Kool Kat of the Week: Gayle Rej Directs Two Wild and Crazy One-Act Plays by Steve Martin

The WASP family. Photo courtesy of Ultra Popcorn Theatre and used with permission.

Ultra Popcorn Theatre Company presents WASP and THE ZIG ZAG WOMAN, two one-act plays by comedian Steve Martin, October 11-19 at 7 Stages Black Box Theatre in Little Five Points. If being penned by an iconic comedian with his roots in super-Seventies Retro chops wasn’t enough, the wild and crazy pair are directed by a pair of Atlanta’s own Retro wild and crazy superstars, Gayle Thrower Rej, former co-owner of Plaza Atlanta and Persephone of Silver Scream Spook Show fame, and Barb Hays, Blast-Off Burlesque’s Barbilicious and LUST frontwoman, and these plays present a hilariously dark look at American familial and romantic relationships.

Pushed to amazing lengths to relive profound loneliness, the waitress in THE ZIG ZAG WOMAN encounters an old man waiting for his true love, a middle-aged man who has stopped looking, and a fiery young man who longs for a woman in pieces. In the fractured landscape of ‘50s suburbia, WASP’s prototypical, but perverse nuclear family exists in a dark limbo of expectation and routine, meandering blindly toward catastrophe. The two one-act plays share a talented cast portraying multiple roles including 2017 Suzi Bass Award winning actress Christina Leidel, Michael A. Cook, Jared Nipper, Elizabeth Hammontree, Melanie “Magnifique” Parker, and Michael Malone. The production will present a musical segue between the two plays featuring Allison Maier and Ashley Burton.

Barb Hays has already graced our ATLRetro’s Hall of Kool Kats (see interview here), but Gayle Thrower Rej’s turn in the spotlight is way overdue. Gayle has degrees in Psychology, Theatre, and English Education, has travelled to all 50 states, and has had several careers in her half of a century on this beautiful planet.  She taught high school theatre for nine years and directed over 50 productions, including six musicals.  We caught up with her for a whirlwind Q&A in the heat of last-minute prep for these Martin-iriffic productions!

Gayle Thrower Rej.

ATLRetro: Most readers might know you as the owner of the Plaza Theatre or the music booker for The Star Bar and The Echo Lounge. How did you get involved in theater?

Gayle Rej: I have been performing since middle school! I have two degrees in Theatre and taught high school Theatre for eight years. I took some time off to run the Plaza and to have two kids, but I couldn’t stay out of it for long. Luckily, the creators of the Silver Scream Spook Show and Blast Off Burlesque invited me to play with them.

How did Ultra Popcorn Theatre Company happen?

From our experiences with the Silver Scream Spook Show and Blast Off Burlesque, Barb Hays and I knew we worked really well together. She is simply brilliant and endlessly creative. We had bounced around the idea of directing a play together for years. Last year we finally starting reading and realized we have similar taste in plays. Our first production was extremely challenging, but was a huge success!

Why Steve Martin plays?

Steve Martin has always been one of my heroes. There’s something about his physicality and comedic timing that just kills me. I had loved his novels and his screenplays, but these plays really impressed me. They’re funny, but they’re pretty dark. I feel like I’ve had a glimpse into his brain and so will everyone who sees the plays.

Is it a challenge to get the word out about plays?

Starting a new theatre company is really an ambitious thing to do in this town. There are several great theatre companies, but they have extensive sponsors and great relationships with the press. We don’t have those resources, so we are relying on word of mouth to reach people who might not normally go to see theatre. Barb and I both have a rock and roll background, so we hope those audiences will give theatre a shot, too!

THE ZIG ZAG WOMAN. Photo courtesy of Ultra Popcorn Theatre and used with permission.

Showtimes for the two one-act plays, WASP and The Zig Zag Woman, will be 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. 7:00 on Thursday 10/11, Friday & Saturday, 10/12 and 10/13, and 8:00 on Thursday 10/18 & Friday 10/19. 7 Stages Black Box Theatre is located at 1105 Euclid Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307.

Tickets are available through ultrapopcorn.com

 

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