Katie Farmin is the director of Stargazing, a collaborative effort by Tricklock Company and Duke City Repertory Theatre to present an outdoor dinner theater experience they call Theater on the Farm. Written by Caroline Toby Graham specifically for this production, Stargazing is the story of Margot who wants to transform into a star. It is, among other things, a theatrical exploration of the mathematical possibilities of that transformation. Farmin’s father, an astrophysicist, helped work out the math. Farm & Table, the popular locavore restaurant with farm attached (or is that backwards?) always bedazzled with tiny outdoor lights, is a fitting setting to ask the main question of the play: “We know we are made of stars, but are stars made of us?” The audience is invited to pull up a haybale and find out.
Weekly Alibi sat down with Katie Farmin to talk about putting together a play on a farm, space and a little bit about bug spray. The following is an edited version of that interview.
Weekly Alibi: Tell me about Stargazing.
Katie Farmin: This is our fourth or fifth year doing Theater on the Farm, which is our coproduction with Duke City Repertory Theatre. We collaborate as artists on a show that we put on at Farm & Table. They have a beautiful little outdoor stage that is literally in the middle of the farm. It was kind of like this baby love child of Amelia (Duke City Repertory Company Artistic Director Amelia Ampuero) and Juli (Tricklock Company Executive Director Juli Hendren) who had this idea.
Is this the first directing you’ve done with Caroline Toby Graham?
This is actually a really fun thing. I’ve only been in Tricklock a couple years. This is my third year with them. I’ve done mostly acting and music. I actually haven’t done much directing, but Caroline and I went to college together at UNM and we used to collaborate all the time. We actually were in the founding officer group at SCRAP which is the UNM production team. They have a 10-minute play festival called Out of Order and we were part of the founding group of that. Juli came and said, “Theater on the Farm is coming up. I can’t do it. Amelia can’t do it, but let’s shoot around some ideas and figure this out.” I found this an awesome opportunity to work with Caroline again. I said, “Do you want to want to write a show for me?”
Does the audience sit on haybales?
Yes. It’s definitely still haybales. Ever since last year, we’ve gone a little bit more kooky with our ideas, not necessarily doing traditional table and two chairs (sets).
The show is set in space?
There is a lot of space. It’s not like your traditional sit there play. There are a lot of moments that happen in space. At one point in the show, you are among the stars. It’s was this cool creative way to figure out how I literally make the night sky when the night sky is above us? How do I also bring that down here on to Earth?
What about the bugs?
We do provide bug spray. Of course, it’s the fancy all-natural stuff.
How well does that work?
You definitely have to spray yourself down, and you spray yourself down before, but it does work. The last few years, our actors’ arms and legs were covered. It gets hot, but they are grateful not to be attacked by the bugs.
How many actors?
It’s three actors (Evening Star Barron, Josh Browner and Andy Gustke). The show is about Margot and Art, who are siblings. Margot, who we presume is some sort of aficionado of astrophysics and space, is trying to figure out how to literally become a star. It’s sort of with the help of this other being called Nova to figure out what that means, how you do that and this exploration of transformation. What it means to love someone as they truly are and who they were truly meant to be. Using this beautiful image and story of this person literally becoming a star in the sky.
What is different about directing dinner theater?
When people think of theater there is a definite separation between the stage and audience. I think with dinner theater, and a lot of the theater that I personally do, that’s boring. Why would we do that? We are given such this beautiful opportunity to connect with our audience and bring them in. Why not use that? Why pretend like we are in a traditional playing space when clearly everyone can see everything we are doing. Why not make it part of the experience? Why not be under the stars and with the stars at the same time?
What do you think is different from the audience’s perspective?
I think in a lot of ways you are asking audiences, especially ones that are used to more traditional spaces, to be here, right now, with us as we’re telling the story and to accept the way that we are telling the story.
The play is recommended for ages 13 and over. Is that because of sophistication? No other reason?
That must be rare.
I have no opposition to a seven-year-old coming to this play. I don’t think there is anything inappropriate about it. Heck, maybe they might catch something no adult would. However, there is quite a bit of math.