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Every Dog (Act) Has Its Day – An Interview With Playwright Liz Duffy Adams

by Karen Tortora-Lee on January 20, 2011

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Liz Duffy Adams (photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)

Liz Duffy Adams (photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)

It’s no secret that as far as Theatre Ensembles go, Flux is one of my very favorites.  Consistently turning out quality work that never fails to leave audiences utterly captivated and amazed, they set the off-off Broadway bar very high – only to sail over it with each successive production.  I’m always expectant when I know a new Flux show is coming around because for me it means  - as a reviewer as well as an audience member – a guaranteed great night of theatre.

Well, I won’t have to wait much longer to get my Flux Fix – because Liz Duffy Adams’ post-apocalyptic dark comedy, Dog Act, will be coming to the Flamboyan Theater (at the Clemente Solo Velez Cultural & Educational Center) on February 4th. Dog Act “follows Zetta Stone, a traveling performer, and her companion Dog (a young man undergoing a voluntary species demotion) as they walk through the wilderness of the former U.S.A. with their vaudeville troupe. They are heading toward a gig in China, if they can find it…and if they can survive to get there.”  Sounds like nothing I’ve ever seen before – and exactly what I’ve come to expect from Flux!

In an interview with Liz Duffy Adams I was able to find out how this extraordinary play found this extraordinary ensemble; how she was able to make vaudeville and post apocalyptic themes mesh, and what undergoing a “voluntary species demotion” actually means . . .

Dog Act featuring Lori E. Parquet and Chris Wight (Photo by Isaiah Tanenbaum)

Dog Act featuring Lori E. Parquet and Chris Wight (Photo by Isaiah Tanenbaum)

So many questions about Dog Act that I hardly know where to start! But first I’d like to talk a little bit about Flux. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Flux Ensemble and have been watching their progress for the past several years now. Tell me how you first came to collaborate with this group for Dog Act.

LDA: I met Gus [August Schulenburg - current Artistic Director of Flux] in 2002 at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival; he was there with his play RIDING THE BULL and I was there with DOG ACT. We stayed in touch, and when he told me recently that Flux wanted to produce DOG, I thought it would be a great fit.

Kelly O’Donnell is directing the piece – and she’s a very inventive and thoughtful director. How did her staging of the piece affect it? Were there any moments that changed because of her particular vision?

Oh, absolutely, I’m sure there will be many; we’re only half-way through rehearsals, so it’s a little hard to say specifically. I agree about Kelly being inventive and thoughtful; it’s been a joy to work with her. I’d say that her staging will bring out both the danger of the world and the comedy of the piece very vividly.

Dog Act is set in a post-apocalyptic world. I’m personally always curious about the idea of setting something in a post-apocalyptic world – what was your main reason for putting your play in (what I would expect) is the future? Is there any way it could exist now?

I don’t think this story could exist in the present; I think it’s inseparable from the setting. I tend to go to the future or the past for theatrical settings. For one thing, I like obliqueness of approach; talking about the present through the past or future takes it off “the nose.” Also, I love heightened theatrical language – one of the things I had the most pleasure with in writing DOG was the freedom to invent future dialects; how the different tribes of the play talk, and what that tells us about them.

I also love the idea of juxtaposing vaudeville – a very old-fashioned notion - with post apocalypse  . . . a very futuristic idea. What made you join these two together?

One thing I’m always interested in is the cyclical nature of human history (something my last play, OR, addressed pretty directly in a very different way); the way certain historical moments repeat and echo through the ages. The “vaudeville” in this play is an expansive notion inspired by traveling players from ancient Greece to medieval Europe up through American vaudeville troupes of the early-21st-century, to name just three incarnations. And then I love post-apocalyptic stories, I love stories about how people recreate social/political systems and civilization in the midst of catastrophe, and protect human culture through the darkest of times. So having the central characters be performers who are the sole source of art in a very dark future seemed exciting to me, and potentially theatrical.

Dog Act is about Zetta Stone (LOVE that name) and her companion who is ”undergoing a voluntary species demotion”. I’m positive this is the first I’ve ever heard of any play, story, or writing of any kind that deals with a species demotion. What exactly is that?

The character Dog is a young man who has chosen, for reasons that become clear in the play, to live as a dog; specifically a working dog: a life of humble, loyal service. In the world of the play, where real dogs are scarce, this is a thing you can do.

Without giving away too much of the plot – what is your favorite moment of the play?

That’s a hard question! Well, I have a particular fondness for the play-within-the-play in Act 2, which includes a debased variation of the classic Abbott and Costello routine, “Who’s on First?” DOG ACT won the Will Glickman Award when it was first produced in San Francisco, and it turns out that Glickman (who was a playwright and screenwriter) wrote that routine for Abbott and Costello. So that pretty much blew my mind.

Wow!  That’s amazing –  I can’t even imagine what something like that must be like.  Talk about “meant to be”!

Dog Act is a “dark comedy”. Is that because, as you wrote about a dark topic you were able to find the hidden humor in it, or is this a comedy that just happens to be set during a dark time?

Maybe both. I find that humor tends to enter into my work whatever I do, so I usually think about other things and let the humor take care of itself. In this case I wanted to tell a certain kind of story, set in a dark, dangerous, perilous world, and – since it was partly about theater itself – let it be as ridiculously funny as it wanted to be. If that makes sense.

What is the one theme that you hope resonates the most with audiences who come to see Dog Act?

I hope people in the audience will have a fabulous time, get caught up in the story, feel transported in that theatrical way of being on a wild ride together, and maybe find themselves thinking about the burdens of history, forgiveness, and what it means to be human.


I hope you’re all as excited as I am to see Dog Act!  Check back to see my review in a few weeks.


Dog Act
By Liz Duffy Adams
Directed by Kelly O’Donnell
February 4-20, 2011
Flamboyan Theater
CSV Cultural and Educational Center
107 Suffolk Street New York, NY 10002
between Rivington and Delancey
Tickets On Sale Now – Click Here
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