Can a parent love a child just for him or herself alone? Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA will present the West Coast premiere of a darkly comic, yet poignant new play about childhood in America. Inspired by the unsolved murder of six-year old JonBenét Ramsey, House of Gold by Gregory Moss opens on October 22 at Atwater Village Theatre, with low-priced previews beginning October 15.
"House of Gold is a hilarious, yet scathing critique of our culture, revealing dark truths about our values, and, ultimately, about ourselves," explains EST/LA artistic director Gates McFadden, who also directs. "Reading this play returned me to my own childhood. Like the character in the play, I was the ‘pleaser' child-performer. As an adult, my role on Star Trek was my parents' dream come true, but for me, it brought back a lot of childhood ambivalence."
She continues, "In American culture, reality TV is more real than real life. Parents think it's normal to exploit and humiliate their children on camera, if only to give their own dreary lives more meaning-‘my video got over a million hits on You Tube!' Children either receive too much parental attention or not enough. Something horrible in the news? Goodie! Let's get the details."
In House of Gold, Jacqueline Wright (recently seen in EST/LA productions of Mlle. God and Tree) heads the ensemble as a young beauty pageant contestant who must constantly remain the perfect living doll for her obsessive "live-the-American-Dream" parents, and Alex Davis (Alex Davis: Man of the Year, his interdisciplinary one-man show about life as the child of iconic actor Brad Davis and as a trans man) portrays teen misfit Jasper, neglected by his parents and living in the margins. Denise Crosby (reuniting with McFadden for the first time since they co-starred on Star Trek: TNG) plays the pageant mom, known only as "Woman" in the script, while Tony Pasqualini (playwright and actor: Loyalties at Pacific Resident Theatre) is "Man." Graham Sibley (Crack Whore Galore) is "Joseph M. Lonely"; Keith Arthur Bolden (Mlle. God at EST/LA, Neighbors at the Matrix) is the detective who wants to play the hero; and Chris Arvan, Josh Heine, Matt Little and Eric Schulman are the "Apollonian Boys," entitlEd White males who function as a chorus of Ambercrombie and Fitch furies.
"Our space at Atwater Village will be used in some interesting and non-traditional ways that we hope will surprise audiences," McFadden concludes. "I'm working closely with an animator, Drew Christie, whose work inspires me and with whom I've always wanted to collaborate. The show incorporates his distinctive animation and cartoons, as well as video, projections, and a lot of fun choreography. We're calling it a kaleidoscopic comedy."
Set design for House of Gold is by Kurt Boetcher; animation is by Drew Christie; video design is by Alexander Mibecki; projection design is by William Parks; lighting design is by Elizabeth Harper; sound design is by David B. Marling; costume design is by Christina Haatainen-Jones; and choreography is by Gates McFadden.
House of Gold premiered at Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C. and recently opened at the Mousson d'Été International Theatre Festival in Pont-a-Mousson, France.
Gregory Moss's other plays include Orange, Hat and Grace (Soho Rep), The Argument (Attic Theater, NY, and Interrobang, Chicago - opening October, 2011), Billy Witch (this October at Studio 42); and The Uses of Enchantment (October, 2011 at Theater In The Open, Newburyport MA). Punkplay was published in Play A Journal of Plays in December 2009 and was produced in 2010 at The Steppenwolf Garage in Chicago, where it was named one of the Ten Best Plays of 2011 by Timeout Chicago. His work has been developed with or produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, The A.R.T., The Atlantic Center for the Arts, The Empty Space, Playwrights Horizons, PlayPenn, Soho Rep and New York Theatre Workshop. His collaborations with filmmaker Roger Warren Beebe have been screened widely at film festivals both in America and abroad. Gregory is the recipient of a 2010-2011 Jerome Fellowship and a recently-awarded 2011-2012 McKnight Fellowship. Other awards: 2006-2007 Lucille Lortel Playwriting Fellowship, a 2008 Millay Colony Residency, and a 2009 Eugene O'Neill Center National Playwrights Conference residency.