CARLSBAD — The New Village Arts Theatre, brimful of artistic talent, will be closing season 11 in late June with one of its most unique performances yet. The world premiere of “Brilliant Mistake,” an original stage production, is nothing close to being erroneous, but instead is a stroke of pure genius.
The women behind this artistic master plan are Kristine Kurner, the co-founder and executive artistic director of New Village Arts, and New York-based director and playwright Suzanne Bachner.
It all began with Kurner’s vision for season 11 called “The Ensemble Project.” Her theory behind this vision was unveiling how an ensemble can work together in an original work produced specifically for them.
Including Kurner, there are 14 other actors taking part in the play.
“‘Brilliant Mistake’ is a romantic comedy that is intended for mature audiences,” said Kurner, noting if people like shows on HBO they will love this production. Kurner describes the show as a celebration of love in all of its forms.
“Suzanne began the process of creating the play by interviewing all of our ensemble members,” Kurner said. “At the end of that first interview, she gave us our character’s name and what they did for a living. After that, we went through a series of rehearsals and workshops as Suzanne developed the characters and the storyline.”
Kurner wants viewers to know that even though the characters in the play are inspired by the ensemble actors they are not based on their individual personalities.
“Most of the characters are more extreme than any of us are in our everyday — much more boring — lives,” Kurner said. “It’s one of the wonderful things about theater -— we can take an ordinary situation or character, and turn it into something wonderful.”
Bachner said when she first met the ensemble she quickly realized they were a committed and fantastic group of actors who instinctively brought an enormous sense of truth and realism with them.
“For that reason, I was pretty much immediately inspired to create a comedy for them, to go to far out places with their characters knowing that they will bring the balance of authenticity to it, which they do, beautifully,” said Bachner, noting that there is meaty material in the subject matter. “That combination is really exciting to me — that particular mixture of comedy and tragedy; I knew we could tell a story together that was entertaining, risky and moving and not to mention fun.”
The majority of the stage production is set in North County, including Carlsbad. The story surrounds the character Cameron Nolan, Kurner said, who hires a “Finder of Lost Loves” to help him locate his birth mother.
“As is often the case, Cameron learns to be careful of what he wishes for,” Kurner said. “Reality can be much stranger than anything he could dream up in his imagination.”
Bachner calls her work a very unique commission. The process she embarked on was done in three distinct parts. The first included one-on-one interviews with the actors, then she created the characters from those in-depth interviews, and lastly, she wrote the play.
During the three-hour interviews, it was imperative for Bachner to hit upon the perfect match.
“A good character match for each actor is one that excites and challenges the actor, something that they have never had the opportunity to play or explore before or recently, and one that simultaneously somehow fits like a glove,” Bachner said. “I wasn’t just commissioned by New Village Arts to create an original world premiere production to cap off their ensemble season, but to bring a process that I invented as a writer and director to do with their amazing ensemble members.”
Kurner and Bachner were fellow university graduate students at the New School for Drama in New York. Since graduation day back in 1997, they’ve kept in contact.
Kurner pointed out that it is very rare in American theater for a company to take the risk of creating a new play for their particular ensemble. A project like this is every actor’s dream. And on the flipside, viewers will engage in something fresh and unique.
“The audience will feel like they are a part of the family of this crazy group of people,” Kurner said. “‘Brilliant Mistake’ is one of the things I am most proud of in my entire career in theater.”