Sunday, 31 July 2016

Please Excuse my Aunt Dramaturgy: Kevin Armento @ Edfringe 2016

The European Premiere of
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally
By Kevin Armento

Pleasance Beyond, Pleasance Courtyard
Wed 3 – Sun 28 August (not Mon 15 or 22)
12.50pm (70mins)

An illicit affair between a high school maths teacher and her fifteen year-old student is told through the eyes of the student's mobile phone. 

What was your first experience of Edinburgh Fringe?
I was 20, struggling in community college, and had just arrived in London to start a semester abroad with NYU. The weekend before classes started, my cousin and her husband took me up to Edinburgh for this thing I'd never heard of called the Fringe Festival - I saw ten shows in two days, didn't sleep, and when I returned home after that semester, I dropped out of college and moved to New York to make theater.

What is the show about?
The show's about a high school student and his teacher falling in love, and is told from the point of view of the student's cell phone. It's a very intimate perspective, like a modern Greek chorus, and a surprisingly funny and adventurous one - but it also allows us to examine this kind of affair objectively, from the point of view of an inanimate object, which just might help us understand how something so seemingly unlikely, can actually be happening all around us. 

Why Fringe audiences should come and see Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?
Sexy scandal, incredible physicality, and it's only 70 minutes. 
But seriously, the way these actors move through this show is unbelievable, and it's at such a breakneck pace - the entire play is a single sentence - that by the end you feel like you've gone through a tornado.

Why this title?
It's a phrase students are taught to remember how to solve large problems. 

What was the inspiration for the story of PEMDAS? 
There were a few strands of inspiration that came together at a sad time for me. I had just finished writing a screenplay with Rik Mayall, and had this commission from One Year Lease to write a play, any play I wanted. I knew I wanted to write about a teacher/student affair, because when I was in high school, a teacher I'd gotten really close to professed feelings for me. Nothing happened, but it was right in front of us. It had a profound impact on me, and how I view the prevalence of these stories in the news.

Anyway, so I had the story, but I was really stuck, because I didn't just want it to be a piece about how teachers and students shouldn't fuck. I wanted to unpack it, and look at it in an unexpected way, to better understand how it happens. And I just couldn't find an interesting way in.

Well then I landed in LA, and got a call that Rik had just died. It was so sudden, and such a shock. We had literally just finished this script a few months earlier. My partner and I in New York had made three long trips out there to work with Rik at his house, and we'd gotten so close. On one of the trips, his family made us an American Thanksgiving meal, and we stayed up all night together.

It was now the last thing he would ever write. A modern adaptation of Oliver Twist, in which Rik was to play Fagin as an unruly iPhone app who teaches kids how to steal. Now we had no idea what, if anything, we could do with it.

We still don't know what will come of that script, but it was what gave me my way in for PEMDAS. I wrote the play a couple weeks later, realizing that looking at that same story from the point of view of the boy's cell phone suddenly opened it up to become a whole new play. A more honest one, a funnier one, and I hope, a more compelling one.

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