THE BASICS: KNOCK KNOCK, JESUS CALLING, a staged reading of a play written and performed by Heather Fangsrud, presented by The Brazen-Faced Varlets as part of the Buffalo Infringement Festival, directed by Lara D. Haberberger, has two more performances, Saturday August 4 at 7 p.m. and Sunday August 5 at 12 noon both at Rust Belt Books, 415 Grant Street (near Buff State). Pay-what-you-can. Runtime: About an hour, no intermission, presented as a workshop, script in hand, and at the end you are invited to offer comments or ask questions.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: In this semi-staged reading of her own script, Heather Fangsrud offers a non-apologetic look at growing up lesbian in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is another LGBTQ “coming out” story of escape from an oppressive culture. But this play gives us insights into a world most of us only encounter briefly when we hear a knock on our door and are offered the twin pamphlets “Watchtower” and “Awake.”
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Buffalo Infringement Festival plays are not the expensive, finished productions that you might see during the regular theater season. The ancient Greeks, from whom we get most of our ideas of theater, knew that “in the beginning” there was Chaos. Not that KNOCK KNOCK, JESUS CALLING is chaotic. In fact, it’s a rather skillfully structured one-woman narrative with good pacing and clever insertion of humor. Still, it’s important to understand that, as the director Lara D. Haberberger explains at the beginning, this is a work in progress. It may take more than six days to fully create it. And you, as audience, will be invited to stick around after the performance and offer your thoughts in a workshop format.
This is a story… that will make you glad that Heather Fangsrud found theater, and not religion, and is now one of our more noted Buffalo actresses.
Heather Fangsrud did grow up in a family of practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses, she did get in trouble with them as a girl, and when she was of age she made her escape, so to speak, driving away in a U-Haul (which by itself, as she says, gives her serious lesbian cred). But, even though she does poke gentle fun at the “Jay Dubs” (J.Ws… get it?) this is not an anti-religious rant. This is a story about family life in a religion centered home, and, as with every family story it will, over the course of less than an hour, make you laugh, make you cry, make you mad, and make you glad that Heather Fangsrud found theater, and not religion, and is now one of our more noted Buffalo actresses.
Here is one reason I’m glad I went. While I knew that the Nazis sent homosexuals to the Death Camps, I was surprised to learn that they also targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses. Hearing that made me question my own intolerance for religion. As Columbia Professor of Theater Anne Bogart wrote in her book A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre: “Most of the truly remarkable experiences I’ve had in theatre have filled me with uncertainty and disorientation.” May you be so lucky as to have a similar moment when you see KNOCK KNOCK, JESUS CALLING.
UP NEXT: The Brazen Faced Varlets won’t have a “Curtain Up” show, but promise something in October.
HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
*FOUR BUFFALOS: Given that this is workshop/staged reading, both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!