Jonesing for Jonah
For director and performer Jonah Allison, theatre is all about family.
Artistic director of Column 13, Allison gives his eight-year-old company a real workout with a four-?play season that runs over three weeks.
“The best way to create theatre is with an ensemble,” says Allison, citing troupes such as Steppenwolf and the Moscow Art Theatre.
“Playing with an ensemble is like playing with your family. You have a shorthand that’s impossible in other situations, a trust and comfort that frees you to do remarkable things.
“That said, when a new talent knocks on the door and blows you away, I certainly want to bring them into the company.”
For their upcoming season, Column 13 revives earlier shows: a double bill of Daniel MacIvor’s The Soldier Dreams and Matthew Edison’s The Domino Heart, followed by rep performances of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings and Our Lady Of 121st Street.
The Guirgis plays were especially strong the first time around, with a cast that captured the energy and excitement in the New York writer’s language and narrative.
“We’ve been flying under the radar for so long,” says Allison, who’s not only directing all four shows but also appearing in The Domino Heart. “At the last performance of Our Lady, we turned away 80 people because reviews and word of mouth were so strong.
“The consensus at the show’s post-?mortem was that our last night should have been the first. So now we’re delving deeper and getting closer to the meat of the piece.”
When I ask if anything links the four dramas, Allison says it’s the big questions: betrayal, love, loyalty, desperation, even God.
“But each play deals with these large philosophical questions in a really accessible way.”
He’s just secured the rights for Column 13’s next show, Brett C. Leonard’s Unconditional, which recently ran in New York. It’s another ensemble piece, dealing with violence, economics and racism, presented in language he considers as raw and powerful as Guirgis’s.
“It’s up to us to tell all these stories as honestly as we can,” he says. “Without frills or tricks.”