Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night," through June 23.

Scarlett (Felicia Benefield) and Drumhead (Wiley Naman Strasser) of Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night. Photo by Laura Mason.

By Stephanie Wright Hession

Andrew Saito didn't intend to write "Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night," his fantastical murder mystery premiering at the Cutting Ball Theater. Its germination started during Octavio Solís' playwriting workshop at Intersection for the Arts in 2006. There, Solís utilized exercises to encourage creative fluidity and stream of consciousness writing.
"Octavio is a master teacher. He really introduced me to a new way of writing - not operating from a conscious thought or a calculated plan but really opening one's self up to one's inner realms of creativity and subconscious," says Saito, 34, who lives in San Francisco.
Solis instructed his students to imagine themselves on a street corner observing a person, reaching into that person's pocket for a photograph and conjuring up an image of the photograph's subject. For Saito, the subject morphed into Drumhead, a morgue attendant. A few months later, richer details emerged during Migdalia Cruz's workshop at the Playwrights Foundation.
"That's when a lot of these other characters started to come in," he says. "Before I really only had Drumhead, so that's when Scarlett and Snowflake and Gran Ma Ma came in. Some of my plays are about experiences I've had, or I've become fascinated with a historic event or an episode, so my plays are sometimes based on these. The writing of those plays is more conscious or deliberate. With 'Krispy Kritters,' I don't know where it's coming from, and it's exhilarating and terrifying at the same time."
Centered upon two adrift souls, Drumhead and a charismatic prostitute named Scarlett, the story takes place in what the playwright describes as "a forgotten city in a nearly forgotten state (perhaps Nevada)" and "a ghost town inhabited still."
The play became further defined after Rob Melrose, Cutting Ball's artistic director, invited Saito to participate in "RISK IS THIS ... The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival" in 2011.
"I just loved the play, but I thought maybe no one else would like it because I can have odd taste, but I knew that I wanted to have time with this writer. Then a number of our board members went to a reading, and they just went crazy for the play," says Melrose, who directs the upcoming production. "I was worried it was too outrageous, but people have been really excited by it. I'm just really thrilled by the response."
A $166,000 grant awarded to Cutting Ball from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation enabled Saito to become the company's resident playwright and work intensely with Melrose on "Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night."
"I hadn't showed it that much, and it was a big mess and I didn't really know what to do with it," Saito says. "The play is where it is because of Rob and Cutting Ball."

(R-L) Drumhead (Wiley Naman Strasser) lusts after Scarlett (Felicia Benefield) even though Snowflake (Mimu Tsjuimura) is more available in Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night. Photo by Laura Mason

Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday. (This weekend's shows are previews; opens next Thursday.) Through June 23; check website for full schedule. $10-$50. Cutting Ball Theater at Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., S.F. (415)