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Fowl Play

Marist students offer up Too Many Chickens

Brian, a straight-laced architect, finds himself going nuts as he tries to deal with his crazy family. It’s hard to come home to a mom with an enthusiasm for fairies and a mad-inventor father who is attempting to create a chicken vacuum to ease the flow of fowl from pen to truck.

Sound familiar?

Keith Kessler’s new play — which opens Friday, April 20, at Marist High School under the direction of Tony Rust — was written for and about the Willamette Valley wackos we all know, love and occasionally are. “It’s a fun play because the characters are all locally real and recognizable,” Rust says. “They are the wacky strange people we meet on a daily basis in Eugene.”

So how did this fun new script fall into the hands of a high-school theater troupe? Local performer, designer, director and teacher Rust was searching for a spring show. When you consider the issues of cast size, good roles, appropriate themes and language, this becomes no easy task. Then Rust remembered a reading he’d done of Kessler’s script and it came to him: “I have my play!”

World premiering seems to be all the rage right now in Oregon, with Actors Cabaret of Eugene and Lord Leebrick Theatre actively promoting new works, and Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival producing a plethora of new shows this year. Are there benefits to working a brand-new show with students?

Absolutely, Rust says. “The kids are open enough to play with it, and point out any inconsistencies,” he explains. 

The author regularly attends rehearsals, and while Rust jokingly says “it’s nice to have another adult in the room,” Kessler’s presence has an even greater impact on the kids: When students have questions about character or motivation, “having an actual answer, or at least a made-up answer on the spot, is really cool,” says Rust.

Kessler has a long history of working in schools. “Keith has great rapport with the students,” Rust adds.

Another plus is what the director calls “a forgiving audience.” Parents, friends and teachers make for the very best audiences in the world, and will be able to pick up on the finest aspects of the script. 

So whether you want to support young actors, new playwrights or simply are curious about more modern methods for moving around your farm animals, come check out Too Many Chickens.

Too Many Chickens plays 7:30pm Friday & Saturday, April 20-27, at Marist High School, 1900 Kingsley Rd., 686-2234.