Theater Preview: i at PTC

Ever the e.e. cummings fan, I just love any piece of art that is entitled with a lower case “i.” Pioneer Theatre Company will present just such a thing this weekend with its world-premiere of Jeff Talbott’s i, a top-secret, lightly science-fiction-ey romantic comedy (near as I can tell).

So yay for the cheeky typography and secretive plots with possible twists that we don’t want to spoil. Let’s take a minute and highlight the “world-premiere” part. We’re lucky to have theater companies in this town dedicated to producing new work (Shoutout: Plan-B, SLAC). Sure, sure we love it when companys play the hits, like, say, Newsies (although maybe give it a rest with that one for a while). And it’s way cool when we get to see the fresh-from-Broadway stuff like Bright Star or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

But theater is a living art form. Playwrights need willing houses with all the stuff that houses come with—lights, actors, costumes, directors, umm, audiences—willing to dive off a cliff to create something entirely new in the world. Pioneer Theatre Company, a house, that could easily coast on its devoted audience, doesn’t need to be doing world premieres. Nevertheless…

“Having the opportunity to produce the World Premiere of a new play is one of the most exciting things we do at Pioneer Theatre,” says PTC’s Artistic Director Karen Azenberg. “By supporting not only the development of new American plays, but giving those plays a full production, we are part of the future of theater in America. It is a tremendous honor, a tremendous challenge and a responsibility we take very seriously.”

So there you go. Azenberg is also the director here, which is a big deal for a new play.

“The director does everything,” says playwright Jeff Talbott. “Every question that needs answered is for the director to answer. Every decision that needs to be made? The same. And on a new play, the list is longer because … the play has never been done before. And the director is the focusing agent for every single question being asked and every single answer being given.”

As to the rest of this whole spanking new play, production notes are thin. PMT’s marketing team has released this cryptic statement:

“Sarah has had a rough time, but things are looking up. She has a new doctor, and she’s met a nice guy named Jake—but is Jake a nice guy? And what did that doctor do? A mysterious love story about the threads that bind us together, set a few days after tomorrow.”

I bolded that last bit because that’s where the sci-fi kicks in. Cue the Blade Runner soundtrack.

We have no idea what we’re in for with this play except its set in a so, so not-distant future, where we’ll know the all results of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics (does anyone else think the Olympics are super boring this year?).

We’ll spill some more ink on it after opening night this weekend, stay tuned.

Pioneer Theatre Company’s i opens on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre on the University of Utah campus. It continues through March 3. Tickets and times here.

Go see plays (a few days after tomorrow).

Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Editor. He covers culture, history, the outdoors and whatever needs a look. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the co-author of the history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake."

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