The San Diego REP begins 2015 with Herbert Siguenza’s tribute to Abbie Hoffman
By Alejandra Enciso Guzmán
Abbie Hoffman was an American political activist who also founded the Youth International Party (Yippies) in 1968 and was known for his successful media events. The Yippies were likely to use ‘guerrilla’ theater or public pranks to bring attention to their causes.
Hoffman’s legacy lives on at the San Diego Repertory Theatre when it stages the world premiere of “Steal Heaven.” The production, which opens on January 10 is by Herbert Siguenza who also acts and co-directs along with Todd Salovey.
“Abbie Hoffman was a political figure of the sixties. Some people called him ‘crazy’ or ‘ultra-radical’ but the things he was saying back then have all come true,” the formerly San Diego based Siguenza stated during a phone interview with San Diego Free Press. “He (Hoffman) said that the government would spy on the people, that they would torture people, that the banks and the corporations would take over and have influence over the government.”
“These were real radical ideas that he was talking about, people counted him as crazy and all these things came true…not just came true but they are the status quo, that’s the norm in our society.” The play’s plot centers upon the icon of youthful rebellion who now serves as the patron saint of radicals. In heaven, Hoffman conducts a boot camp for activists who have the chutzpah required to go back to Earth to become new agents of change.
Trish, played by Summer Spiro, is a young veteran-turned activist, who finds herself at the pearly gates. Hoffman senses that he may have finally found the right combination of anger, courage and cunning wit to make change and take on the challenges of the 21st century. He calls in his comrades John Lennon and Albert Einstein, performed by the versatile Mark Pinter, to see if Trish has what it takes.
Now living back in Los Angeles after a very successful run of “El Henry” in June, Hebert considers “Steal Heaven”as his contribution as an artist; as a form of protest, a call in the wild, regarding how the country has changed and how people are reacting. “People are doing nothing about it. There are two wars going on, there’s a recession going on… there’s so many things… police brutality… All these things are facts. This play reminds people that in order to make America what it is supposed to be, we the people need to go out, protest and make changes”.
One of those changes according to the Culture Clash troupe member, is to realize that something can be done in order to create change and each citizen can contribute, starting with electoral candidates–who is selecting whom and who is voting for whom. The play is also his way of educating new generations about historic American figures.
As Siguenza researched Abbie Hoffman more and more and found coherence in his speeches and actions, Hoffman’s public character became less radical to him. “He was right. The play is not about Hoffman necessarily, it is a political in your face kind of play. We have to constantly be battling and make sure we have our rights, our freedoms and all that. We have more power than we think, the less we do the more they take. These are things that we already have fought for.”
Siguenza also describes the piece as psychedelic and “trippy,” delivering a sixties feel. Tag teaming with Todd Salovey (who is celebrating his 25th year at The Rep as Associate Artistic Director) he moves back and forth from the stage to the Director’s chair. The process for this new play has been described as a constant change in which everybody contributes.
“It is a very collaborative process and the actors knew that coming in. Actor Summer’s role as Trish is tough and delicate at the same time, which is the perfect archetype for this role. Mark Pinter is a very seasoned actor who is playing about eight different roles of celebrities that people will recognize.”
Previews for “Steal Heaven” start Saturday, January 3rd at 8:00pm. Opening night is Saturday January 10th, running until Saturday January 25th. Tickets start at $31 to $75 / Students $18 .Discounts for groups, seniors and military available.
San Diego REP Box Office (619) 544-1000. Tickets available for purchase online at www.sdrep.org
Four hours free parking in the Horton Plaza Garage with validation at the theatre.