Allentown, Pa – “The Bourgeois Pig,” a new play by award-winning playwright Brighde Mullins, will be presented in its first full-scale production, Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 at Muhlenberg College. Beth Schachter directs the production.
Named for a notorious paparazzi hangout spot in Los Angeles, “The Bourgeois Pig” explores the power of image—on the page and in the public eye—through the character of a late-1970s war photographer-turned-paparazzi. The play will be presented in Muhlenberg’s 100-seat Studio Theatre.
“The play was inspired by my move to Hollywood from Cambridge, Mass.,” Mullins says. “I moved from a place where people walk around reading books—they are actually often reading while walking—to a place where there was no evidence of that kind of immersion in words, in language. It was all about the surface, the image. And in my new neighborhood there were lots of guys hanging around. I thought they were dealers, but it turned out that they were paparazzi.
“I started talking with them, and I started to have sympathy for these people who are an underclass in Los Angeles. They are considered bottom-feeders.”
Set in 1978 Los Angeles, “The Bourgeois Pig” tells the story of the Riley family, trying hard to hang onto their hopes and each other in the face of serious dysfunction. Jack, the father, is a brilliant but damaged former war photographer who never really came back from Vietnam, now making his living as a paparazzi. His ex-wife Francie hasn’t quite given up on an acting career that began (and pretty much ended) with an appearance on “Laugh-In” eight years before. Older daughter Riley is in her first year at UCLA, awakening to intellectual exploration and her attraction to women. Her sister Colette struggles with the pressure of her mother’s expectation that she grow up thin and beautiful, and find the success that Francie never had.
The play has been presented several times in workshops and staged readings over the past four years — at Minneapolis PlayLabs, at Bard College, and at the Blank Theatre, in Los Angeles — but this is the first full-scale production. Mullins says the play has evolved considerably over that time. The cast was still receiving text revisions up to just a couple weeks before the play’s opening.
“I think I first told Beth of my idea for the play and we’ve been talking ever since — this was four years ago,” Mullins says. “Theater is so collaborative, and a large part of making plays is finding simpatico souls.”
A 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Award-winning playwright, Mullins holds Master of Fine Arts degrees from the Yale School of Drama, in playwriting, and the Iowa Writers Workshop, in poetry. Her plays include “Rare Bird,” “Monkey in the Middle” (produced at Muhlenberg in 2007), “Those Who Can, Do,” “Fire Eater,” “Topographical Eden,” and “Pathological Venus.” Her plays have been seen in London, at the Tristan Bates Theatre; and in New York, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Other awards include an NEA Fellowship a 2010 United States Artists Award in Literature, and a Gold Medal from “The Pinter Review.”
Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review consistently ranks Muhlenberg’s production program in the top ten in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.
Performances of “The Bourgeois Pig” are Nov. 28 through Dec. 2: Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students, faculty and staff and for patrons 17 and under. The performance is intended for mature audiences.
Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/main/academics/theatre-dance/