What is the great evil we are failing to face up to today? Award-winning Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson (Salomania, Metamorphosis, Salome, Miss Julie) returns to Aurora Theatre Company to direct British playwright Alistair Beaton's elegant new translation of THE ARSONISTS, Max Frisch's classic comic parable about appeasement (sometimes known as Beidermann and the Firebugs or Fire Raisers). Featuring Dan Hiatt, Tim Kniffin, and Michael Ray Wisely, along with Kevin Clarke, Tristan Cunningham, Gwen Loeb, Dina Percia, and Michael Uy Kelly, THE ARSONISTS plays April 5 through May 12 at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. For tickets ($35-60) and information the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.
Fires are becoming something of a problem, popping up all over town. But Mr. Biedermann has it all under control. In his business life and in the domestic arena, he tries to live a life of blameless middle-class decency. He's a respected member of the community with a loving wife and a booming business, so surely nothing can get to him. It is this sense of bourgeois propriety that renders Biedermann defenseless when two arsonists turn up at his house. Far from kicking them out, he helps them light the fuse in the hopes that appeasement will prevent catastrophe. Inspired by the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, this absurdist allegory, about which the LA Times said "Alistair Beaton's rousing new interpretation of Max Frisch's 1958 classic ...stresses the comically deadly plight of a mild-mannered man whose failure to acknowledge the presence of evil is, in itself, the ultimate evil," satirizes the way that people can be manipulated into accommodating the very thing that will destroy them.
THE ARSONISTS opened to rave reviews at The Royal Court Theatre in 2007. About the first major UK revival of the production since its premiere at the Royal Court in 1961, The Guardian (UK) said "The Arsonists still burns brightly." THE ARSONISTS began as a prose sketch in Max Frisch's 1946 diary, a response to the coup in Czechoslovakia and the creation of a socialist republic; the rise of Nazism also had an influence. In 1953, Frisch reworked the sketch into a radio play entitled Mr Biedermann and the Arsonists; it wasn't until 1958 that Frisch completed the stage version of the play. When Communist forces seized power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, most of the governments of Western Europe turned a blind eye. Several countries in Western Europe also refused to acknowledge the threat posed by Hitler and the rise of Nazism until it was too late. THE ARSONISTS is in many respects a typical work of post war literature, as Frisch writes about alienation and the struggle for personal identity, guilt, and innocence.
Award-winning director, performer, and playwright Mark Jackson returns to Aurora Theatre Company, where he helmed the company's lauded productions of Salomania, Metamorphosis, Miss Julie and Salome, to direct THE ARSONISTS. Additional directing credits include Woyzeck, God's Plot, Shakespeare's Macbeth, The Forest War, The Death of Meyerhold, and his adaptations of Schiller's Mary Stuart and Goethe's Faust Pt1, all performed at Shotgun Players. Additional productions include The Companion Piece at Z Space, Yes, Yes to Moscow at Deutsches Theater Berlin (Germany) and the San Francisco International Arts Festival, his original play American $uicide at Encore Theatre Company, and Bertolt Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle (American Conservatory Theater MFA Program). The Death of Meyerhold garnered a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Original Script in 2003, which Jackson also received in 2002 for his original one-man show I Am Hamlet. He was the founding Artistic Director of Art Street Theatre (called "San Francisco's Best Experimental Theatre Company" by SF Weekly), for which he wrote and directed a number of plays, was a 2005 German Chancellor Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and a 2003 playwright in residence at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. In 2007, Jackson was named the Bay Area's "Best Theatrical Auteur" by SF Weekly.