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The REP launches a season of firsts with A Child's Guide to Heresy

This "adult fairy tale" with supernatural elements is set in medieval England.

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Getting medieval: Daryll Heysham and David Cabot in A Child's Guide to Heresy. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW YENCHAK.

Point Park's professional theater company, the REP, has staged plenty of world premieres. In 2009, for instance, it debuted Thom Thomas's drama A Moon to Dance By, starring stage icon Jane Alexander, later produced at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse. And it's staged several world premieres by Pittsburgh's own Tammy Ryan, whose works have been produced across the country.

But until this year, the REP had never offered a whole season of works brand-new to Pittsburgh -- three of them brand-new, period. That's a huge challenge, because getting a new play running invariably takes much extra work, often including significant script revisions. 

Moreover, the season-opener is A Child's Guide to Heresy, Kendrew Lascelles' "adult fairy tale" with supernatural elements set in 13th-century England. With its big set, video projections and cast of 16, it's the REP's biggest production in more than a decade, says company artistic director Ronald Allan-Lindblom.

The play arose from the REP's long association with California-based director Robert Miller, who's known screenwriter and playwright Lascelles since the 1980s. Lindblom loved Lascelles' novel of A Child's Guide and suggested a stage version.

The story follows a village lad's wild dealings with a corrupt bishop, an alchemist, a witch, various monks and more. Satan stops by, too. Lindblom calls it "a cross between a Ken Follett novel and an Umberto Eco novel, The Name of the Rose."

The Child's Guide cast includes Brian Knoebel, Daryll Heysham, Daina Michelle Griffith, John Amplas and Lascelles himself.

Miller, who's directing, isn't usually attracted to period stories, but this one drew him in.

"I feel like I've fallen down this rabbit hole into the 13th century and it's kinda cool," he says. "That's what we're asking of the audience, to stumble down this rabbit hole and take a journey with us."

The REP follows Child's Guide with the local premiere of Ryan's Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods, about a woman's relationship with a Sudanese refugee. Then come two more world premieres: Eric Burns' midlife-crisis drama Mid-Strut and MIA, Bruce J. Robinson's drama about a veteran with a son missing in action since 1991.

Says Lindblom about producing new plays, "We roll the dice on these things." It's like telling the audience: "This is our research, and this is what we've discovered so far."

 

The REP presents A CHILD'S GUIDE TO HERESY Fri., Sept. 9-Sept. 25. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. $7-27. 412-392-8000 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com

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