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Pulitzer-Finalist Play Opens In Las Vegas

"Becky Shaw" cover art/

The latest production at A Public Fit Theatre Company in Las Vegas features five complex characters. Throughout the play, their true natures unfold in ways that might make you squirm.

The play is called “Becky Shaw” by Gina Gionfriddo. It premiered off-Broadway in 2008. It was a finalist for Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Ann-Marie Pareth is the theater company’s founder and artistic director. She talked to KNPR's State of Nevada about the play and the theater she is hoping to grow. 


How would you categorize the play?

“It’s a dramedy. When you read it on the page it seems really serious but there is some really biting pieces of language in the play that when I was reading the play for the first time it make me cackle. But when I was directing this particular production I didn’t really direct it as a farce or a high comedy. I really directed it as if I was working on something very serious, because I was trying to mine the serious themes of the play and also these are very complex three-dimensional characters and I didn’t want them to seem superficial.”

Have you done other productions that guided you in the way you wanted to direct this?

“Every time you direct a play, I think of it as a treasure and you have to find the key to that treasure to open up that box. And so every time you work on a play, you discovery new things about yourself as a director. You discovery new techniques in order to help actors cultivate their best performance.”

Do you identify with characters in this play?

 “Oh yeah. I identify with all the characters. When I first read the play, I think identified with the protagonist the most because she reminded me most of myself. That particular character is at a crossroads where she is trying to figure out who she is based on her history and who she wants to be.”

You founded the theater in 2014, it’s not a community theater. Can you tell me what it is?

“I’m striving to be a professional theater. One of my mandates is that I pay all of my artists. I go to great lengths to raise the money so that I can pay the actors as well as the designers and the production staff. My big goal one day is to be a LORT (League of Resident Theaters) theater. And there’s not a professional LORT theater in all of the state of Nevada.  

After finishing the directing program at UNLV, why did you stay in Las Vegas and start the theater?

As I was going through the program, a lot of the students and my peers who were in the program were going to leave and go back to New York… and what made me really sad about that is that I was working with this really talented group of people and I wanted to use them in my productions but they were all leaving.

This play has a lot of talking. There are no gun fights, no production numbers. Is it hard to direct something like that?

“Yes. This play has really challenged my fears in that particular way…. This contemporary play is really a reflection of people’s behavior in everyday life.  So there are no sword fights or big battle scenes. In order for the play to land, the performances have to be authentic. They have to be truthful and if they’re not truthful then the audience, even though they may not be able to articulate that maybe in a conscious way in the subconscious way they’ll feel that when they leave the production.”

You’ll be doing discussion after ever performance. Is that a regular feature at your theater?

“Yes. That is something we take great pride in. It’s called The Buzz…. And the unique thing about the Buzz is that we do that after every performance not just once during the run. We’re really, really jealous of those conversations people have in their car. We want to participate in that and see how people felt about the experience.” 

The play “Becky Shaw” opens Thursday night. 


Ann-Marie Pareth, company founder and artist director, A Public Fit Theatre Company

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.