A Hard Wall At High Speed, A Working Class Play
The world premiere of A Hard Wall at High Speed - And Then The World Went Crazy is Astoria Performing Arts Center’s fall 2011 offering. APAC bills the piece as a “working class, family drama centering around a good man, a great husband and father, and what happens after he loses his reputation and the world turns against him”. According to playwright Ashlin Halfnight, “It asks questions about a man and about the country...taking place in a home that could be right here in Queens.”
Halfnight himself has been living in New York City for twelve years. He came here to be a singer/songwriter, but, he said with a laugh, “I don’t sing very well, or play the guitar very well.” Soon after arriving in the city, he enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute both for playwriting and acting, but became so interested in the playwriting class, he said, he dropped out of acting, ultimately going on to Columbia University to get his masters degree in playwriting.
His career has been going full throttle ever since. Praised by The New Times, The Village Voice and TimeOut NY for previous works such as Laws of Motion, Artifacts of Consequence, God’s Waiting Room, and Good Pictures, he and Artistic Director Tom Wojtunik felt that APAC was the perfect place to showcase A Hard Wall at High Speed. In an interview with Dave Charest for APAC’s Web site, Halfnight cited the “…totally classy…completely down to earth…adventurous…” APAC staff, their facilities at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church on Crescent Street, and Astoria itself as being the factors that made working with APAC, “incredible”. He went on to remark, “I think discovering Astoria is an amazing bonus to doing theater at Astoria Performing Arts Center.”
When asked to describe why the Astoria audience might be drawn to the piece he commented, “The play has these two distinct parallels. One is gritty family drama, and the other is meant to have resonance, or a bigger picture: the American fall from grace. It’s a play that asks questions about who we are as Americans in the recent past or the future. How do we rebuild from the upheaval of the late ‘90s and 2000s?” “There’s an accessibility about the play,” he continued, “it’s about a pilot, so there’s a sense of space that inhabits it…there’s nothing high-falutin’ or avant-garde. There’s even a kitchen sink on stage!”
This brought a chuckle from director May Adrales who said that realism usually isn’t her first choice when it comes to working on a theater piece. Never-the-less, she said that this time working within such a realistic framework was a welcome challenge. A renowned and respected artist with plenty of her own New York Times accolades, she has a passion for working on new plays and has directed four world premieres, though she’s currently and simultaneously directing Shakespeare’s Loves Labours Lost at NYU. She commented that when APAC’s Artistic Director approached her to direct the play, she said yes based on the positive experiences she’d had working with Wojtunik in the past and the fact that she loved Halfnight’s writing. “He created a kind of poetry in the writing,” she said about this particular work. “It’s working class people, but [Halfnight] found the beauty and the poetry in that. It’s still their language, but there’s a tenderness to it.” Feeling optimistic about how she thinks the play will be received, she stressed, “I’m hoping, aiming, for an experience that’s enjoyable.”
A Hard Wall at High Speed opens November 3, running Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday afternoons at 2:00 p.m. until November 19. Tickets are $18.00, $12.00 for students and seniors (mature audiences only) and can be purchased at www.APACNY.org. For more information call APAC’s office at 718-706-5750.