Irvington High School's Conservatory Theatre recently finished a performance run of Brian Dykstra's play, Clean Alternatives, which delves into the conflicting human desires for power, love, and money. The show opens with Jackie (played by Melissa Caban) being wooed by corporate representiatives Cutter and Slate (Victor Mattison & Marc Hess) as they attempt to convince her to trade her family business's pollution credits for cash and power. By the end, a toxic love triangle of power, love and money unfurls through a show peppered with tense dialogue and spoken-word style monologues that reveals the characters' internal and interpersonal tensions- forcing the audience to consider their own sets of values.
Directed by Maia Steward, the show toured Bay Area venues to enthusiastic audiences including the 1st spring performance at Irvington High School's newly established Black Box Theatre. Nearly 500 people saw the show at small venue, intimate theatre spaces.
- May 20 & 21- Irvington High School Black Box Theatre, Fremont, CA
- May 22- Mars Bar and Restaurant, San Francisco, CA
- May 23- Bronco Billy's Pizza Dinner Theatre, Fremont, CA
- May 27- Irvington High School Black Box Theatre, Fremont, CA
I chose Clean Alternative for IHS because I was looking for a style that would challenge the students to think of theatre in a different way. Theatre is often pigeon holed into merely a form of entertainment at the high school level This is often because we choose musicals written between the 1920's-1960's. Their social relevance is often lost on a generation that does not catch the references. Annie is an example. Annie has the song "we'd like to thank you Herbert Hoover" which is a scathing review of the politics leading to the great depression, but what 15 year old will catch that? Clean Alternatives is designed to bring the audience so close to the action and with such a fast pace of dialogue that you can't help but pay attention. The goal is to show students that theatre is a powerful form of social commentary and a vehicle to explore ideas. This is my personal response to the degradations of the theatrical art form that I see on television. With a medium as powerful and pervasive as television, why is there so little content that inspires us to think and engage with our own lives and fates? Clean Alternatives basically slaps you in the face with the opposite, literally forcing us to question.."didn't you think...because we did not...we did not..."
The base humor of "who farted" keeps students engaged when they are struggling with the fast academic language. The love plot line gives us hope that we are not all doomed to the fate of a planet running a fever with this "infection of human occupation." So I felt that Clean Alternatives had enough humor and palatable content to keep the students engaged with complex and mature content. I also chose the play for the logistics of finding a play where I could fit both the cast and audience in that very small space but hey I like it, its cozy!
~Maia Steward directed Clean Alternatives for the Irvington Conservatory Theatre
The show, Clean Alternatives, is a contemporary interpretation of the struggle that exists within us between our moral obligations to the environment and our desires for money, wealth, and power. I chose a warm color scheme to represent a red-orange LA-style sunset when the pollution settles in the low skies. The dark colors of this poster go along with how this play contradicts it's title in being "clean" and I chose to use a dirty font to symbolize the pollution that we face in society. I also chose striking, yet simplistic elements of design (such as lining up all the text on the right hand side) in parallel to the show's content of addressing severe topics. If there's one thing that I learned from taking part in this production, it'd be learning to appreciate the things that are there in life and learning to live each moment to it's fullest. This goes along with my use of organic shapes and the straightforward design composition because simplicity is often overlooked when making artist choices. However, I did not have a specific message to convey to the audience aside from getting them to think about the issues presented. In fact, part of Ms. Steward director's note was: "We do not ask the audience to agree with the ideas presented, but we do challenge you to think. Love, hate, or enjoy the show; but please leave with an opinion!". On that note, I feel as if my goal as an artist is successfully accomplished when my work leaves the viewer with something to think about.