Dallas — Local playwright Ben Schroth has had a busy 2018 so far, having adapted Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard for the Classics Theatre Project, and written an original work for Camp Death Productions that is currently at the 20th Festival of Independent Theatres. The Tragical Farce of Jimmy Pine, directed by Andi Allen, is described as Pinocchio meets Blade Runner.
TheaterJones conducted an email interview to find out what that’s all about.
TheaterJones: This play is inspired by Pinocchio. Tell me about your interest in that original Collodi character/story and how it transformed to Jimmy Pine?
Ben Schroth: I was interested in the classic sci fi question: what does it really mean to be human? There's a whole wealth of characters that fit into that question: Pinocchio, Petrushka, Spock, Data. I chose those incidents from Pinocchio that resonated with my themes and seem to drive the plot I had in mind. I was also looking for comic potential. Puppets are funny.
It's described as Pinocchio meets Blade Runner. Explain.
Like Blade Runner, Jimmy Pine is a story for grown-ups that happens in a ridiculously broken degraded world. Again, Blade Runner and Jimmy Pine are both concerned with living a human authentic life and the consequences of that life. But Jimmy Pine has sex jokes instead of Harrison Ford.
What about the Pinocchio story lends itself to dystopian fantasy?
The idea of a puppet. Are we puppets? Are we real? This is the world we made for ourselves. Why is it so hellish? Can we still find the humor in this dumpster fire? And gay jokes.
You recently adapted Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard for The Classics Theatre Project. Talk about two different writing projects happening at once. Did you work on them simultaneously? Explain that process.
Actually, Jimmy Pine was finished as a working draft long before Cherry Orchard came along. It takes a fiendishly long time from page to stage. I have to juggle different projects at different points of development all the time. There was some overlap with the fine-tuning on both projects—but these plays exist in such different worlds—there is a quote from Cherry Orchard in Jimmy Pine but no gay puppet jokes made the cut into the Chekhov.
Has FIT been important to your career and growth as an artist?
Hell yes. My most successful acting moments and some of my floppiest writing—over five or six festivals. I love FIT. It's one of Dallas' most exciting fine arts events. David and the crew are the height of professionalism and craft.
Anything else to add?
My greatest gratitude to Andi Allen, Kevin Fuld and all of Camp Death for seeing the potential in me and my work.
» The Tragical Farce of Jimmy Pine continues in the following performance blocks:
- 5pm Saturday, July 21
- 5pm Saturday, July 28
- 8pm Friday, Aug. 3
- 5pm Saturday, Aug. 4
The 20th Festival of Independent Theatres
July 13- August 4, 2018
Bath House Cultural Center,
521 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas
Tickets and passes go on sale in late June
Call 800-617-6904 or visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org