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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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PerformanceOnstageWatching movies—and coping and connecting—in 'The Flick'

Watching movies—and coping and connecting—in ‘The Flick’

Director Jon Tracy talks about the latest Shotgun Players production, exploring the surprisingly complex world of three cinema employees.

 Jon Tracy says the first time he read Annie Baker’s play, The Flick, (which he is directing at Shotgun Players, through October 6) it felt like a piece of music to him. 

“It’s like she scored each scene independently, but together it felt like it was creating this tapestry,” he said. “And each piece of music shows the inner workings of the characters and also how they work with each other and against each other.”

The Flick, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014, is about three movie theater employees. This may not be the usual set up for drama, but Tracy, who grew up in Vallejo, says connections weren’t always so easy to find when he was young and the interactions in the play felt deeply moving and personal to him.

“In this piece, there are three souls who didn’t get to seek out soul mates, but they find connections because there’s such great need,” he said. “There are these unlikely friendships. Everyone is a little broken and sometimes we figure out something in this fragile space and call it community, and with The Flick, that’s right on the page.”

Ari Rampy, Chris Ginesi, and Justin Howard in ‘The Flick.’ Photo by Ben Krantz Studio

The Flick—a three-hour play with plenty of pauses—has already extended its run here and garnered rave reviews. Tracy isn’t surprised by audience’s enthusiasm for a long play sprinkled with silences. And he has a response to the idea that you’re just watching movie theaters employees go about their jobs. 

“It’s never about watching mopping,” he said. “You’re watching people coping and connecting or not connecting and everything is so inconceivably loaded. It’s not a guffaw comedy piece, but it’s comedy. One time someone told me the truest definition of comedy is to triumph over adversity. Here you’re watching individuals perceive an adversity and work in their skill sets to try to triumph over it.” 

Director Jon Tracy

Watching The Flick, Tracy says we’re allowed to really sink in to the stories and the characters. Having the cast he does—Chris Ginesi, Justin Howard, Ari Rampy, and Rob Dario—allows that to happen, he says. 

“This play grabs little moments of things you had no idea you needed to connect with,” he said. “And it can’t do it without the right actors who really deeply understand what experience they are giving the audience.”

The play shows how we all put on a persona, Tracy says. “We keep protecting this inner self,” he said. “There’s this maintenance of self and these actions of reaching out or defending, and the moment to moment chess game of that is what I think we call life.”

THE FLICK
Extended through October 6
Shotgun Players, Berkeley
Tickets and more information here

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