The Open Door Theatre will present Kerpow!, a brand-new comedy written by Triangle playwrights Kit FitzSimons and Bryan Cohen and directed by Anthony Fichera, July 16 through Aug. 7 in various venues in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham, NC. Publicist Carolyn Busse claims that Kerpow! will be just like other Open Door summer shows, except that it will have "fewer water guns and more men in tights."
FitzSimons and Cohen, who both are members of Chapel Hill's Dirty South Improv Company, co-wrote Kerpow! expressly for the Open Door Theatre. Kit FitzSimons, who previously appeared in Open Door's presentations of The Complete History of America (Abridged), The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, and A Mislaid Heaven, will perform in Kerpow!. Bryan Cohen, who has appeared in many productions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and conceived and directed the independent production of Happy Endings Anonymous: Fairy Tales That Didn't Make It, will only play a behind-the-scenes role in Open Door's 2004 summer show.
Open Door company member and dramaturg Anthony Fichera says the show's music and lyrics are "all the brain-orphans of Kit and Bryan. Needless to say," he quips, "they put Britney and Hillary Duff to shame."
Fichera, who directed The Complete History of America (Abridged) last summer and The Eight in December 2002, says, "We approached Kit back in March of 2004 about writing an original summer comedy based on (or directly copped from, depending on whose lawyer you end up talking to) our evergreen Reduced Shakespeare Company shows. Before we could even say 'Hey, that's pure plagiarism,' Kit and Bryan had written a full-length script and kidnapped several of our relatives, so that we were forced to be amazed at how funny the play was."
Fichera adds, "What I like best about this show is that it combines the spiritual depth and profundity of Jessica Simpson with the light-hearted grace and gauzy charm of Strindberg's The Dance of Death. I decided to direct it because the artistic director of the Open Door Theatre called me at 3:46 a.m. and said, 'You're directing the summer show,' and hung up. Then he sent several pizzas to my address and told the delivery boys I tipped really well."
In Kerpow!, Fichera says, "Four people — Kit (Kit Fitzsimmons), Chris (Chris Walter), Beth (Beth Sommerville), and Caroline (Caroline McCann) — get together to put on a show about superheroes because they are obsessed with comic books and such and have a burning desire to tell the world about them. During the course of the show, they discuss the nature of superheroes and discover that there is a super-villain on the loose that only they can defeat. I think there's something also in there about saving the whales and the importance of vegan diets, but I may have cut those after the first rehearsal."
Fichera claims, "The major challenge [of staging Kerpow! outside at various Triangle venues] is, as with all of our summer shows, to take a work clearly designed for an indoor environment and $45,000 worth of sets, costumes, and tech and reduce it to two portable boxes of props and silly clothes. The other major challenge is finding actors for whom working out of doors in the very performer-friendly ambience of North Carolina in the summer is a welcome thing. This takes a great deal of beating the bushes, bribery, and outright extortion. Once that's done, it's just a matter of yelling 'louder, faster, funnier' at them until they get the point."
When asked to name his creative team (choreographer, musical director, set designer, etc.), Fichera quips, "There's about 45 seconds worth of dancing in the show. I approached Twyla Tharpe and she said no, as did Cunningham, Robbins, Hawkins, Morris, Bausch, Jones, and Taylor. I've left messages with Graham and Fosse, but so far I haven't heard a thing. So, I did it myself."
Fichera says there is no musical director. He adds, "Having played woodwinds for nearly 20 years, I discovered that I still can't sing; and so whatever musical fragments are in the show are entirely the cast's responsibility."
Set Designer? "If a flat playing ground strewn with a million props is 'design,'" Fichera chuckles, "then the cast and I take credit. Mostly the cast — I tend to be a little fussy and always pick up after myself."
Lighting Designer? "The sun," says Fichera. "Extremely cheap, extremely reliable, and didn't go to Yale, so you don't get any attitude with your sunrises."
Costume Designer? "Our inimitable stage manager Jen Bauer helped create a lot of what passes for costumes," notes Fichera. "So did long-time Open Door associates Steve Tell (uber-props man) and Allison Tytel. I hereby thank them all humbly."
Sound Designer? "Our illustrious AD [artistic director], Michael Babbitt, helped me create the six sound cues in the show," cracks Fichera. "They're very cool. I thank him as well, but still expect him to pay for all those pizzas."
For those planning to attend Kerpow! Anthony Fichera suggests, "A working knowledge of comic books is probably helpful; but in the end, if you know nothing about comics going in to the show, you will be an expert when you come out. There're fewer water guns in it, and it's probably even more family-friendly than previous efforts, although having young children exposed to radioactive mutants and references to Halliburton may prove more damaging than expected. And the ability to laugh at guys dressed as Wonder Woman is usually helpful."
The Open Door Theatre presents Kerpow! Friday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m. on the Weaver Street Market lawn (Southern Village location); Saturday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the Amphitheater atop Rosemary St. parking deck in Chapel Hill (at Henderson St.); Sunday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. on the Weaver Street Market lawn (Carrboro location); Friday-Saturday, July 23-24, at 6:30 p.m. in the Amphitheater atop Rosemary St. parking deck in Chapel Hill (at Henderson St.); Sunday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Caffé Driade, 1215-A East Franklin St., Chapel Hill; Friday-Saturday, July 30-31, at 8 p.m. in the Skylight Exchange, 405½ W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill; Sunday, Aug. 1, at 6:30 p.m. at Caffé Driade, 1215-A East Franklin St. in Chapel Hill; and Friday-Saturday, Aug. 6-7, at 8 p.m. at Joe and Jo's Downtown, 427 W. Main St., Durham. Admission is FREE ($5 suggested donation). 919/672-2426 (for information only). The Open Door Theatre: http://www.theopendoor.net/. Weaver Street Market: http://www.weaverstreetmarket.com/ [inactive 9/04]. Caffé Driade: http://www.caffedriade.com/.