Pictured: Sam Shepard
In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Kansas City Actors Theatre’s production of A LIE OF THE MIND through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here
By Cinnamon Schultz
Sam Shepard is one of the greatest American playwrights of the past few decades. When asked what made him want to become a writer he said it was reading Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Shepard said, “…so I read the play and I read about O’Neill, and in an odd way, there was something that I connected with there . . . There was something wrong with the family. There was a demonic thing going on that nobody could put their finger on, but everybody knew the ship was sinking. Everybody was going down, and nobody knew why or how, and they were all taking desperate measures to stay afloat. So I thought there was something about that that felt similar to my own background, and I felt I could maybe write some version of that.” Samuel Beckett was also a huge influence for Shepard. “He’s meant everything to me. He’s the first playwright—or the first writer, really—who just shocked me. It was like I didn’t know that kind of writing was possible.” Lastly, when talking about writing itself Shepard once said, “First off let me tell you that I don’t want to be a playwright. I want to be a rock and roll star. I want that understood right off. I got into writing plays because I had nothing else to do. So I started writing to keep from going off the deep end. That was back in ’64. Writing has become a habit. Writing is neat because you do it on a very physical level. Just like rock and roll. When you write a play you work out like a musician on a piece of music. You find all the rhythms and the melody and the harmonies and take them as they come.”
“A Lie of the Mind” is known as Sam Shepard’s most personal drama. It interweaves his favorite themes of fraternal, paternal and marital discord in three acts. Also addressing the different types of abuse (mental, physical and neglect) and the effects each can have on a family dynamic. With all that darkness this play still has the romance of undying love and some comical lightness interspersed as well. This show is a complete ensemble of eight characters, four women and four men with no starring role. I feel so lucky to have an amazingly talented cast that can tackle the demands of a script in which hyperreal and surreal teeter in a delicate balance.
Something else Shepard wrote about this play was, “Working intimately with musicians, structuring bridges between scenes, underscoring certain monologues, and developing musical “themes” to open and close the acts left me no doubt that this play needs music. Live music. Music with an American backbone…” With that in mind Jonathan Robertson, sound designer/composer, was able to form a partnership with local musicians, The Country Duo (Kasey Rausch and Marco Pascolini), to not only record alternate versions of their songs specifically for use in “A Lie of the Mind,” but also to give a live 30-minute performance for ticket-holders before our opening-night production.
Now, with the talented cast, crew, and designers all in place, we are about to embark on a three-week journey of exploration in order for Sam Shepard’s words and images to come to life.
A LIE OF THE MIND runs September 13th to October 1st. Tickets are available at kcactors.org or by calling the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-6222.