Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – A trio of young theater artists known as the Hatch Arts Collective created the play “Chickens in the Yard” in 2012 that had a brief standing room-only run in a Lawrenceville gallery. They thought it was one and done. Quantum Theatre’s Karla Boos had other ideas.
Ms. Boos has pulled them back into the coop — actually, a Lawrenceville building that once housed a men’s choir and the Boom Boom Room bar. Director Adil Mansoor, playwright Paul Kruse and producer Nicole Shero are the first recipients of the Gerry Kay New Voices Program, a showcase for developing artists that honors Ms. Boos’ longtime mentor and Quantum supporter.
“Chickens in the Yard” features four actors — Laurie Klatscher, Alec Silberblatt, Siovhan Christensen and Joseph McGranaghan — in a story that explores what a gay identity means for a Pittsburgh couple. It is told partly through the eyes of four chickens.
What came first, the Hatch or the chicken? After a good laugh, playwright Kruse explained that the play came first.
“For me it’s a really personal connection,” he continued, saying it began when visiting his brother, who lives in an intentional community in Minneapolis. “What it means for them is that they have a real interest in urban farming, so the backyard at that time had four chickens. My brother Joe and I were hanging out on his patio and talking about how individually they are pretty helpless kind of stupid creatures but collectively have a kind of intelligence and how that is so similar to people in many ways. For me, that’s how the idea came to be.”
The names of the chickens in the play are the names of his brother’s original four chickens: Lucille 2, Bruce Lee, Ann Hutchinson and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The collaboration to create the play began via Skype, when Mr. Kruse left for Chicago. They formed a two-person theater club — they would read a play a week and discuss it as a way to stay in touch.
“We knew we were interested in screwing with narrative and why is a thing theater and what does it mean to have bodies on the stage,” Mr. Mansoor said. “Those things were immediately just way more exciting for us to talk about. Also, in our friendship, Paul and I spent a lot of time talking about our moms and coming out to parents and families. So in many ways, the six people you meet in this play line up with people in our lives, although it’s not that clear cut.”
By the fifth draft of the play, Mr. Kruse had moved to Pittsburgh with the intention to produce the play with what would become the Hatch Collective.
“For me, what Pittsburgh has been about is possibilities,” said Mr. Kruse. “It’s possible to live a sustained healthy life and have a full arts practice in a community that has — and Karla is a part of this — a kind of emotional intelligence that maybe other cities don’t have as much.”