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Huntington Closes Season with Drama about Bullying

Actors discuss the lessons of after all the terrible things I do


In playwright A. Rey Pamatmat’s after all the terrible things I do, wannabe writer Daniel moves back to his Midwest hometown after college in hopes of completing a novel. He applies for a job at Linda’s bookstore, in part because he liked going there as a boy. But as he and Linda talk—about literature and prejudice, homophobia and bullying—they learn that their lives are connected in ways they’d never expected.

Pamatmat asks his audience some tough questions: are there any truly unforgivable acts, and how does a person who does something terrible go on with life? The playwright says he was inspired to examine bullying by the It Gets Better campaign, intended to support people who have been targets of homophobia. Then he realized that we need to also pay attention to those perpetrating violence.

Directed by Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois, after all the terrible things I do closes the Huntington Theatre Company’s 2014–2015 season, playing at the Calderwood Pavilion’s Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts through June 21.

Daniel’s life as a gay man clearly filters into his novel, raising questions about the relationship between bully and victim and the limits of forgiveness. Saying more about the plot would risk spoiling the power of the play’s revelations, which for Zachary Booth and Tina Chilip, the actors in this single-set, two-character drama, were profound.

“I think this is a go-home-and-talk-about-it play, a rethink-your-life kind of play,” says Booth.

While after all the terrible things I do is running in the Wimberly, upstairs in Deane Hall, Company One Theatre presents the New England premiere of Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot at Things and Hit Them, which received an American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award Citation in 2012, playing through June 27. With this joint celebration of the young Filipino-American playwright’s work, the two companies hope to bring attention to an up-and-coming theater voice. A graduate of Yale School of Drama and a former Hodder Fellow in Playwriting at Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Pamatmat has had plays produced off-off-Broadway and by the American Repertory Theater, among others.

BU Today sat down with Booth and Chilip at a rehearsal to talk about the production.

BU Today: For starters, what’s it like doing a full-length two-hander?

Chilip: It’s tough.

Booth: It’s really tough. The process normally allows you a lot of downtime, scenes where you’re not on stage or days where you won’t be called, and you can use that time to work on your lines or take a breather if things have gotten a little tense. In this process, it’s me and Tina and Peter. It’s the three-headed monster all the time.

Chilip: There’s a lot of responsibility that I don’t find as much in plays with a bigger cast. Even if you’re a lead, in a big cast, there’s an ensemble and you feel like you’re all working toward the same thing. Now it feels like: it’s just you and me, there’s no one else to catch the ball—just us two. And the weight of that responsibility is a little scary.

Tell us about getting to know these characters during the weeks of rehearsal.

Chilip: Linda is someone I’ve been thinking about ever since the audition. And my way in, what I understood about her, my starting point, is she is a Filipino immigrant, and she came here in high school, and that was kind of my experience. I was born and raised in the Philippines and came here when I was 19. Just having that way in, her backstory, what that would be like, was helpful for me.

Booth: What’s challenging for me about this part is that even though I’ve played a lot of bad guys in my career, I always try to find a way I can justify my behavior, so that I can actually live the person without believing I am bad. Trying to justify Daniel’s behavior has made words come out of my mouth that have shocked me. I’ve taken sides in discussions or arguments that I probably wouldn’t have outside of this process. I’ve copped to feelings I have about the way children treat each other, about the way people treat each other, that I had never articulated before. It’s led to discovery and also a lot of genuine emotion, raw emotion.

Chilip: I think Rey does a really beautiful job of doing a lot of that work for me, mapping out why Linda did what she did. It’s mapped out a little more clearly. I do find so much humanity in Linda, and I completely get where she comes from and why she did what she did and the remorse she has for it afterward. And the journey she goes through in trying to find forgiveness and redemption.

The story goes to some heavier, darker places than is initially apparent.

Chilip: It just escalates really, really quickly. We have been finding our way through that. It’s part of the beauty of the play, really, because you meet the characters and they seem like ordinary people.

Booth: Part of what I think is the brilliance of the play, and the challenge of showing so much in a short period, is that it pushes people off-center and allows them to sort of examine or define the word ordinary. As much as the subject matter, the history of these characters, can be described as dark and unique to them, I think in a way the darkness is ordinary.

So maybe their lives would have gone on unchanged if they hadn’t come together?

Chilip: We play ordinary people really—we’re just sitting on secrets, and a past that we bring out of each other. And if he hadn’t walked in, she might have just continued an ordinary life.

Booth: People change when they’re confronted with a personal connection that challenges their beliefs. I think what this play does so well is, it talks about places where we as a culture can grow, but it does it from a very personal place.

The Huntington Theatre Company production of after all the terrible things I do is at the Calderwood Pavilion’s Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston, through June 21. Curtain times: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 7 p.m.; matinees: select Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $83 for the general public, $5 off for seniors, $10 off for BU faculty, staff, and alumni. There are $15 tickets for students and military members (with ID) and $25 tickets for those under 35. CFA students receive two free tickets with their CFA card at the door the day of the performance (subject to availability). Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley Square or the Orange Line to Back Bay. Purchase tickets here, at the Calderwood Pavilion box office, or call 617-933-8600.

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Joel Brown, writer, BU Today at Boston University
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

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