Theater Professor’s Play Premieres in London

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Charles Evered’s “Knock Knock” is one of 14 plays selected for Theatre503 ObamAmerica festival

By on May 21, 2014

Charles Evered directs a scene

A play by Charles Evered premieres June 3 in the ObamAmerica theater festival in London. Here he directs a scene from his film "A Thousand Cuts," which was nominated for a Saturn Award. Photo by Ryan Tower

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Imagine that a comment on social media critical of the president elicits a visit from the Secret Service.

Imagine that aggressive questioning escalates into tragedy.

University of California, Riverside theater professor Charles Evered imagines such a scenario in a new play, “Knock Knock,” that will premiere June 3 in the Theatre503 ObamAmerica festival in Battersea, London. The theater festival focuses on the effect President Barack Obama has had on the United States and the world.

“Knock Knock” is one of 14 plays selected from among more than 250 submissions from American playwrights. Seven 15-minute plays will be performed for a week with the remaining seven plays presented the following week. “Knock Knock,” directed by Theatre503 associate artistic director Lisa Cagnacci, will be performed during the first week of the festival, June 3-8.

Lydia Parker, a producer of the festival, said of Evered’s play: “ ‘Knock Knock’ was Lisa’s first choice of play to direct. It was a standout as it deals with uncomfortable subjects, the disappointment in Obama some of the liberal left feel, the lengths that the NSA may go in spying on American citizens in their own country, the heavy-handedness of forces that are supposed to protect Americans and yet may be suppressing people’s rights. It packs in a lot for such a short play, with great skill. We were also so pleased that Charles wrote ‘Knock Knock’ specifically for the festival. We heard from many voices in America and Charles Evered’s is a very intelligent and passionate one.”

“Knock Knock” was inspired by a true story, Evered said.

“I read a story where a man in middle America said something mildly critical of the president on line, two Secret Service agents showed up, asked him if he owned guns, and began questioning him aggressively. That real life event didn’t escalate into tragedy, but it became clear to me that it could have. And that’s where my imagination kicked in. To me, the situation was a clear metaphor for how aspects of our society could easily combust if we don’t listen to one another, if we don’t truly communicate.”

In the play, the character being questioned challenges the Secret Service agents about why a comment expressing frustration with the president warrants a visit, and complains about the impact of their visit on his life.

“You don’t think people will talk? You don’t think just your being here, just your knocking on my door, paying this little visit, you don’t think that will have repercussions for me — my reputation, my ability to earn a living?” he asks.

Evered said “Knock Knock” might at first glance seem more overtly political than his previous work, but he still feels obligated to focus more on the drama then the polemical.

“I don’t write message plays, I write plays about people in tough situations and how they handle them,” he said. “If people want to read into that, that is really out of my control. The last thing I want to do is preach to the converted or write in an echo chamber. I don’t see the point. I feel every character I create has to be legitimately represented, have more than two dimensions and not simply be a mouthpiece for my own personal views.”

Evered, a professor of playwriting at UCR and the theater department’s artistic director, has written for major studios and for the hit USA Network series “Monk,” starring Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub. The first feature film he directed, “Adopt a Sailor” — based on a play he wrote  — was an official selection at more than 20 national and international film festivals and premiered on Showtime.

His second feature as a director, “A Thousand Cuts,” starred Academy Award nominee Michael O’Keefe and was nominated for a Saturn Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Evered is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, having studied under the director George Roy Hill. He is also a former officer in the United States Navy Reserve, attaining the rank of lieutenant. In 2010 he formed a production company called Ordinance 14.

Theatre503, which The Guardian newspaper recently described as “arguably the most important theatre in Great Britain today,” produces work the company describes as “game-changing, relevant, surprising, mischievous, visually thrilling and theatrical.”

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