Entertainment » Theatre

Connecting with a Capital C :: Cam Torres on Not Feeding the Bear

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Mar 1, 2019

Boston playwright Cam Torres is out to make a connection. Maybe several: A connection of artist to audience; of theater to lived experience; of human being to human beings.

That's the goal of his new solo work, "don't feed the bear." Well, that and to create a new and unforgettable theatrical experience. As the play's synopsis tells us, "Battling their own existence, Will questions reality, explores human connection and admits deafening loneliness and crippling insecurity in the common pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

"With Will, we witness what it means to be utterly and horribly human. don't feed the bear is a raw opportunity to follow one character's journey to find connection: connection with life, art, and ultimately the people in front of them."

EDGE, curious to know what he has in mind, had a chat with Torres to find out more.

EDGE: First off... why a one-man show? - If that's the right word for it. Is Will a man? An abstraction? A spirit?

Cam Torres: While I was writing, I would refer to it often as a Solo Performance. My reasoning for that is because "Will" can be any one of any gender, race, or age. It just so happens that in this production of Will is being played by a man. Which is why we decided to label this production as a one-man show.

Now, is "Will" a man? If Will had to be classified as anything it would be a figment of creation, or frankly, very literally a character in a play. Much of this play deals with this very crisis of identity.

EDGE: You've said this is a play about "capital-C connection." What are you thinking when you put that C onto "connection?" What does it mean for people to Capital-C Connect?

Cam Torres: I think in today's world we are so caught up with ourselves, our phones and binging every episode of "The Office" for the third time that we're forgetting how to communicate. We don't know how to get what we want or what we need. We're trapped within ourselves and if we can just figure out how to ask for what we need, and listen in return, I believe that can lead us to an understanding of ourselves and the people around us, which opens us up to empathy, and finally Capital-C Connection.

EDGE: I've heard about younger people who much prefer, say, automated ordering kiosks at McDonald's to actual face to face interactions. In your opinion, is this actually costing us something important or crucial? Or does it just seem strange and dangerous because it's new?

Cam Torres: This is definitely in relation to what 'don't feed the bear' is about. I think the people who prefer to go to a kiosk at the McDonald's are scared. Scared of being judged, scared of being seen; just like Will. Just like all of us to some extent. That being said, to take an optimistic route, I think the pendulum will swing. Humans will begin to note the disconnect and change will happen...I mean, here's hoping!

EDGE: Is this lack of connection all a matter of living through our phones and tablets and laptops? Isn't some of it also the deep polarization we see happening in our politics and society? It's hard to have conversations of any kind - in person, on Facebook - when everyone is so angry and invested in verbally (or even physically) annihilating one another.

Cam Torres: I think this goes back to what I was saying about connection before. A large part of this disconnect that we see in our politics, in our world has to do with a lack of communication, understanding, and most importantly, empathy.

EDGE: Being up on stage is both exciting and scary; it's a vulnerable thing, and especially when a play is about seeking connection, there's a huge risk involved. Are you feeling anxious at all?

Cam Torres: My nerves vary. I keep going from complete disbelief that this play is finally coming to life to an overwhelming dread of, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?!"

EDGE: Alex Lonati is directing the play. How does your process with Alex work?

Cam Torres: Alex and I have worked together before, and it helps that we're great friends. She is probably one of the most sensitive directors I have worked with, in regards to caring about how I am doing as a person throughout the process. I think that is incredibly important for a show like this.

EDGE: "don't feed the bear" sounds a little like a title for a "Black Mirror" episode. Was something like that in the back of your mind when you wrote the piece?

Cam Torres: I have to admit I haven't seen much of "Black Mirror." (I know; I know.) What I have seen — for lack of better phrasing — has "shook me." I'm not sure if "don't feed the bear" will resonate on that same level, but I do think that it will be a play that audiences are thinking about days after they've seen it, or at least that is my hope.

EDGE: "don't feed the bear" simultaneously - to me, at least - suggests an atavistic connection to some old-school theater, namely that of Shakespeare, what with the character being named "Will" and the title sounding like a callback to that famous stage direction in "The Winter's Tale." Was this also in the back (or front) of your mind as you wrote the play?

Cam Torres: Funny enough, no relation to Shakespeare. I've gotten that quite a lot recently. However, there is another famous playwright that Will is named after. Although, if I say who I'm afraid it may give away a couple of specific moments in the play that I'd like to hang to.

EDGE: The press release intriguingly promises that "don't feed the bear" "challenges the ways in which theatre is typically created and consumed" - could you say a little about this? What will audiences be walking into?

Cam Torres: The audience is entering a world where the person that is supposed to be leading them wasn't given a map. Will knows that they are in a play, they know something is supposed to happen, they know they are supposed to entertain these people; they just don't know how. I think this in itself is something many audiences have never experienced before and will result, ideally, in one hell of a ride.

EDGE: This is going to be a touring production, performed in several cities. The press release also tells us that the character of Will is going to be striving for "connection with life, art, and ultimately the people in front of them" - so, will the play be evolving as these performances take place and as the play moves from venue to venue?

Cam Torres: I wouldn't say the play will be changing from show to show, but I can guarantee each show will be different. Each night will depend on who is in that crowd.

"don't feed the bear" runs March 14-24 in these locations: Tiverton (March 14, The Meeting House at Four Corners), March 14; Boston (March 15-17, Atlantic Wharf, Waterfront Plaza); Ocean City (March 22-24, Ocean City Center for the Arts). For tickets and more information, please go to https://brownboxtheatre.org/portfolio-items/dont-feed-the-bear/

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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