When a burned-out, young-adult fiction writer from New York City journeys to a small Midwest town where his novel, "The Metal Children," has been by banned by the local school board, he finds himself idolized by a cult of girls who treat his fiction as holy writ — and vilified by the town's religious-conservative faction whose lunatic fringe includes a crazed vigilante.
When a burned-out, young-adult fiction writer from New York City journeys to a small Midwest town where his novel, "The Metal Children," has been banned by the local school board, he finds himself idolized by a cult of girls who treat his fiction as holy writ — and vilified by the town's religious-conservative faction whose lunatic fringe includes a crazed vigilante.
Playwright Adam Rapp's drama is based on his own experience: In 1999, his young-adult novel, "The Buffalo Tree," was similarly censored.
Southern Oregon University's Department of Performing Arts will present Rapp's "The Metal Children" at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, May 22-24 and 29-31, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 31 and June 1, in the Center Square Theatre in the Theatre Arts Building (off South Mountain Avenue) on the SOU campus, Ashland. Tickets cost $21, $18 for seniors and $6 for students, and can be purchased at the box office, online at www.sou.edu/performingarts or by calling 541-552-6348.
Director David McCandless says that Rapp's dramatization of America's culture wars is murkier and more ambiguous than one might expect.
"Rapp returned from Pennsylvania with a kind of grudging respect for his adversaries," McCandless says in a press release. "He found them to be sincere, civilized people and ended up wondering if they were right."
"The Metal Children" premiered off-Broadway in 2010, and the New York Times praised it for its "charged eloquence" and "twisting plot." Rapp's earlier work, "Red Light Winter," was a finalist in 2006 for a Pulitzer Prize.
"The Metal Children" also offers a fascinating exploration of the relationship between art and life, McCandless says.
"The play's protagonist finds himself in this weird wonderland where the world of his novel essentially comes to life because his cult of admirers actually tries to emulate the behavior of the characters in his novel," McCandless says. "But the writer himself feels oddly disconnected from what he wrote and is stupefied by the intense passions it has provoked.
"Because of this disconnect, the play becomes a variation on the theme of characters in search of an author. It also begs to question the responsibility, if any, an artist must bear for his work."
The cast of SOU's "The Metal Children" includes Truett Felt, Patrick Gonzales, Esau Mora, Joseph Murley, Scott Padian, Emily Serdahl, Robin Waisanen, Devin White, Samuel Wick and Aleah Zimmer, along with understudies Nicole Bruno and Cesar Perez-Rosas.
The scenic designer is Marc Wheeler, costume designer is Clara Painter, lighting designer is Evan Carbone, and sound designer is Jonathan Pratt. Stage manager is Cory Jewell, and assistant director is Danny Walker.