PianoFight Secures Its Position in LA Theater

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Nina Harada
Nina Harada

When I first joined PianoFight in San Francisco three and a half years ago I never knew it would grow to the point where it is now. I never knew my involvement in a quirky original little play would grow into a position where I’m spearheading the company’s SoCal expansion.

Come to think of it, why do any of us artists get involved in the projects we do? Is it because we know in X amount of time it will pay us lots of money? Is it because it will make us famous? Is it because we know it will eventually lead to a position of power or creative control?

Well, maybe sometimes but for the most, no it’s not. Hindsight is 20/20 and in the moment all we have is our burning passion to drive us. And oh the places you can go…

I had just graduated from UC Berkeley, ready to dive into my long-time love once more. I got cast in a new production company’s (that I’d never heard of) first play (that I’d never heard of) at a small black box theater (that I’d never heard of). So, why, might you ask, did I say, “Yes! Sign me up!” I don’t know if I can explain it. Gut reaction? Good vibes? Blind faith? But I did. And that play grew into two, three, four and eventually the chance to bring the whole darn company to Los Angeles.

When I finally decided to commit to acting full-force, I knew that meant moving to LA. But I didn’t want to leave the budding theater company I called home so I brought it with me. Along with PianoFight producing company member Jeremy Mascia, we took on the task of building the LA branch of PianoFight in a city flooded with theater companies. Why not have our own instead of joining another?

Well, for one, we were already well invested in PianoFight having both been with the company since the beginning in SF. And second, the creative control and sense of empowerment that comes with being able to put up work in which you believe is irreplaceable. We get to be a part of the process from start to finish.

One such work is the first full-length drama for PianoFight LA, The Position. It’s an original post-apocalyptic thriller written by William Bivins-the most produced playwright of the Bay Area’s ’09-’10 season and a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award winner. PianoFight first produced it in SF after Bivins won our playwright competition, ShortLived, which awards its winner with the chance to pen an original full-length play that we produce for a month-long run. Due to its success during its world premiere at the Off-Market Theater in SF earlier this year, Jeremy and I, along with PianoFight founders Rob Ready and Dan Williams, decided to bring The Position to LA.

The play takes place in the not-so-distant future in a world ravaged by 80% unemployment and mass social chaos. The Concern, a mysterious government agency, brings hope and promise to six candidates who have been carefully selected to compete for one coveted Position. They are given every diversion and temptation imaginable while being recorded around the clock to be evaluated by employees of The Concern.

Cast of THE POSITION
Cast of THE POSITION

With our own increasing unemployment rate and devastatingly weak economy, there are many parallels that can be drawn from the futuristic world of The Position and the very present and real world of our own. Interestingly, this parallel delves deeper into that of the world of an actor-especially a struggling actor in LA. With reality TV showing no signs of stopping and more and more celebrities taking on guest spots that would otherwise go to unknowns, the hurdles of an LA actor are even more than the already abundant challenges that come with pursuing a career that has no step-by-step process.

The six candidates in The Position are stripped of their identities, much like an actor at a casting call. And though they are just a number, like actors auditioning for the same part, they must prove themselves to The Concern as the one for job. The only catch is, they don’t know what The Concern is looking for in a candidate. When we walk into a casting office, we don’t really know what the casting directors and producers are looking for. And sometimes this results in other tactics, aside from just giving a good audition.

The candidates, too, attempt other strategies to get the job. When you want something so badly, when you’ve endured so much, and finally, an opportunity arises, what would you do? Would you remain true and honest? Or would you manipulate the truth? Would you do everything you can to stomp out the competition or would you band together? Bivins’ The Position brings up many of these questions as he forces us to examine our imperfections and frailty in a world no longer secure of any promise of the American Dream.

The six candidates of The Position are played by LA PianoFighters George Gallagher, Jeremy Mascia, Mark Motyl, Ann Nguyen and PianoFight newcomers Sofie Calderon and Akemi Okamura. Recurring PianoFighter Liz Ozborn and newcomer Eric Delgado play employees of The Concern. The Position is directed by June Caryl who first joined PianoFight LA as part of the directing team for ShortLived 3.0.

The Position, produced for PianoFight by Jeremy Mascia and Nina Harada, opens Sept. 30; plays Thur.- Sat., 8 pm; through Oct. 9. Tickets: $20. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles. Go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/129245. $5 discount if you fill out an application at www.ApplyForThePosition.com. or PianoFight.com.

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Nina Harada

Nina Harada