Playwright's production will bare its teeth at Los Angeles festival
Writers are known for being able to glean inspiration from anything.
For local Mythical Mini Donuts co-founder and George Fox University alum Skylar Rae, the inspiration for her original play, "Hakugame," came from a nightmare she had three years ago.
The dream took place in a fictional country during the aftermath of massive tragedy. Children, who had rebelled against the government in some way, were being held captive while they awaited execution. Two characters stood out among the rest — a young female prisoner and an executioner.
Rae remembers being intrigued by the unspoken tension between the two characters in the dream and seeing it as potential fodder for a story.
The nightmare itself is "Hakugame's" opening scene. The girl, Raika, and the executioner eventually make a pact: he will spare her life if she agrees to become his apprentice. Throughout the rest of the play, Raika is haunted both by her trauma and by the titular character, a giant demon-wolf hungry for blood.
"Hakugame" — a hybridization of the fantasy, thriller and horror genres — is a production seldom seen in the theater world, especially in adult theater.
"It's not really been explored, I think, to its full ability," Rae said. "It's rarely done and it's rarely done in a way that is thoughtful."
To add to its intrigue, the production will incorporate a 7-foot-tall, 10-foot-long dire wolf puppet, which will be operated by three puppeteers.
"Hakugame" premiered last February over Zoom, performed by GFU students during the pandemic, when thespians were severely limited with what they could do and productions had to be held digitally.
But come July, Rae's play will finally see the stage.
"Hakugame," along with five other original plays, was selected out of 300 applicants to be part of the 2022 SheLA Arts Summer Theatre Festival, a festival showcasing the works of gender-marginalized playwrights.
SheLA provides the venue, basic marketing and tech, while Rae and the other selected playwrights choose the actors, directors and the rest of the creative team. Rae also must fund any other costs, such as travel expenses, rehearsal rental space, special effects, props, costumes, puppet construction and more.
So far, Rae has raised more than $2,500 of the $6,000 budget she set for herself, funded mostly through donations from friends and family.
In addition to writing the script, Rae is also co-producing "Hakugame" and is in charge of puppet design.
Rae learned everything she knows about puppetry while working as a temp at renowned animatronics company Michael Curry Design, whose work has been featured in Broadway shows like "The Lion King" and "Frozen."
The puppetry in "Hakugame" gives Rae the chance to breathe life into legendary animals.
"This is my closest chance to seeing these creatures," Rae said.
Even if SheLA had never selected her play for its 2022 lineup, Rae was determined to get the play produced one way or another. After GFU's virtual rendition and subsequent script modifications, Rae gave herself a year to find an interested company before self-producing it. By the time she heard back from SheLA in May, Rae had already begun constructing the dire wolf puppet.
With only a few months to put the whole show together, Rae has been busy. However, she's been preparing herself for this day for a long time.
"I've been writing for as long as I can remember being sentient," Rae said, adding that even before she could put pen to paper, she had her mom write down her stories.
"It's always been … a kind of compulsion," she said. "It's not voluntary thing. I have these ideas and these stories I want to tell, and it bothers me unless I put them down on paper."
While "Hakugame" is Rae's first full-length play, she has written countless short stories and poetry, as well as a novel.
As of now, Rae is in Los Angeles refining the script, rehearsing with actors and working on the dire wolf puppet.
"It's honestly a dream come true for me personally," Rae said. "I keep kind of looking around and thinking, 'How did I get here?'"
However, having her work performed in front of people was always her goal.
"It feels like I'm finally just now starting to get there," she said. "It feels peaceful and correct in a way. It feels like this is the way things are meant to be for me."
After Hakugame's curtain call in Los Angeles, Rae said she wants to find a home for the production, such as in Portland or Newberg, where it can have a month-long run.
"While down here, I hope to make some connections," Rae said. "It's just the matter of finding the right people. It's tough to say what's going to happen, but I'm very much hoping that it will have a life beyond this production."
Rae also said she has new ideas for scripts and plans to keep writing to build up a catalog. In the distant future, she sees herself potentially starting her own theater company.
The SheLA Festival will take place from July 11-17 at the Zephyr Theater, with "Hakugame" performances at 7:30 p.m. on July 12 and 8:15 p.m. on July 16. Tickets can be purchased at bit.ly/3xMnb6Z. A digital broadcast of the show will be available the week after the festival.
To donate to the production, visit Rae's GoFundMe page at bit.ly/3xOU0jI.
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