Reaching across social, political, and cultural divides with his characters, and his plays, brings a recognizable style to Bernardo Cubría’s writing. “The Giant Void in My Soul” is his latest play, having its world premiere with Ammunition Theatre Company at The Pico (formerly Pico Playhouse).
A Mexican playwright, working with a Puerto Rican director (Felix Solis) and female actors (Karla Mosley, Kim Hamilton, Claudia Doumit, Lisa Fernandez) in roles written for any gender or ethnicity, diversity is championed by this theatre maker. The piece takes on big questions and goals, but continues to mine the humor and relatable ironies that we all face when searching for meaning in life.
“The Giant Void in my Soul” is described as a quixotic quest, between friends, which leads to new adventures in temptation, self-examination, sensation, and even procreation. So, why such lofty questions from this new voice in American theatre, and what is this eclectic group trying to accomplish? The answers become clear as the writer engages with Splash:
Ester: What sets this theatre company apart from others in Los Angeles?
Bernardo: Ammunition Theatre Company operates on two guiding principals, inclusivity and advocacy. I think one thing that sets us apart is that we bring creative arts directly to the community through yearly partnerships with local non-profit organizations. Last year we partnered with POPS, an organization that teaches storytelling to high school students affected by incarceration. Our work with them was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Another reason I love being a part of Ammunition, and think it sets them apart from many companies here, is that our theatre includes writers, directors, designers, and actors from all backgrounds. It is our mission to show that this diversity not only deserves a place, but also makes the work better.
Ester: Describe the style of your play and why you chose it?
Bernardo: For me, theatre is at its best when the clowns are on stage. I love clowns, because they reach across social, political, and cultural divides to make us laugh at the core of the human experience. Sadly, most clown plays have been centered around two white males, which seems antithetical to the very heart of what clowning was intended to be. So, I set out to write a play that embraces the very universality that this art form represents—where the fools could be played by anyone, of any age, race, or gender. I also hope it’s funny. I always prefer funny.
Ester: In what ways do you think that the theme for “The Giant Void In My Soul” will resonate with today’s audiences?
Bernardo: I try to write very personal plays and I hope because they are true to my experience they will resonate with others. And lately I’ve been feeling unfulfilled. I’ve reached this strange part of life where no matter what I “achieve” I still yearn for something else. I got married; still wanted more. I had a kid; still wanted more. I booked the gig, I got the play produced, and still I wanted more. And from my conversations with friends it seems like this is a disease for our generation. Maybe it’s social media and always comparing your life to others, or maybe we as humans need to yearn for more to keep going. All of that seems so funny to me. I hope the audience agrees.
Ester: Were there any unexpected challenges or surprises while taking this piece from page to stage?
Bernardo: The physical comedy. In clowning, the physicality has to be done with perfect precision. It sounds crazy, but if one line is dropped or one gesture is lost then the play can fall apart. Much of our process has been studying the precision of the comedic greats, such as Abbot and Costello or Lucille Ball. Lucille Ball was so wonderful at making very hard and complex moments seem easy. In the room we all pray to the altar of Miss Ball and hope she helps us do the same.
Ester: What’s your next writing project?
Bernardo: I just had my first son. His name is Diego and I want to write him a play where he gets to go on adventures all over the world. I hope it makes him laugh.
The Giant Void in My Soul opens at 8pm on Friday, May 11th and continues on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 7pm through June 3, 2018 (understudy performance on May 27th). The Pico is located at 10508 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064.
Tickets are $25 online here, or $30 at the door.