By guest writers Taylor Rascher (director) and W.R. Heispascher (playwright)
Heispascher: The play’s genesis began with a single charge: to analyze the role that relationships play in our lives. This structure prompted an initial phase of research; thus, I turned to nature’s various relationships. The natural world exhibits the gambit of diversity when it comes to relationships: each party secures a positive, negative, or neutral interaction with another. Next, I took these various interactions (eg. symbiosis, mutualism, parasitism, synnecrosis) and asked myself: what would this look like between two humans? This creative exercise brought me to the precipice of The Mutualistic Melody’s basic through-line.
Rascher: Overshadowed by current events which demonstrate the untrustworthiness of politicians and corporate leaders, this play forces us to look at the way tension and stress impacts our decision-making. Why do we trust particular men and woman: do we survey our list of options; or do we settle, tricking our minds into satisfaction? This play subtly argues for the latter, pulling back mankind’s mask to reveal the rotting flesh beneath.
Heispascher: We want to believe that our inner-circle is dependable; each person supporting us and covering our backs. Unfortunately, the characters in The Mutualistic Melody traverse a path similar to the the great Julius Caesar; one which protects no man.
Rascher: One of the most daunting obstacles we’ve encountered throughout the rehearsal process has been how do we characterize this play? Being a new play, one may be quick to classify the text as contemporary drama. However, the cast and myself have found this assessment to be incomplete. Further investigation reveals the play’s frequent use of word play and rich language, traits normally attributed to classical works. Yet the play resists rigid categories like drama. Dark comedy provides another lens with which to view the work, but once again we cannot stop there. The cast has appealed to the traditional denotation of drama: a work possessing a dramatic arc, balanced by comedic notes.
Heispascher: Perhaps Neo-classic drama does The Mutualistic Melody justice, in the spirit of reviving a classical model within a contemporary framework. Indeed the surest way to isolate a description: see the show for yourself!
Rascher: The rehearsal process has allowed the cast to explore the motifs which populate the play. One of which W.R. has previously touched: nature. One character continuously compares his struggle to the life of a tree. Although the mighty tree loses leaves in winter, its resilience brings about a rebirth year after year. Yet what happens when damage is done to the trunk of the tree? Will the tree survive to next spring, or will it become a hollowed corpse?
Heispascher: Another motif which has become central to our approach for this show is card play and gambling. There are many commonalities between the game of poker and establishing a relationship. How do you know when the person across from you is telling the truth? When can you be sure that person is lying? What level of trust is required to establish a meaningful relationship?
Rascher: Conversely, when can you trust in treachery? In poker you are expected to deploy a “poker face,” a mask used to shield the truth of your hand to your opponents. We realized that everyone uses their own “poker face” in life. In poker we also have something called “tells,” an unintentional telegraphing of the quality of cards you have. And yes, this is an effect each of us knows all too well. The time where you are unable to contain your excitement, or dread? Luckily, W.R. has provided the actors with ample occurrences of the tension between gambling and life. Are we the Ace of Spades, or the Suicide King?
Heispascher: In addition to plays, I write fictionalized short stories. In my opinion, the marker of a successful story is: does it prompt a secondary read? When an audience is inspired to re-read a story the experience instantaneously matures and develops new layers which may have been missed during the first read.
Rascher: Film incorporates this device as well; developing a plot which climaxes at an unexpected twist, encouraging a secondary viewing. We all can acknowledge the power of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, because each additional time you watch the movie you feel empowered by the knowledge that [Spoiler Alert: fifteen years in the making!] Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is dead. While The Mutualistic Melody cannot boast the portrayal of dead people, the final minutes will have every audience member ravenous for more.
The Mutualistic Melody is onstage at Bedroom – Fort Fringe,612 L Street NW,Washington, DC 20001
Taylor Rascher is an actor and director who calls Northeast DC home. He has recently been seen onstage in WNO’s production of Moby Dick at the Kennedy Center. He is currently involved in a feature film called There and Back.
W.R. Heispascher is an author of fiction and drama currently living in DC. His most recent work, Actualization: A Modern Apollo was showcased at the 2013 Tucson Fringe Festival. Currently, Heispascher is working on a collection of short stories which is a response to America’s corrupt prison system.