Opening Perseverance Theatre’s 2017-2018 season, “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” will give audiences a pro-wrestling show.
The dramatic comedy by Kristoffer Diaz which was up for a Pulitzer in 2012, will be directed by Shona Osterhout who recently directed “Chicago”and “Oklahoma.” The pro-wrestling scenes will be guided by fight choreographer Frank Delaney. Visiting from California is actor Vimel Sephus who will play Chad Deity. Perseverance Theatre Director of Education Tom Robenolt will play the Boss.
Perseverance Theatre’s actor-in-residence Enrique Bravo will play the lead role of Macedonio Guerra, known by his ring name Mace. Although Mace is a talented wrestler he lacks the personality to take on the showmanship side of pro-wrestling. So, he must lose and assure that wrestling superstar Chad Deity looks good. After meeting VP, an outgoing wrestler with charisma, the tables threaten to turn for everyone involved.
Bravo has been with Perseverance since 2006 making this his 21st show. He was drawn to this town by a mixture of community and nature he said. His experience as an actor here has allowed for a plethora of positive outcomes.
“That’s what’s been great: being here has really allowed me to spread my wings as an actor,” Bravo said. “I’ve done musicals, dramas, comedies. I’ve sort of kept all of those muscles working and alive and vibrant. That doesn’t happen for a lot of actors. People get stuck in one thing; I had a buddy who got stuck acting as Johnny Cash for a long time. That is never why I became an actor. People get to see these performances and then it’s gone and you move on to the next thing and create again.”
Bravo has played many different roles from Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mocking Bird” to the main role in Sweeney Todd. Though he is Mexican-American , this is his first time being cast as a Hispanic man with his role as Mace, a Puerto Rican man. Bravo said he’s excited to have the opportunity to take this role. Between the “rapid-fire” dialogue and the physically demanding nature of this show, Bravo promised the audience will be entertained.
“Wrestling is just a part of,” Bravo said. “It has a lot to say currently about race. It uses this platform of wrestling to speak on the bigger discussion of race, but it’s funny and witty and heartfelt. I appreciate all of the (performances) I’ve done, but this one really speaks to me as a person of color. It has a lot of good things to say. Plus the wrestling part of it really is a piece of art.”
Richard Carter’s main role is his part as The Bad Guy but he’ll also be playing Old Glory and Billy Hartland. Carter sees his characters as being the good, the bad, and the ugly. Old Glory personifies the good. He is a veteran wrestler who cares about his craft and lives and breathes for wrestling. His relationship with his wrestling partner is what Carter calls overwhelmingly patriotic. The Bad Guy, of course, personifies the bad by making it seem as though he truly enjoys being hated by the audience. Billy Hartland is kind of ugly due to being the younger, goofy, new addition to the world of professional wrestling, Carter said.
Carter normally participates in musicals with Perseverance Theatre and is used to switching minor background roles during the shows. The difference between the characters he plays in Chad Deity are less minor, making his jump between the three a stark transition. But it’s an evolution he enjoys, allowing him to experience the different roles and costumes.
Carter has been in Juneau for six years now after coming up to attend the University of Alaska Southeast. His first experience with Perseverance was through the improv club at UAS.
“It was kind of serendipitous,” Carter said. “I stumbled into the improv gathering one day and ended up performing at a few venues and one of those was at Perseverance’s second stage or the Phoenix room.”
He went to some shows and wound up on the design team of one of the plays. He’d never had experience acting, but because of the shortage of actors, he was encouraged to take a role. He became an actor on accident.
Carter expressed his gratitude toward both Sephus and Athyal who were brought up to perform in Chad Deity and have taken part of this play previously. From the first rehearsal they aided the other actors in understanding the direction that the play should head. All the actors have been able to build off that knowledge, Carter said.
“Something Shona said that stood out to me during the first rehearsal is that she loves things to be real and honest and to have a message that punches in a powerful way,” Carter said. “She likes big and loud and flashing lights… the audience will be able to get so much out of the play based on her direction. This big theatrical experience will have a strong political message, especially during this political climate.”
Carter’s workout routine in preparation of his roles began a month prior to the first rehearsal. He spent around two hours daily getting into shape for his role. The amount of time spent on practicing the wrestling moves in the script, such as a “power bomb,” has been a serious enterprise for all involved.
“I want to tell people to be loud!” Carter said. “The more energy the cast is given, it’s metaphysical, and the noise from the audience is absorbed by the cast, it will be reciprocated.”
Jacob Athyal is one of the visiting actors Perseverance brought up for Chad Deity and will play the role of Vigneshwar Paduar, otherwise known as VP. Athyal played the same character six years ago when he was 19-years-old, He had never acted before but he loved the role, making it an easy decision for him to say yes when asked to take part in the play again.
VP is the life of the party, filled with energy, and is the kind of guy who hits on every woman that walks by. Athyal has done many different things in his second time around as VP. His first time he played VP, he had recently moved to America from India to study journalism at Suffolk University in Boston. He graduated with a journalism degree, but along the way, discovered that journalism wasn’t for him and found himself quickly imbedded into the world of acting.
“This (Chad Deity) is going to be a different play. We are in a different place then we were in 2011,” Athyal said. “Last time, I was new to America and so excited. For racial issues, you can say it was just as tough as it was back then but it’s louder now. I understand American culture a lot more now, plus I’m older. I’ve seen a lot more. It’s bound to be different.”
Athyal still lives in Boston working fulltime as an actor in his town’s lively theatre scene, allowing him to take on six to seven shows a year. After receiving word from Perseverance Theatre that he was invited to play VP in Juneau, his only reservations were his fear of bears. Once he discovered that they don’t in fact “just wander the streets,” he could fully embrace the wonders of Juneau.
“Alaska is beautiful. I’ve met people from Alaska in Boston and since being here I’ve come to find out why they are so proud of it,” Athyal said. “For three weeks being in Juneau it would be insane to be in Alaska and not go outside. We’ve done a lot and that’s the cool thing about Perseverance, what we did wasn’t necessary through the theatre, but through the people. They sweep you up and take you to go hiking, crab fishing, spending the night at Peterson Cabin, you name it. Whenever we are out of the theatre we soak up as much of Alaska as possible… Alaska is a character to itself.”
The people who are behind light, sound and costume design at Perseverance have blown Athyal away by their talents. Saying they are of the highest caliber.
“It’s really exciting walking into a theater and seeing people that very much know what to do,” Athyal said. “As actors you’re able to relax because you know you’re in really good hands.”
“Chad Deity” will run from Sept. 15-Oct. 7 in Juneau and Nov. 9-19 in Anchorage. In Juneau, tickets to “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” are available at the Perseverance Theatre box office, the Juneau Art and Culture Center, Hearthside Books, by calling 463-TIXS, and at ptalaska.org. In Anchorage, tickets are available at Centertix, ptalaska.org and 263-ARTS.
The play includes strong language and is recommended for ages 14 and up.
“Dead serious, I really think people are going to be like ‘oh wow this is pretty cool,’” Bravo said. “We don’t get a lot of contemporary stuff but in this play we get more from what’s going on now that makes it even more appealing.”
Mackenzie Fisher is a freelance writer living in Juneau.