It's curtains for 'Feathers and Teeth'

ASU grad student's production wraps seven-show run that featured six sellouts


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Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a semester-long series following the production of “Feathers and Teeth” from casting call to curtain call.

The cast of “Feathers and Teeth” has taken a final bow.

The horror-comedy just ended its string of seven performances — including six sellouts — over a two-week stretch at Tempe’s Nelson Fine Arts Center. 

While the actors soaked in the applause, director Ricky Araiza sat in a booth, looking down at the stage, joylessly. Most directors would be ready to celebrate. Not Araiza.

“When a play is over, I’m already in the process of self-reflection and reviewing all of my mistakes,” Araiza said. “Not second-guessing myself, but thinking what I could have done differently to make it better.”

The play was the equivalent of a master's thesis for Araiza, a third-year master of fine arts student in Arizona State University’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre. 

Araiza had about eight weeks to prep the new horror-comedy, which was written in 2013 by Charise Castro Smith and described by a Chicago Reader critic as “an oddball mashup of Hamlet and Gremlins.”

ASU Now followed the production from first audition in late August to last weekend’s final curtain call, documenting the successes, failures, tense moments and close calls. It revealed everything involved in pulling together a show.

“Feathers and Teeth” debuted on Oct. 28 and ended its run on Nov. 6. It was a big hit with audiences, who enjoyed the quirky, offbeat presentation set in a Rust Belt factory town in 1978.

The 90-minute shows ran smoothly, for the most part. The lighting and sound were in sync, the sets matched perfectly with the era, and the kitschy 1970s-style wardrobe produced as many laughs as the actors.

But Araiza’s perfectionist tendencies started to get the better of him by the end of the first week. He got so worked up at the end of the second show — over a couple of glitches but mostly perceived mistakes — that he thought it was best to not attend the Oct. 30 show.

“I made a conscious decision to let everyone run the show for a day because had I stayed, I would have nitpicked everyone to death,” Araiza said.

Lance Gharavi, assistant director of theater and chair of the master of arts in theater program, thought Araiza did just fine. A director himself, Gharavi could relate to Araiza’s emotional roller-coaster ride.

“It’s funny, it’s painful and it’s familiar,” Gharavi said. “This happens to a lot of young directors who are learning their craft. When you’re a director, you see the minutia that audiences miss, and that’s just normal. You just have to pick your battles and walk away.”

Stage manager Ben Vining said there weren’t many battles to pick and that opening weekend went well.

“Really well. Better than expected, actually,” said Vining, who was Araiza’s right-hand man throughout the process. “A prop might not have been where we wanted it or an actor might not have reacted exactly the way we wanted, but there were no major mistakes.”

Evan Carson, a 22-year-old theater senior who plays Arthur, the father in the play, said that from an actor’s point of view he couldn’t have asked for a better director.

“This is a very precise show with the sound, props, lighting and special effects, and the finished product is something we’re all very proud of,” Carson said. “If Ricky was nervous, it certainly didn’t show. Everything was always on point.”

Araiza said he’ll remain busy until his May 2017 graduation. In January, he’ll head to Minneapolis for a month-long internship with the Mixed Blood Theatre, known for its inclusive theater pieces. When he gets back, his theater company, Teatro Bravo, will co-produce an ASU MainStage comedy drama titled “Haboob.”

“The future is uncertain after graduation,” Araiza said. “My plan is to continue to create theater.”

That will make him happy. Happily miserable.

Read more

Part 1: Anything goes at 'Feathers and Teeth' casting call.

Part 2: Building chemistry among a new cast.

Part 3: Crew members sink ‘Teeth’ into new Herberger production.

Part 4: 'Feathers and Teeth' dressed for success. 

Top photo: After the final performance of Charise Castro Smith's "Feathers and Teeth," (from left) Evan Carson (Arthur), Tess Galbiati (Carol), Maria Harris (Chris) and Fargo Tbakhi (Hugo) take their bows as the audience applauds Sunday. Director Ricky Araiza put on seven shows of the horror/comedy show in the Nelson Fine Arts Center before around 400 people. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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