Playwright Ike Holter, best known for his plays “Exit Strategy,” “Hit the Wall” and “Lottery Day,” has been commissioned by Studio Theatre to present a world premiere audio play, which will run from Dec. 10 through March 7 on Studio’s website (www.studiotheatre.org) for free.
“I was approached by Studio in May about this audio play, and it just sounded like a great idea to me,” Holter said. “I’ve been thinking about audio plays a lot recently. These don’t have to be bound by any of the things we are dealing with now, or any of the trappings of budgets. I wanted to do something that felt more like an album than sitting down listening to a play.”
The Windham Campbell Prize for Drama recipient also recently was on the writing team for the Emmy-nominated FX drama “Fosse/Verdon” and is well regarded among the theatre community. The Studio show marks his DC debut as director.
“Ike’s work is smart, funny, daring, and theatrical—a great match for Studio’s first commissions of audio work,” said David Muse, Studio Theatre’s artistic director, said. “What he’s created feels very new and very Ike. He describes this set of scenes and monologues as an album, a sampling of what it feels like to live through this moment, and I think people will really respond to his craft and ambition.”
Written during and informed by the pandemic, “I Hate It Here: Stories from the End of the Old World” takes listeners on an audio journey from the school yard to a wedding, brunch, a front stoop, and more to capture the many ways it feels to live in a world wracked by changes both personal and systemic.
“It’s a series of scenes, monologues, stories and songs that deal with people on the brink—all of these people are at a point where there’s a crisis and they have to figure out if they are going to deal with it or just let it pass them by,” Holter said. “It is very much rooted in to what’s happening lately. I think when people listen to it, they will get a general vibe of what we’ve been experiencing this past year. It’s funny, weird and surprising.”
Holter has had experience with audio plays before, with this being his third in the genre, and he enjoys the process.
“You’re writing directly to what people are hearing, which is kind of freeing in that you’re not bound to those things normal plays are bound by,” he said. “The approach though is very similar to writing any play.”
He would love one day to see a production of the show on stage, and believes it could translate over.
“I Hate it Here” boasts a cast of Studio Theatre favorites, such as Jennifer Mendenhall and Jaysen Wright, as well as some of Holter’s favorite actors he’s worked with in Chicago, such as
Sydney Charles, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Tony Santiago, Gabriel Ruiz and Behzad Dabu.
“The good thing about audio plays is that people can record anywhere. I wanted to write for specific people and thanks to the technology available and Studio sending out microphones, I was able to write specifically for these actors,” Holter said. “I got every single person I wanted and they did a great job.”
Serving as director of the piece as well, Holter chose to keep all cameras off because he didn’t want to “cheat” by having a connection of two characters looking at each other that the audience couldn’t be a part of.
“It’s no different than directing if the actors were in the same room; you’re just seeing where the scene goes, hearing what they’re giving and adding a few things on top of it,” he said. “These actors were tight as a glove.”
Having grown up listening to radio plays like “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Shadow,” Holter is happy to be adding to the genre and believes that it will only grow more popular in the years ahead.
“The cool thing about this is that audio plays are not new,” Holter said. “There’s a really rich tradition of stories that have been recorded that have other theatrical elements to them. I’m happy to be adding to that.”