufe has been integral to Mays’ performance, adding 50 years to the actor’s age.
“The makeup effects are so spoton that many of the audience members who don’t know David are totally convinced that he is a much older actor,” said Irick. “We plan to bring ‘New Voices’ back every other year and evolve the festival into more of a workshop format, helping playwrights develop plays from their infancy stage and be more involved in the total process.”