Brandon Monokian is a theatre artist who works in the New York City and New Jersey area. For the Page to Stage guest blog series, Brandon will document the process of bringing three works from the page to the stage – all in the Princeton Public Library.
by Brandon Monokian
First up for this summer’s Page to Stage series is Freak by Naomi Iizuka and Ryan Pavelchik based on the Pygmalion myth from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I discovered this play after directing two of Iizuka’s other works, Polaroid Stories and Tattoo Girl, the latter of which was the first production we produced for Page to Stage last year.
Iizuka’s work allows the creative participants to flex their imaginative muscles in ways most playwrights do not. At one point in Polaroid Stories for two pages the only word spoken between the three characters of the scene is “Hey.” As a director, this made for an initially daunting challenge when figuring out how to stage it in a way that would not only make sense to the actor and to the audience, but would also be essential to the advancement of the story. Once we figured it out it became one of the production’s most exciting scenes.
In Tattoo Girl one of the stage directions is “They get married and live happily ever after” which is very much so not the end of the play (in our production we created a grand wedding ceremony to the Rolling Stones’ classic “Dead Flowers.”) Freak is written in a much more “traditional” style than some of Iizuka’s other work, but still with many questions one must figure out… such as the character of the new girl in town… who may or may not be a robot!
Freak masterfully fuses the worlds of Ovid’s mythic poem and a modern day high school. While two of the characters clearly chart a parallel course to the Pygmalion myth’s sculptor and ivory statue come to life, every single character in the piece deals with the issues of identity and explores the effects of those around them who are in some way helping to define who they become. At various times in life we assume the role of the sculptor, while at other times we are the statue brought to life.
The play itself never shies away from the gritty, complex reality of high school, hormones and all that comes with them. All the characters are trying to figure out where they are going in life, and more importantly what happens when they get there. The play would be poignant for any high schooler, but even as a 25 year old making their way in the world I find it especially moving. Freak theatrically adapts literature in the most effective way possible, taking a classic story and presenting it in a fresh light that is not only relatable for its audience, but by bridging two works written centuries apart, highlights the universality of the human experience.
Check out the wedding scene from Tattoo Girl!
Select acting credits include Love Is in the Air (dir. Jeremy Bloom, The Cell), Shlemiel the First (dir. David Gordon, NYC Skirball Center, Alexander Kasser Theatre), How to Build a Forest (PearlDamour, The Kitchen) and PastTENSE (dir. Robert Woodruff). Select directing credits include Revolutionary Readings (tour) and the Page to Stage series at the Princeton Public Library. Monokian is a three time director of The Vagina Monologues as a part of the V Day campaign. Productions he has directed have starred Amy Warren (“August: Osage County”), Briella Calafiore (“Jerseylicious”), Jessica Romano (“Glam Fairy”), Elaine Bromka (“Uncle Buck”), Suzzanne Douglas (“How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “The Parent ‘Hood”), and Stephaine Roth Haberle (“Phaedra Backwards”). As a writer his theatre journalism work has appeared on “Blog-O-Zines” Insite and Culture Vultures. Staged readings of his original plays Fuckin Breadcrumbs and Sticks, Stones & Other Weapons have been produced at New York’s TADA! Theater and Montclair State University respectively. For more info head to facebook.com/brandonmonokian or follow him on twitter @brandonmonokianPin It