A.J. Epstein plans to party tomorrow like its Halloween and he’s just opened a show that he’s been working to stage for nearly 25 years.
Hence the very first ever West of Lenin Halloween party on Oct. 31 following the world premiere of “I Never Betrayed the Revolution” by Chris Danowski. Laurie Jerger, Susanna Burney, Ty Bonneville, Kate Kraay, Chris Dietz, K. Brian Neel, Matthew Aguayo, and Andy Buffelen star in this Soviet satire about farmers who become activists.
Epstein opened his “for profit” theater in 2011. Since then, the theater that does indeed sit west of a giant statue of Vladmir Lenin has played host to dozens of artists. But this project is personal, one that Epstein has been wanting to do ever since he first heard Danowski’s script in a reading.
While Epstein is more than willing to chat about his long friendship with playwright, his ability to gather a cast full of well-known Seattle theater folk, and even the statue that inspired the name of his theater, he wouldn’t or couldn’t reveal whether he’ll be going to his own Halloween party as something connected to the play, like a cow or potato, or just your standard zombie director whose been up for many late nights to launch this production.
So did the statue of Lenin to the east make it seem like you had to stage this show? After all, you named your theater after this Fremont landmark.
Believe it or not, there is no correlation between my big bronze neighbor and this production. It’s a total coincidence that there is major thematic kismet between two of my dream projects. This is a script that Chris handed me in 1990, and I’ve always been planning to direct it. I even put together a couple staged readings of it over the years, but a production never came together. Having a space to call my own is what made it possible to finally put the project on the front burner.
So what elements drew you to Christopher Danowski’s script?
It’s incredibly funny. Disarmingly so. But the message about how power corrupts is so deftly woven into the script that it makes for a really well crafted evening of theatre. I’m definitely drawn to the storytelling craft first. That it’s hilarious and still topical after 25 years are a double bonus.
Amazing cast list! How did you persuade these people to give up their Halloween (and lots of nights before that) to appear in this play?
I’ve been making theatre in Seattle for almost 17 years now, and one of my main goals is to build strong collaborative relationships with artists whose work I enjoy and whom I enjoy working with. The majority of the company are folks I’ve worked with before, and a couple have even come out of ‘retirement’ to come along and play in Chris’ world. It’s a real honor to have a company of people who enjoy working with you enough to make room in their crazy busy schedules, and I’m very lucky to be in this moment, with this script with this cast and crew.
Can you tell us what your costume will be for the after party?
As a classic procrastinator, I can assure you that no deliberations have begun, and that there shall be no decision on that matter until around 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
“I Never Betrayed The Revolution” opens tomorrow (Oct. 31) and runs through Nov. 23 at West of Lenin. For more information about the production and the theater, visit the website.