What does it mean to own property?
How about a human being?
Caryl Churchill, famous for her commentary on the fine line between what is personal and what is political, takes feminism and free enterprise to a disturbing new level in her first play. Owners previews on Tuesday, September 6th and Wednesday, September 7th, Opens Thursday, September 8th and runs Thursday - Sunday at 8pm until October 16th, at The Ashby Stage in Berkeley.
Owners is, at heart, a story about owning property, a theme that is currently scorching the Bay Area. In the play, Churchill traverses the landscape of wicked authority gained by being a landlord, and the true power one person can have over others by controlling where and how they live.
In Owners, Churchill presents a criticism of the capitalist ethic so widely appropriated in the early 70s, the aggressive “get ahead” ideal that took over the workplace and political forums of the industrial word. In the modern ago of the faceless corporation, Churchill’s exploration of capitalism’s effect on social relationships is even more poignant.
With Owners, Churchill began the exploration of class and gender that formed her aesthetic as a successful playwright in later life. In an interesting twist on feminist principles, the main power player in the play is Marion, a leathery heartless and conniving real estate developer who takes the capitalist philosophy and class hierarchy to a truly alarming level.
Arguably our most famous living female playwright, Caryl Churchill was herself a product of a normal, straightforward middle class English upbringing. Although her early years were spent in Montreal, Canada, Churchill returned to England to attend college at Oxford, where her first plays were written. Owners was Churchill’s first professionally staged play, produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 1972. Churchill continued on with the Royal Court in a playwright’s residency between 1974 and 1976.
In all of her work, Churchill reaches politics through the mind and actions of the seemingly innocent bystander. By addressing the unmet needs and repressed thoughts of characters who seem otherwise disconnected from their surroundings, Churchill reveals an incredibly rich underbelly of social structure and supremacy.
Above all, Churchill’s themes resonate outside their historical context. This is largely because her plays describe people over eras, and human relationships over cultural trends. Churchill vigorously goes to bat for the oppressed in her plays, whether they are poor, female or socially disadvantaged. In Owners she has a crack at giving voice to all three.
Shotgun Players production of Owners will be directed by Shotgun Players Artistic Director Patrick Dooley. The cast features Shotgun company members Trish Mulholland (Mother Courage, Caucasian Chalk Circle, Play About the Baby), and Marilyn Stanley (There will be no Trojan War) as well as Zehra Berkman, Howard Dillon, Meghan Kane, John Mercer (Travesties), and Ryan O’Donnell (The Just). Evren Odcikin will assistant direct (Water Principle) Christine Crook (The Just, Travesties) will design costumes, Jean Francois Revon will design the set, Chris Paulina (The Just, Travesties) will design sound, Robert Ted Anderson (Arabian Night, The Just, Death of Meyerhold) will design the lighting and Jeanine Rodgers (Death of Meyerhold) acts as properties mistress.
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Howard Dillon is Clegg and Ryan O’Donnell is Worsley in Shotgun’s Production of Owners
Zehra Berkman is Lisa and John Mercer is Alec in Shotgun’s Production of Owners