The very first West Coast production by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater has arrived in L.A.—Slipping is the tale of gay high school senior Eli, who moves with his mom to a fresh start in Iowa after the death of his father. Frontiers stopped to chat with the work’s writer/director, Daniel Talbott, about the production, and why Slipping holds such a special place in his heart.
Use the discount code SLIPST to get $10 tickets in advance when purchased online through Brown Paper Tickets, or say "Frontiers" at the Lillian Theatre box office for $5 tickets.
Tell me about the premise of Slipping.
Slipping is about a high school student dealing with the death of his father, his own struggles with depression and sexuality and the juxtaposition of two different relationships in his life—one of them in the recent past in San Francisco, and then one in Iowa, where he and his mother have gone to attempt a fresh start.
How autobiographical is the story of Eli?
I grew up in the Bay Area and in the extraordinary theater community there at places like Berkeley Rep, A.C.T., Shotgun Players, Encore and The Magic, and when I started, I only really knew how to get into the theater through acting. I love acting so much, but I also knew that I always wanted to try to do as much in the theater as I could, and do it in as many different ways as possible. I started working on Slipping while I was at Juilliard after reading an article in The New York Times about Sarah Kane. I was really moved by her story and her struggle to create theater and make work, and also her love for—and obsession with—experiential theater. I hadn’t gotten to read any of her work yet when I started writing Slipping, but her boldness and belief was so beautiful and inspiring to me.
Slipping in its storyline is not autobiographical, but I feel like it’s such a deeply personal and insanely close play to me, and so much of my heart and a few really close relationships are buried in it. Slipping is about a ton of things for me, and a ton of relationships in my life, but its heart is definitely in my relationship with my best friend from high school. I grew up all over the place as a kid with my mom and brothers and sisters, and then I landed with my grandparents in Piedmont, Calif., for the end of middle school and for high school. At the end of middle school I lost someone very close to me, and that sent me into a huge tailspin. I think after years of insanity growing up and dealing with immense depression, I finally walled myself in in a lot of ways and cut off from people.
My best friend loved me pretty unconditionally, and I feel I owe so much to our relationship, and that he helped break that walled-in-ness apart, and helped me start to feel like I could reach out in a lot of ways. I think the play for me is about great love, which doesn’t always feel good or work, and great fight. I think he and I fought so hard to love one another, and again, I don’t think I’d have the life I have now without those years. As I get older, I think I understand more and more how rare, deep and difficult it is to find someone who truly has your back and is proud to walk down the street with you regardless, to find someone who will embrace your damage as much as the light you bring. I hope the play is about that kind of love and struggle, and is a celebration of how hard we tried.
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